Is Google simply doing its job, and providing accurate Street View maps to its millions of users around the world? Or are they being incredibly insensitive?
Some residents in Stalen Island are incensed over Google's attempt to document the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The company has deployed a fleet of their Street View cars to snap shots of the devastation that took place over two months ago.
The NY Post first reported on the controversy, and got quotes from New Yorkers such as:
“They are putting us wiped out on the map! They’re going to call it a wasteland! I don’t like Google driving around my property. What are they doing it for? To drop the property value?”
More people were concerned about future home values:
“If that’s the way it’s going to be in the computer for years, showing the depreciation of a neighborhood, that’s not right. If someone wants to move, they look online, so that’s not good for the neighborhood. If that goes online, it’s going to drag [down] the real-estate market.”
This is not the first time that Google has made a point to visit an area after its landscape had been severely altered by a natural disaster. A few month after the 2011 tsunami, Google announced that they would be dispatching their Street View teams to eastern Japan to take photos of locations ravaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
In December, they unveiled the fruits of that project: 44,000 kilometers of driving that yielded stunning before and after comparisons of the modified landscape. At the time, they said that this would "serve as a digital archive of the power of mother nature for future generations."
"When looking at images of the magnificent cities side-by-side with images of the ruins left in their place, this additional context demonstrates how truly life-changing this tragedy has been for those who live there and witnessed the destruction of their homes, neighborhoods and even entire districts," they added.
Just last month, Google added some indoor Street View imagery of the areas.
Google echoed that sentiment in a statement concerning Hurricane Sandy imagery:
"The Street View team is currently redriving affected areas of New York City. We hope this accurate, updated imagery that will soon be available in Google Maps will help people around the world better understand the extent of the damage and the importance of coming together as a community to aid in the recovery efforts.”
What do you think? Insensitive? Important? I wasn't personally affected by the Hurricane and have no real ties to its devastating aftermath other than the general empathy that most people feel for their fellow humans - but I think it's important that we have a historical record of the impact of such natural disasters. But I can certainly understand some people's frustration. At least Congress finally did the right thing. Finally.