by Steven A Kearney
Google Street View is just experiencing ‘teething problems’ and has many positive uses, according to one leading figure in the property industry. The defence of the Street View tool, launched in the UK last week, comes amid significant amounts of publicity questioning the application’s legality and ethical basis.
The technology is a photographic mapping extention of the online service Google Maps. Once an area has been mapped by Google’s camera vans, users can log on and see pictures of any street or property by simply typing in an address or post code, or by using the zoom tools from the map.
The ease of access to photographs of houses and business has led to questoning of the legality and privacy implications of Street View, but Lee Bramzell, CEO of Property Index, spoke out in defence of the technology. “Once the teething problems with Street View have been ironed out, it is set to revolutionise the property industry. Street View will help rebuild the property market as prospective buyers will be able to view the area and exterior of houses from the comfort of their own homes”, he said.
Street View allows users to take a ‘walk’ around the streets of any area which has been mapped out, zooming in on any images they wish. Users have already hailed the benefits of this system for navigating around an area, especially when requiring directions, and those seeking to buy or rent a property are also likely to find the application useful. Tourism could also benefit greatly as it is possible to take a virtual tour round any potential destination.
Google removed several images over the weekend after huge amounts of media interest, including now famous images of one man vomiting in the street and another entering a sex shop.
Despite questons about the legality of the application, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruled that Street View did not breach any privacy laws as all the images were taken from public places and were therefore images already available to the public.
A spokesperson for Google stated, “The tools are there for users to remove any pictures they are not happy with. We are pleased the tools we developed are working well”.
Part of the grounds for the ICO’s approval of the site was that faces and vehicle number plates were to be blurred out. However, the ICO pointed out that, “Individuals who raised concerns with Google and do not think they have received a satisfactory response can raise that concern with the ICO”. The ICO did confirm that they were satisfied with the safeguards put in place by Google.
With the current slump in the UK property market, any new application such as Street View is likley to be warmly received by estate agents. However, the technology looks set to continue to divide opinion and, teething problems or not, there remains plenty for those on either side of the debate to get their teeth into.