Their latest creation, which launched last week, is the new Street View feature on Google Maps. As you can probably guess, it allows users to zoom in on their desired location, presenting them with actual photos taken at street level.
Since the unveiling, bloggers have been urging their constituency to send in the oddest and most interesting panoramic photos from the service, taken on the streets of San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver. Here is an interesting sampling courtesy of Mashable.
But as users race to find photos of men walking out of porn shops, sunbathing co-eds and half-headed pedestrians (victims of poorly exposed film, we hope), privacy advocates are boisterously announcing their dissatisfaction. The New York Times got the nation talking. And Google couldn't have picked a worse time to release the new service after it has emerged the suspects plotting to blow up JFK did some recon on Google Earth - a similar feature.
Google stands by Street View, saying the photos shown are taken on public property and offer as much information as any person could learn by simply walking by.
They're right. We hear so much about Big Brother watching these days, but the fact is, technology allows these types of innovations. There is always going to be someone crying foul (and if the photos expose anybody's personal information I'd certainly be all for them being taken down), but we're in 2007.
And if you (or your cat) happens to end up in one of these photos, I guess that's just bad luck. (Or good luck, depending on your level of narcissism.)
Personally, I've scoured all the streets in Manhattan, and I've yet to find myself.