The Riverside Press-Enterprise for Sunday, April 5th had an interesting article entitled, English Villagers send Google snapper parking. To read the article and see a picture of the car and camera they use, check out http://tinyurl.com/d54jm2.
The article is about the anger one community, Broughton in southern England, felt about Google taking pictures of their homes for Google's Maps, Street View feature. If you haven't used this part of Google Maps yet, it allows you to enter an address and if Google has taken a picture of that address, you can click on the picture to view that address and surrounding addresses. This map tool also allows you to scroll up, down and get a 360 degree view.
One of the residents quoted in the article says, "I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane...my immediate reaction was anger: How dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent?" He then rounded up his neighbors and they blocked the road so that the car could not continue up the street. Their concern was their privacy but also the opportunity for burglars to use the information.
I like the Google Street View feature of Google Maps. I find it useful for lots of different reasons, aside from genealogy. I use it to familiarize myself with an area that I am traveling to. My family used it to check out houses we were going to look at with our real estate agent. I use it to see if my ancestor's homes are still there or if they have been torn down.
That said-could it be dangerous to people? I guess anything can. Do burglars use it to stake out homes? My experience has been that the photo addresses or usually at least 1 to 3 homes off. The pictures are a low quality resolution and the license plates on cars are obscured. If your concerned about the street view, then also realize that satellite photos are easily found online through services like Google Earth that also show your home and your backyard.
By owning and living in a "large, comfortable" home as these people do, you are a target for burglars. Will dishonest people use technology and information for their gain-of course. Is Google Street View an important service? I think so-and I dare say anyone who uses it will find that it provides a service that is convenient and important for many different applications.