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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Dallas Wiertella
Dallas Wiertella
Multimedia Editor

Through my experience here at the North Wind I have been able to have the privilege of highlighting students through all forms of multimedia journalism. Whether I'm in front or behind the camera, I aim...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Big Brother is finally watching all of us

My first experience with Google Street View came only a few months ago, when my mom showed me a picture of our house on Google Maps. Although I was awed by the technology, I found the experience creepy, to say the least.

Only recently did Marquette make it onto Street View as well. So, of course, I went and found the view of my apartment. I found that the images were taken during the short time I had been living there. Again, the feeling of being watched crept over me.

Although I recognize the enjoyment associated with stalking your own home, or the homes of friends, I still get the feeling that Google has overstepped its bounds and is invading the privacy of millions of people across the globe.

Turns out I’m not the only one who feels that Street View has gone a little too far.

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This week, the lobbying group Privacy International in the United Kingdom called for Google Street View to be shut down, citing gross invasion of privacy. Google is supposed to make sure that sensitive information, including faces of individuals and license plate numbers, are blurred out in images. But a few slip-ups in their policies seem to have caused a stir.

In Britain, one Street View image showed two co-workers in a compromising position. That image was circulated among their work place, embarrassing all involved. Another British woman had moved to escape a violent partner, but a Street View image clearly showed her in front of her new house.

In Pittsburgh, one family sued Google, alleging that a Street View image was taken from their driveway, which was on a private road. They cited invasion of privacy, trespassing, conversion and negligence on the part of Google. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania judge threw out the lawsuit, ruling the family had failed to prove any actual shame or humiliation. The family is currently appealing the decision.

Street View has also captured men soliciting prostitutes, people leaving strip clubs, and nude sunbathers.

Google has taken some steps to censor the content that shows up on Street View. Images of domestic violence shelters have been omitted, as have images of military bases. Google allows people to voice their opposition to certain images, and often those images are removed.

Street View appeals to the voyeur in all of us, whether we admit it or not. There is something inherently fun in looking up favorite vacation destinations or childhood homes. Everyday, images of people urinating in public or being arrested appear on blogs all over the Internet. While much of this may be harmless, I am still bothered by the fact that we live in a time when a pseudo-Big Brother can watch us — except instead of the government, it’s a corporation.

Many defenders champion the service that an application like Street View provides. Businesses say that it provides their customers with a look at the location before they visit it, as well as nearby parking. But it also provides the same service to burglars looking for homes to invade.

I’m not advocating that we charge Google headquarters with torches, demanding our privacy back. But I would like to see a little more discretion. Just because Google has the technology to create an application like Street View, doesn’t mean that we need to map out the entire world on it.

Google, let us keep our privacy: Stick to the Internet, not our driveways.

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