Google Maps Street View has received a lot of attention in the news as of late for posting images that include people, or even items that are viewable through windows inside businesses and homes.
There are images of women sunbathing, a man coming out of an adult bookstore, a cat in a living room window as well as many others. Web sites are cropping up such as the one on Wired, to highlight the interesting and the odd of these images. See the following screen shot for an example.
These images are bringing up privacy issues for people. A street view system of maps that is no longer in service had an image of someone that was caught smoking outside their office, and at that time his family did not know he smoked.
It would seem that Google in releasing Google Maps Street View did not take into account that even when we are in public, people have an expectation of a certain level of privacy. The laws do state that if a photograph is taken from a public street then it is legal – but people still have that expectation of privacy.
At this time Microsoft has real images available on Live Search. The big difference is the fact that these images are from a bird’s eye view and do not identify any specific detail at street level. The screen shot example from Live Search is zoomed in as close as you can get using this service.
There is a technology preview for Live Search Maps that include being able to drive a Race Car, Sports Car or work through Seattle, WA or San Francisco, CA. Currently the technology preview states that images from the preview are not allowed separate from the website, you will have to click the link to actually check out the preview.
This technology preview is very similar to Google implement of street level imaging, but Microsoft has taken care not to display private information such as faces or license plates.
Part of Microsoft’s implementation of this street level imaging technology is discovering a method that will obscure any identifiable images such as faces and license plates.
It looks like Google won the initial race to get a set of street level images to market, but in the process may have taken a hit to consumer confidence. This time Microsoft’s more thorough approach may be a winning strategy for them concerning street level imaging and privacy issues.