Friday, March 27, 2009

Google Street View bad for photographers?

click photo to enlarge
Today, after I'd rolled into a parking bay whilst out shopping a Google "Street View" car, complete with mast-mounted cameras came and parked next to me. The heavy rain showers had forced the driver to put covers over the cameras, so there's no chance (I think) of me featuring on Google Maps!

Until today I've watched the debate around Street View with a fairly detached interest. Individuals who don't want to be featured, or people who don't want their property to be shown, have kicked up a fuss, and some have succeeded in having their image or that of their house blurred. It seemed to me that the ability to navigate through a town I've never visited, with an all-round view available is a very nice extension of the excellent mapping that is currently available from Google on the web. Until today.

As I walked off to do my shopping a thought came to me about Street View - it's bad news for photographers! Why? Well, anti-terror legislation and fears of paedophiles have led to some photographers having their right to photograph freely in public places restricted, in some cases legally, but often illegally. My concern is that Google Street View cameras posting millions of images of people and places on the web will drive people to assert their right to privacy over such activity regardless of who is taking the photograph. The harmless amateur taking snaps in a town centre will be seen as someone infringing someone else's privacy and liberty, just like Google. It's a wrong conclusion, I think, but unfortunately that may be the turn that the debate takes. I can see that politicians seeking to be "responsive" to the electorate might well choose the route of least resistance and bring in legislation to restrict what is currently a valuable freedom.

If that happens we'll be restricted to taking shots like today's of the Fenland landscape of Lincolnshire. Not a person or house in sight for someone to object about! Which will be fine if you like to photograph empty landscapes with clouds, but is more than a little limiting in the long term.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/2000 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On