There was a time that if you wanted to stand naked on your patio, only the guy with the binoculars across the street would catch you in the act.
These days, thanks to Google Street View, everyone gets to look.
Just ask the woman in Miami who today finds that her naked foray onto her back stoop, captured by a passing Google Street View camera, yields more than
two million results on the search engine of the same name.
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Google Street View is supposed to be a helpful way for you to see your destination as it really looks, as opposed to a pointy B pin on a map. It is not supposed to offer a panorama of human folly, such as the casually careless naked lady, or the equally naked guy in Germany climbing out of the trunk of his car, or the guy walking his snake down the street, or various Brits mooning the passing camera, or the two Norwegian scuba divers running down the street on flippers, complete with tridents. (Why did the scuba divers cross the road?)
As the Street View cameras capture every square millimetre of the planet and resolution improves, it’s only going to get worse. Or better, if you like to watch.
Google is self-correcting, and as soon as it learned about its naked-lady problem, it turned her into a pixelated blur, but only after the photos of the poor women spread across the Internet like the bird flu.
What do we expect when we combine the Internet with the latest surveillance technology? Google Street View has the potential to turn us all into everyday fugitives from scrutiny, trapped in a high-res corner with nowhere to hide.
It’s not just that Big Brother is watching, although you know he is. It’s also that little sister and Cousin Bert and Uncle Ernie and all Rabbit’s friends and relations are watching as well.
Of course, not everyone sees that as a bad thing, such as the guy who found Google Street View to be an ideal way to expose himself to anyone who happened upon his sad, little — with an emphasis on little — sector of the galaxy.
For the rest of us, it’s bad enough we have to wear clean underwear every day in case we get hit by a bus and have to be undressed by medical personnel. Now we also have to make sure, no matter where we are, to remember to wear clothes and, while we’re at it, keep the nose mining to a minimum.
And smile, dammit.