US politician calls for blurring on Google Maps

11 Mar 2009

When privacy and mapping meet, technology can certainly blur the lines between what is acceptable to show everyone and what should remain protected or hidden from prying eyes.

However, blurring is exactly what California Assembly man Joel Anderson wants in relation to the aerial views available on Google Maps.

With a proposed bill entitled ‘AB 255’, Anderson is suggesting that it should be illegal in the state of California for online mapping providers such as Google Maps to display a “school, place of worship, or government buildings.” Anderson wants to make it a criminal offence to display street view or actual images of the buildings, as well as aerial photographs.

This means that services such as Google Maps could be subject to a fine of “not less than US$250,000 for each day the operator is in violation of these provisions.”

What Anderson is suggesting essentially amounts to web censorship and, if the proposal went ahead, it would render affected parts of Google maps and Google Streets as nothing more than a patchwork of blurred buildings.

However, Google has already been restricted in its mapping endeavours in several instances, including the US Government banning the company from taking any imagery in and around US military bases.

Already, due to privacy concerns, Google has began blurring faces in Street View to protect identities, but as the company continues to roll out Street View across some cities in Europe, what will we make of the possibility of having our every move tracked?

We already live in a surveillance society; there are some 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK alone – that’s one for every 14 people. 
But what if anyone anywhere could see your movements in public with a few clicks of the mouse? Where do we draw the line and when did we begin to think it was okay to have Google peering in our kitchen window?

By Marie Boran