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google street view omg

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Mar. 20th, 2009 | 08:57 pm

Assorted punditry emerges now that London is covered by Google Street View. Honestly, it doesn't bother me a lot, and people often ask me how I can justify this given that I am generally very unhappy about CCTV. (Well, people don't often ask me really, but the people in my head do, and they count.)

It's because this is public. If Google were keeping all of these pictures out of public hands, I would hate it. If, for that matter, they are keeping any information gathered by running vans around town with cameras on them secret, I would object. But they are publishing it; they are presenting publicly-accessible information to the public, for free.

This is the antithesis of the "surveillance culture", where people grab information and keep it for themselves. I remember reading a piece by Bruce Sterling where he outlined a useful CCTV network - one where you could look up a location on your phone and see the view from the nearest camera, tell whether your friend was there to meet you, see whether there was a mugger around the next corner. This is all much more on that basis than companies putting camera widgets on every flat surface in the City.

The data should be nationalised though. At the moment, access is free and open to all; there is no requirement that it remain so.

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