Street View Takes A Cue From “Cops”

    May 13, 2008

Users of Google Street View will still be able to hunt for people hopping fences, losing their pants, and lying out in the sun.  Users may not be able to see many faces, though, as Google’s making them disappear.

Some fresh images of Manhattan were released last night, and on the LatLong Blog, Andrea Frome wrote, "We’re also taking this opportunity to test our new face-blurring technology on the busy streets of Manhattan.  This effort has been a year in the making – working at Street View-scale is a tough challenge that required us to advance state-of-the-art automatic face detection, and we continue working hard to improve it as we roll it out for our existing and future imagery."

Street View
 Street View Screenshot

The sample pictures Frome provided look great – only pedestrians who were close to the camera got blurred, while faraway walkers are hard enough to see due to distance.  In the wild, results appear to be a little spottier.

Still, this seems like a good way for Google to solve privacy problems without either abandoning Street View or putting patches of black over everything remotely flesh-toned.  The company’s timing is admirable, too, since Google and Street View may soon have to deal with Europe‘s stricter photography laws.

Better return to taking screenshots or making complaints while you still can.