On Thursday, Google said that in addition to adding Street View imagery for Ireland and Brazil, it has enabled Street View in Antarctica, despite the scarcity of streets on the continent. Google Path View might be a more appropriate name for its Antarctic navigation service, but branding changes of this sort just cause consumer confusion.
"We often consider Street View to be the last zoom layer on the map, and a way to show you what a place looks like as if you were there in person -- whether you’re checking out a coffee shop across town or planning a vacation across the globe," said Google Maps engineer Brian McClendon in a blog post. "We hope this new imagery will help people in Ireland, Brazil, and even the penguins of Antarctica to navigate nearby, as well as enable people around the world to learn more about these areas."
Launched in 2007, Street View is undeniably useful, but it has also generated more controversy and litigation than anything else Google has done, excepting perhaps search and patent litigation.
A few months ago, Google revealed that its Street View image acquisition cars had been collecting WiFi packet data without the knowledge or authorization of company management. Profuse apologies, multiple lawsuits, and the scorn of regulators followed, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Street View cars have been blocked from entering a town in England, vandalised in Germany, and charged by pitchfork-wielding Norwegians in scuba gear. Their travels have brought claims of trespassing and privacy violations, and have alarmed U.S. military officials, prompting complaints and the removal of imagery collected on at least one military base in contravention of Google policy.
Last year, Google had to re-photograph some of its imagery in Japan to address complaints by local officials that the company's cameras were mounted so high that peered into people's backyards.
Inexplicably, Google appears to have given little thought to privacy in Antarctica, having neglected to blur the faces of researchers or penguins photographed there. Someone is bound to complain.