Google Street View: Explore 50 of the world's most beautiful places from your living room
Google Street View: creepy or cool? We're leaning towards amazing! How else would some of us ever be able to visit some of the world's most remarkable landmarks and historical structures? Furthermore, if you're trying to take advantage of this summer by really going scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef or scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro, why not preview the locales with Google Street View first? After all, you'll be able to see some of the most breathtaking parts of the planet for free and you won't have to deal with some of the extreme weather conditions!
Most of the time, Google’s nifty little Street View is nothing more than an interesting toy or a way to see landmarks along a road trip. Today, it became something else: a visual memory of one of the most damaging natural disasters in recent history. Google took it upon itself to take its cameras to the streets in the aftermath of Japan’s horrific earthquake and tsunami to show the world the true extent of the devastation, complete with before and after pictures to drive the point home.
Maximum PC readers don't need to be reminded why encrypting their wireless networks is important, but a recent slip up by the Google Street View team only serves to drive home the point. In a posting released on the European Public Policy Blog Google was forced to admit that in addition to collecting SSID and MAC address information about passing networks, payload information was also collected and archived. In Google's defense the only information that was acquired is data that was being transmitted over open Wi-Fi, but it only serves to fuel the fears, particularly in Europe that the Street View Cars are up to no good.
So how exactly did this happen? In a follow up post Google explained that "in 2006 an engineer working on an experimental WiFi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast WiFi data," Google's Senior VP, Engineering & Research Alan Eustace wrote. "A year later, when our mobile team started a project to collect basic WiFi network data like SSID information and MAC addresses using Google's Street View cars, they included that code in their software-although the project leaders did not want, and had no intention of using, payload data."
Google is consulting with a third party to help them confirm what was collected, and ensure it is properly deleted. You could argue that anyone operating an open hotspot deserves what they get, but at the same time it is important for Google to show the world it has at least a passing respect for our privacy given the sheer volume of personal information they seem to be privileged to.
A virtual world has to be based in an imaginary setting, right? Wrong. An upcoming virtual world called Project X is likely to please those who find current virtual worlds too surreal or outre. Micazook, the start-up behind Project X, wants people to turn its virtual world into a replica of our planet piecemeal. It closely resembles Google Maps with Street View, save for the fact that users can interact with each other using 3D avatars.
Members can further bring Project X closer to the real thing by lending 10 to 15 minutes of their precious time in creating the buildings themselves – from building a virtual copy of your entire neighborhood to a famous local landmark. The developers want the users to contribute to Project X with the same zest as they display on other crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia. However, Micazook has every intention of profiting from its creation and to this end plans to impose a 30% levy on each virtual item sold. Furthermore, users will need to shell out $4.99 each month for each building they want to own.
As Project X is a browser-based virtual world, it requires a plug-in to deliver hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. It is due for a change of name before its beta launch a “few weeks” from now.
Any privacy minded individuals living away from population centers may think they’re safe from the intrusion that is Google Street View. Well, they might have to move a little farther away. Google has taken to attaching their 360 degree camera system to a snowmobile. With the Vancouver Winter Olympics coming up, Google thought it might be nice to give everyone a view of the slopes the athletes will be using.
“We wanted to do our best to try to capture some beautiful imagery, and have it available to everyone around the world to see so they can really experience what it’s like to be up there on the slopes,” said Google Senior Mechanical Engineer Daniel Ratner. It’s actually a fairly interesting experience cruising down the slopes through Google Maps, and you don’t need to go out in the cold. What’s the next vehicle Google should attach cameras to?
It doesn’t matter that almost all the text is in Japanese, and you probably don’t speak Japanese. This adorable look at how Google Street View works is easy viewing for all nationalities. Sure, it takes some creative liberties, but that’s why it’s so darn endearing.
The video opens on a charming little fellow with a camera for a head puttering down the street. He snaps pictures as he goes, and then takes them back to his (also charming) workshop, where they are scanned. Identifiable information is blurred out, and all is well. Well, there are some additional complaints about unwanted elements in the pics, but the little camera-headed fellow works late into the night to keep you safe.
A Google Street View vehicle came up against a tempestuous, unyielding mob in the British village of Broughton. The Street View car had gone there to collect photographs to be used by the Google Street View service. Google’s ingenious camouflage tactic of leaving the car unmarked failed miserably as its peculiar rooftop camera betrayed the vehicle’s identity and purpose of visit.
Google Street View has been on the radar of privacy advocates and has had its fair share of legal run-ins with them. But many of them might just undergo a change of heart after being told that cops in Massachussetes solved a kidnapping case using Google Street View. Although it is too early to say whether it will remain an isolated incident or become a precedent, the story is truly amazing.
When cops were trying to find the whereabouts of a 9-year old girl, who had been abducted by her granny, they were able to trace the coordinates of her phone to a location in Virginia. They then came up with an ingenious plan of identifying possible hideouts in that area using Google Street View.
Local cops were soon dispatched to a suspected hideout, where they found that technology had not disappointed them.
Google’s Street View service has already hit a roadblock in the UK, even before its launch across the Atlantic. Google would be hoping that this is just a hurdle and not a dead end for Street View’s UK version. Street View is an extension of Google’s navigational and mapping services that features photographs of locations on Google Maps and Google Earth.
A U.K rights organization, Privacy International, believes that the service violates people’s right to privacy as Street View photographs freely feature passers-by, that too, without their consent. The organization has been in constant touch with Google over the issue but seems unsatisfied with the answers it has received thus far. Google has tried to placate Privacy International with promises of a new technology - which it claims is under trial – that can identify human faces and blur them.
However, every bit the cantankerous and incredulous social rights organizations, Privacy International has asked Google to either furnish more details of the technology within a week or run the risk of being officially referred to the Information Commissioner, who can even gatecrash Google’s ‘Street View’ launch plans.
Privacy International has a plausible reason behind its skepticism. It points to Google’s track record of freely reneging on such promises; as it did with the promise of developing ‘crumbling cookies’ after acquiring DoubleClick.