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Google Street View Solves Crime

In the U.K. in April, a handful of residents of the village of Broughton blocked a car from entering their town. The driver was taking pictures for Google's Street View service and the locals were concerned about their privacy.
In the U.K. in April, a handful of residents of the village of Broughton blocked a car from entering their town. The driver was taking pictures for Google's Street View service and the locals were concerned about their privacy.Never mind the absurdity of worrying about being photographed by Google in a country with more than 4 million closed-circuit video surveillance cameras. Consider for a moment on the possibility that there might be benefits to Street View images, such as improved security.

That's an argument Google product counsel Gavin McGinty made in March on his company's European Public Policy blog. The Metropolitan Police in the U.K, he said, "believe that mapping can be useful in raising awareness locally about crime and helping people take action to prevent it."

It turns out the police were right. That same month, according to reports published on Friday from Reuters and the Associated Press, a teenager in the Netherlands spotted two brothers who had mugged him six months earlier in a Street View image.

The car taking pictures for Google in September had captured an image moments before the crime, which involved the theft of the teenager's mobile phone and the equivalent of $230 in cash.

The teenager contacted local authorities, who requested that Google provide them with the original unblurred image -- Google blurs the faces of people (and horses) in Street View images to protect their privacy. In this case, privacy yielded to security and Google provided the original image.

The brothers have been arrested but not yet charged.

This is not the first time Street View has saved the day. In January, Street View helped police in Massachusetts locate a missing 9-year-old.

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