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Thursday, May. 31, 2007 at 6:19 am

How Does Google’s New ‘Street View’ Get Illegal Pics?

By Bryan Eisenberg
May 31st, 2007

streetviewbatterytunnel.jpgI was showing Jeffrey the new Google Street view function of Google Maps. I was showing our office when I realized that the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was “blue.” That means you could view it in street view. I was shocked! Since 9/11, it’s very clearly and prominently indicated on both sides of the tunnel that cameras are not permitted in the tunnel. I wonder how Google gets authorization for these street view images? Or maybe they didn’t. Do you know?

Others are asking if Google is spying on their cat (who’s definitely not barking). Is this evil?

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Comments (67)

  1. Google Maps is spying on my cat, says freaked out BB reader…

    BoingBoing reader Mary Kalin-Casey says, The new Google Maps zoom feature zooms all the way into my living room window. See cat on cat perch. I’m all for mapping, but this feature literally gives me the shakes. I feel like I need to close all my curt…

  2. Lots of potential for abuse here – I’ve been looking through the list here – – lots of opportunity for getting sad at you know who..

  3. Wired‘s having a contest to find the best/worst uses of this tool. In addition to Bryan’s find, it seems it didn’t take long for people to spy on sunbathers and jaywalkers.

  4. Google Street Maps is HOT…

    So imagine for some reason that you wanted to know if tourists really rode horse-drawn “carriages” through central park. Google Maps with a new Street View option lets you do just that, and even hyperlink it:

    I was wondering when the foot…

  5. [...] Eisenberg says, We just posted on our blog pictures of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel where cameras are not permitted since 9/11 but street view [...]

  6. [...] Eisenberg says, We just posted on our blog pictures of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel where cameras are not permitted since 9/11 but street view [...]

  7. And another site to track all this stuff –

  8. Scenes Through the Eye of Google…

    Is that someone’s cat in a living room window? And a neighbor taking out the garbage? Wait — The Battery Tunnel in Brooklyn. Haven’t cameras been banned from there since 9/11? And is that a robbery in progress…

  9. Google Photos Stir a Debate Over Privacy…

    Others pointed to pictures of cars whose license plates were clearly readable. One pointed to images captured inside the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, a controversial location for photography in this high-security era…

  10. [...] Bryan's post on Google's StreetView product and all of the related stories from Boing Boing to Wired to the New York Times is both exciting and perhaps a bit scary at the same time. [...]

  11. [...] interesting point was made by Brian Eisenberg. Did Google get clearance to photograph the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel? Since 9/11, cameras have not [...]

  12. Can you really ban pictures from a public place like a tunnel? Putting all the signs up in the world doesn’t make it illegal.

    Anyone want to start a website of banned pictures? Everyone should send their pictures of the tunnels and bridges to the website.

  13. You know, seeing a licence plate in a picture is no different then seeing them when you’re out driving. It’s public information!

  14. Ellbee,

    It’s not a matter of seeing other people’s license plates. Sure, you can do that anywhere. It’s an ongoing homeland security measure that attempts to thwart terrorist attacks on bridges and tunnels–particularly the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Lincoln Tunnel post 9/11 for obvious reasons. Hope that helps!

  15. well i did some googling and it seems some one has bought

  16. well it looks like some one has bought

  17. It seems odd that they could make taking pictures of a ‘public place’ illegal.

    To address concerns of privacy and for the sake of operating system competition I wrote a post on the Google Maps Zoom Feature and what it could be renamed.

  18. I added all the best “Google Street View” here :

  19. [...] problema semmai riguarda quelle foto che non dovrebbero esistere, come quelle dei luoghi in cui le riprese sono vietate per [...]

  20. [...] spy-cam network with Google Street View. See how it works or see it in action. More on this: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | [...]

  21. [...] more on: ; ; ; slate ; freakonomics previous post: « Weblog Cogmios celebrates his 7500th [...]

  22. What amazes me is how many people ASSUME that Homeland Security has banned pictures of bridges and tunnels. There are NO homeland security laws currently in place that prohibit photography (except for certain military installations) – the general rule is that if you can see it you can photograph it! In New York there are laws that motorists must obey all posted signs on a bridge or tunnel. If you take a picture the charge is “disobeying a sign”. The constitutionality of those signs is highly questionable and may be challenged soon.

  23. [...] waves — a mention in The New York Times, even — after pointing out that it lets you illegally* see inside of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (a point which has been disputed in the [...]

  24. That is NOT the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. That is an area where the FDR wraps around the souther edge of lower Manhattan to get to the West Side Highway. There is a park above this and the drive can’t be more then 20 seconds.

  25. Ban google street view. Have we lost our minds? arent we in a war on terror? would this be permitted on sept 12? or is the war on terror bs? ask yourself.

    come to see the video

  26. I checked up on an apartment I lived in a few months ago. You can no longer see my cat litter container in the window, my air conditioner is not in the middle window, there are new curtains, and my car is no longer outside. If I had a psycho stalker ex, they could keep checking these street view updates at all the places I’m likely to be and find clues as to where I am. Now anyone that knows me well can look up my old address on street view and know that I don’t live there anymore. You could probably check potential addresses of places I might be and find clues of whether or not I’m there. Or perhaps even see me outside of it. Now that is freaky. What about people in the witness protection program? I’m just saying… there’s gotta be limits somewhere.

  27. Are you kidding me? War on terror? Post 911? Give me a break already? Propagandist b.s. and most of the u.s. has bought into the campaign. (Which is pretty darn effective, sadly.) There is no such thing as homeland security. Man, does no one read history or remember it?

    Truth be known, I do know about a stalker in L.A. that did break in and hassle someone I know here, thanks to Google. Wee haw. Can you say Night Stalker? Summer of Sam? I smell another Spike Lee Joint coming on.

    But the bigger question has yet to be answered, where the HELL are they getting the pics and how? And who gave the bastards permission to publish the images without consent?
    This will be interesting in the courts. I wonder what will happen in the case of rape, stalker laws, and such. Google could be held accountable and liable, if at least financially.

    Something perhaps worth pondering after our initial paranoia.

  28. I work for city gov and we are beginning the process of photo acquisition. We are wondering who Google buys there imagery from for Google Earth/Maps application. Does anyone out there know? If so would you please share that with me by replying to


  29. I would like to know how to opt out of Google Street View. I have a stalker and I do NOT want them to have information on me, randomly taking photos (who takes them?!) when I might have my blinds open.

    Doesn’t anyone see this as an invasion of privacy??? I see this as a huge invasion of privacy. The world of the internet, but most importantly, GOOGLE AND GOOGLE MAPS, AND GOOGLE STREET VIEW, IS RIFE WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF ABUSE.

  30. Wow, is all I can say about the majority reaction here. True American ignorance shines it’s brightest on the internet. There’s so much concern over what can be viewed through these views… Yet they come from the street. If you’re doing actions that you don’t wish to be viewed from the streets then go ahead and close your curtains. If you’re doing compromising actions in your living room with the curtains open then that’s your fault if someone sees it. How is this technological step-up a horrible thing? I found it incredibly useful when traveling through a small town, to use for gaining some visual familiarity with my travel route. Google isn’t spying on your cat, you watching the television, or people sunbathing. They’re simply giving a view of a public area and whatever was viewable from that point at that time is published on the internet. If you want to virtually scream across the internet that your rights are being pillaged maybe you should have called your representative about the Patriot Act. Maybe you should show a little concern about people prying in your business from inside your house and not from the street where anyone with the ability to stand on a sidewalk can sit and stare at your cat all day. Get something real to be afraid about and save the world from your pathetic worries.

  31. My Lord thank you Brett V. I can’t recall when I have read a less intelligent and more psuedo-paranoia string of post. “Witness protection” “I have stalker” “rapes” & “court cases” I-G-N-O-R-A-N-C-E. Brett V. is 100% right, If I drove down the street and you were there would that be illegal. Everything is done from the road. Worry about the global warming not who is looking in your blinds.

  32. Yes I feel I am being spied on. On google maps you can find me walking down the street pushing a stroller with my 3 kids.I am a little creeped out by that.

  33. You people are kidding me, right? You sit here while our country in in a downward sprial and you are crying about streetview pics. Good lord trust me no terrorist are looking to attack us now. They see we are already falling, like the Roman Empire. Worry More about wha the Government is doing and less about what google is!!!!!!

  34. Google street views are a great tool for bikers trying to map a safe ride (e.g. large shoulders) in a car-centered landscape. Keep up the good work, Google!

  35. (bicycle riders)

  36. This is pathetic, so you can see a few faces, a few number plates and a few other everyday occurances. People always go up in arms when the next big thing comes along, and funnily enough it’s usually the same people.

    Bottom line is, if you want EVERY SINGLE FACE blurred out on google, then that’s just the same as wanting EVERY SINGLE FACE blurred out in the real world. somebody spotting you on a website is just the same as somebody spotting you walk past on your way to work. I’d say atleast 5,000 people see your face a day in the real world, whereas on google maps that figure would be more like 100 a day. Stop whining and shut up. If terrorists wanted to blow up new york they’d ave just as much luck with google street view as they would with a standard street map.

    I wish you people would put things into context before you all start raising a fuss.

  37. They even have Area 51!!

  38. If you want to find out how Google gets all those pictures, the explanation is on Wikipedia. Checkk out

  39. The only people that have something to worry about are people who are frequenting places where they don’t wanna be caught. Maybe the cheating husband should park his car down the block rather than risk his suspecting girlfriend seeing it parked in her sister’s driveway on street view. But if she’s paranoid enough, and he’s stupid enough, she’ll drive by the house herself!

    If the guy’s coming out of a strip club and happens to get his picture taken, then he’s just plain unlucky, or he’s a frequent flyer.

  40. The only thing that anyone has to worry about in their neighborhood is documentation of something that HAPPENED IN THE PAST. What’s there to worry about? A picture of you walking with your kids? SO?? The image isn’t immediately forwarded to predators in your area, in time for them to hunt you down!

    And if you have a full-fledged stalker, trust that they won’t be satisfied looking at a pic taken whenever of your second story apartment. They’ll be camped out, watching you in real time. A grainy, dark pic of your cat isn’t gonna cut it.

    If anything, the advent of street view is a wake-up call as to just how exposed people are to the world. If you live in a street-side apartment, you need to re-assess how much pivacy you actually have, and how much you want. Get those shades that open from the top down, or something, because people walking down the street can most likely see a lot better with their bare eyes than that low-resolution image.

  41. Doing an interview, having your picture taken, putting her real name on the original “spying cat” complaint- this does not sound like a woman concerned with privacy!

    If she’s truly worried about the possibility of stalkers, then she shouldn’t have proceeded in engaging the media! Because becomming “known” as a public figure opens you up to public support, public dissent, and mentally unstable people who might “love” or hate you so much that they can’t help but come after you with a deadly weapon. It happens all the time, but considerably more so with public figures, and less with the general public.

    Her fifteen minutes will expire, and she’ll widely be forgotten about by the general public.. except, perhaps by the people she’d most like to avoid.

  42. i think that this is retarted everything… the street view the people getting mad at each other its just an image of the street house etc sure it makes creepers easier to operate but like i forget who said it exposes us and a wake up call btw ip adresses expose who you are as well so if u have a reallly good tracker/stalker he wont even need visual images to locate u so to be honest you can be tracked by your computer and or internet Ip so to worry about images that have another way to show where you are is such a waste…. cell phones are another good tool the list goes on hahaha so people just stop worrying about a little thing like images just think of it this way your a celeb on the web now

  43. If someone is going to stalk you then I’m sure they won’t be looking on google street to find you. They will be there in the street watching your house and following you around.

  44. the google battery tunnel is bad, but i live in nj & google satellite map will show the exact latitude & longitude of the huge hess refinery 2 miles from my work – thats a great idea!

  45. Where are the cameras, taking photos in my street on ‘Google Earth’?

  46. yah google street view is doing some illegal things which we should discourage..

  47. wow this how to is quite interesting, so that’s how google is earning.. hmm

  48. I don’t buy the car with the camera story, take a good look of key elements like digital clocks in banks, malls, city hall, check the time and temperature (sometimes different dates always same time), look at the position of the sun, all pictures appear to be taken about the same time of day (usually afternoon)can’t do that by driving around in camera cars
    from my point of view this is a old water down version of some obsolete satellite image technology, I’m pretty sure the newest version can zoom in inside houses and buildings (watch out street dealers!)

  49. I learned a good lesson about 15 years ago. My son and I went into a Taco Bell for an evening snack. There was a drunk in front of us arguing with the server that he didn’t want any chives on his taco. The server was arguing back that those were green garden onions and not chives. The drunk wasn’t convinced and the argument from the drunk got quite heated. I turned to my son and said, “let that be a lesson, never argue with someone in an altered state of mind.”

  50. Sure enough google may have some issues with privacy concerns. But there are various other websites hosting street views that get around this by focusing only on the buildings.

  51. Now we need to beware if we are naked even in our own bathroom cause Google’s spying everything

  52. Really you shouldn’t worry about google spying. When they see questionable material they ATTEMPT to get rid of it, or blot it out because of privacy law suits. Also they have a prefernce to sticking to low income neighborhoods and main streets because they are the least threatened there… as for using a camera some where illegally. You can’t go ripping cameras off a car that has camera perminantly mounted there. 50 bucks say that ‘cameras’ doesnt apply to the press is there’s an accident now does it? Just because it says ‘no cameras’ its useless to try to enforce it…thats a phony law at best unless it constitutes some major danger like trying to take photos of a military base.

  53. Oh sorry, forgot to mention this. But if people see you naked through one of your windows, you’re the one that can go to jail not them. Though its usually not enforced it is where i live (common law state) that being nude infront of a window constitutes a fine because it’s consider to be indecent exposure. In other words, your bathroom should have privacy glass for common decency and you should draw your currents while standing infront of a window because you…well you should just want to you know? Why stand infront of a window nude?

  54. It really makes me laugh when people talk about it being illegal because their number plates are readable. I could walk down the road and read any number plate I want with my eyes!

  55. Also on another note, within the united states there is absolutely no law that preserves any type of right to privacy. Though many people think there is, your privacy is only protected on the basis of speccific contracts you sign with organizations (such as the privacy POLICY (not law, their OWN policy) of this site). The united states consitution makes no mention of privacy or any notion of it even ‘reading between the lines’. So if you want a right to your privacy leave the united state now and move to another first world country (most other first world countries DO have privacy thoroughly protected in their constitution).

  56. How often does Google Maps go thru a neighborhood? Google went by my house just before it got overhauled and fixed up. I can’t wait till an “after” pic goes comes on screen and not the “before”.
    And by the way Google Maps doesn’t print anything that I couldn’t see in person if I happened to be walking by your house on the street.

  57. At least your houses are on street view, all around me has it but not my street and most of the pics are really old

  58. the next question too is, will searches violate trademarks?

  59. No its not, its only provide excerpt which fals well within the fir use doctrine

  60. no that was no evil but dynamic life on the internet

  61. Why are you people complaining? This is what society seems to want, to be watched like zoo animals. People have become so consumed of them self that they flaunt them selves like they are gods blessing. Look at Facebook, Twitter, Myspace all those things are portals to expose your life. Its no different then “Street View” and what is most likely coming in the future. “Street Live VIdeo maybe?

  62. Google “likely” breached a U.S. federal criminal statute in connection with its accidental Wi-Fi sniffing — but not for siphoning private data from internet surfers using unsecured networks, a former federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

  63. I think illegal picture without permission is prohibited. But there are some who even post it in the internet that can be offending to a person.

  64. Is Google taking their power to far? If they are taking photos of places were an ordinary person can go, what’s the big deal? Seeing a cat in someone’s window is really considered a privacy issue? If someone can walk down the street and see your cat in the window and it bothers you, maybe you should get rid of the cat. I love the fact that I can get on Google’s Street view and look at places I’ve never been, and probably will never be. I used it at work when I needed to know where the painted lines on the road used to be before it got paved so I could put them back in the correct spot. You might be thinking that the DOT has maps of that but they don’t. I think that if someone can see it from a public land then it should be viewable by anyone. Granted it shouldn’t be videoed live all the time but a clear image isn’t a problem. Seriously, what is wrong with people in the world today?

  65. @MAtt… Thank god for someone with common since. You cannot ban taking pictures of a public place. If you can see it you can shoot it. The only time this is different is if a) You use telephoto or the like to peer into a window where the expectation of privacy is. b) A city can institute an ordinance banning photos from a specific location, but not of that location.

    You people need to use a little more common sense. If you were able to ban a photo of something viewable to the public, what would that mean for a person with a photographic memory? Silly sure, but so are half of you people. If you don’t want people looking in your windows, shut the blinds. I mean come on!

  66. The only thing that anyone has to worry about in their neighborhood is documentation of something that HAPPENED IN THE PAST. What’s there to worry about? A picture of you walking with your kids? SO?? The image isn’t immediately forwarded to predators in your area, in time for them to hunt you down!

    And if you have a full-fledged stalker, trust that they won’t be satisfied looking at a pic taken whenever of your second story apartment. They’ll be camped out, watching you in real time. A grainy, dark pic of your cat isn’t gonna cut it.

    If anything, the advent of street view is a wake-up call as to just how exposed people are to the world. If you live in a street-side apartment, you need to re-assess how much pivacy you actually have, and how much you want. Get those shades that open from the top down, or something, because people walking down the street can most likely see a lot better with their bare eyes than that low-resolution image.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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