Street View Comes to London

Google Street View, the system that provides interactive panoramic pictures of streets in Google Maps, has recently been causing a stir in the UK with privacy groups fearing it might breach data protection laws. After assurances from Google that it would blur people’s faces and numberplates they have been allowed to proceed and there have been multiple sightings of its high-tech cars roaming the streets in and around London.

Some relatives of mine spotted one of the cars while they were having a walk in Surrey (just south of London) and had a chat with the driver as well as taking some pics of the gear he was driving around with.

Apparently, the array has 7 cameras at the top with laser range finders just below (to record geospatial 3D information) and an extremely accurate GPS receiver to record the position. All the data is saved to a computer in the boot with 1Tb storage discs which he said he used several of each day!!  It’s controlled by a simple touch screen interface which sits in the passenger seat.

Not the most fun job in the world but the technology is pretty cool!

The amount of data they must be archiving alone defies belief and strongly reminds me of the philosophical issues raised by Jean Baudrillard in his book ‘Simulacra and Simulation‘ whereby he questions how can you tell the difference between what is real and what is a copy when the copy is as detailed as the original?

The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA – it is the map that engenders the territory, and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.

Jean Baudrillard

There’s a warning in there somewhere for Google!

David avatar

4 responses

  1. Mark T avatar
    Mark T

    It's no longer just London. I spotted one of the cars exiting Cambridge yesterday (10/09/08) at around 5pm. I guess Silicon Fen is next to be Googleable.

  2. Got captured by Google in Lightwater Surrey on Wednesday (24th Sept 2008) about lunch time walking to the shops – “smiled” just incase.

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