I find the excitement about privacy issues and whether Google capturing your cat looking out your window is “invasion of privacy” rather funny. But clearly the privacy issue is going to be a serious one. Especially when you consider competitions such as this one for “best images” you can find on the street views. As an example they suggest “citizens flaunting the law”. Here’s another site of interesting street view images. Luckily for Google, face and license plate detection method are getting pretty robust so having a fuzzifier blur out those features may allow them to side step the privacy issue.
What I am also interested in is where did these images come from? Immersive Media seems to be taking the credit (see June 1, 2007 press release). However, clearly not all the data comes from IMC, since there are numerous “spottings” of the Google camera van in street view reflections (for example) where it looks like some home-grown hexagonal speaker system – clunky, unpolished, and much different from Immersive Media’s cute Volkswagen Beetle camera car.
Trading of Immersive Media stock was halted the day the streetview functionality was announced. This was to prepare for massive stock activity that the announcement of Immersive Media’s licensing their image data to Google would generate. What instead we see from the stock price is a steep rise a week before the announcement followed by a brief peak and then a decline in stock price. I guess the insiders who bought up stock before the announcement managed to unload it all in a day or two.
I would think that if Google intends to continue using Immersive Media’s services, then we wouldn’t be seeing this decline. The fact that Immersive stock isn’t soaring makes me think this license deal is a one timer to jumpstart the streetview content. But Google probably has other plans for digitizing the planet… such as mentioned previously in this blog. It will be very interesting to see what comes out of that.