Call it Blurmany if you will, call us uncool and throw eggs at our apartment building if you love Google so much, but I’m very happy to say I live here.
It didn’t take long for us to decide to say no to Street View. After all, we already have an unlisted telephone number that’s kept our place reasonably quiet since we applied for it about four years ago. We no longer get crank calls from drunk jerks in the middle of the night – usually students my wife teaches or once taught – bored out of their minds and playing around with their cellphones. We also never get telemarketing calls. I remember in Hong Kong we used to have to rip off five or 10 feet of paper every day from all the junk faxes until we made HongKong Telecom change our number.
With Google Street view, the angle was more subtle. It’s very unlikely you’ll get hassles just because you’re visible online, and even less likely you’ll be burgled, the politician’s scare tactic of choice when this whole thing blew up in the German media a few months ago. And as for getting caught sunbathing on the balcony – well, that’s obviously an argument put forth by those who don’t know how Street View works.
Sure it’s great for businesses, but what possible benefit could we, as private individuals living in a private household, obtain by letting Google put up a photo of the place where we spend the greater part of our lives for the whole world to see? What have we to gain by it?
I could understand it if we were the owners of some boutique called snotty and desperate for a little free on-line publicity, we’d even pay for the right to have our store burst onto the screen with arrows, flashing lights and pop-ups.
But here I am, some duff who was always taught to be wary of those on the sell side. Since Google is basically a multi-billion dollar advertising company with the world’s most powerful search engine attached, why on earth would I want to help them? What’s in it for me?
Even if we were to ignore the accusations of WiFi network data theft and other questionable goals as their octopus-camera cruised the streets, the ONLY benefit to Street View that we could think if – and the only argument I found online in favour of not opting out – was that perhaps friends and relatives living far away could look you up.
Well, whoop-de-fucking-do. One photo from the ground floor and a blanket email and that’s taken care of.
Google Street View is merely one more brick in the infrastructure for a much wider array of capabilities not even invented yet that could further erode what few avenues of privacy we have left. Maybe it’s like trying to turn back the tide, but if we can spit back at it a little, maybe some good will come out of it.