Google Maps a Useful Tool, Not an Invasion of Privacy

If you've ever used the Internet, you've used Google. The current construct of the Internet makes Google point zero, where you can navigate to whatever piece of information, social network or what-have-you that you desire.

Of course, with the simplicity of Google came Google Images, an image search engine that uses the Web as its resource point. With the Internet becoming the last oasis for freedom of information, one of Google's web applications, Google Maps, has created many concerns over the privacy and security of not only ordinary people, but also the militaries and well-being of nations across the globe.

Google Maps, an earth-mapping website that provides street-mapping directions, GPS photographs, and topographic pictures of many countries, is causing a stir amongst politicians and normal citizens alike over issues of privacy due to the GPS features of the site displaying virtually every corner of the globe.

While the general public often have nothing to hide, those concerned over a right to privacy claim that the GPS views, which are available to the public, intrude upon the rights of citizens to keep to themselves, providing images of their homes, backyards, and surrounding areas in which the wish to look.

Though freedom fighters may cry for the end to the invasion of privacy, the intent of Google Maps as well as a quick glance at the application shows it to be nothing more than a fun waste of time, not the privacy-invading tool people make it out to be.

The basic ethics of photojournalism state that anything that can be seen out in the open is fair game to photograph, and while certain areas may be obscured by cloud cover, terrain, or restrictive fencing, through satellite imaging, the areas technically can be seen in the open, and thus are open to the public through photojournalism.

The "staring into your backyard" idea may sounds more threatening than it turns out to be; resolution limits are so low that only the privacy of the top of your tree or the status of your roof are the only things revealed through Google Maps GPS capabilities.

Another slight against privacy defenders is that the imagery is so rarely updated that if viewers were the best detectives in the world, their research is based on images from mid-2008. A quick look at Santa Monica College offers a fuzzy view of the construction that took place in the heart of the campus that finished last summer as its current image, so timeliness isn't the goal of the application anyway.

The purpose, according to Google, is to have the ability to "point and zoom to any place on the planet that you want to explore."

Google Maps can offer up rough GPS images of iconic landmarks, such as Mount Rushmore, or more case-sensitive locations such as the infamous Area 51 in Nevada. The latter of these locations offers one of the few solid cases against Google Maps; with GPS images, the locations of bases vital to national security of any country become public knowledge.

Nations like Australia, India and the Netherlands have all filed complaints with Google, citing that photographs sensitive to the security of the nations were up for the public (as well as potential terrorists) to see. While some photos have been pixilated or blacked out, many other still remain.

Even California lawmakers are getting involved with the availability of the technology that Google Maps employs, with Assemblyman Joel Anderson, a San Diego-area Republican, introducing a bill that would restrict the ability of image-hosting sites to display "soft terrorism targets," such as schools, hospitals, and governmental buildings.

Despite these few concerns, the purpose of Google Maps is to educate, whether showing users parts of the world they may never see in person, or simply providing them with directions to wherever they wish to travel.