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Google Street View Attacked As Potential Tool For Child Predators

The Stop Child Predators organization has launched a campaign specifically targeting Google’s Street View as a tool that potentially enables predators to stalk and kidnap children more effectively.

Kids at the Park in Google Street View, San Jose
Kids playing at a park in Google Street View

A video on the site presents Stacie Runemap, Executive Director of the organization, outlining how Street View shows pictures of neighborhoods, homes, playgrounds, schools and pics of kids. She further describes how Google Maps can be used to plot distances from your doorstep to bus stops and schools, suggesting that child predators could use the service to plan attacks or kidnappings. The site elsewhere describes how to request that Google remove photos from Street View.

It’s not the first time that Google has taken heat for the Street View service. Privacy advocates and individuals have complained about how the service can take pictures that reveal interiors of homes and display activities of people who may wish to keep their activities private. Some towns and individuals have demanded that Google remove pictures of their areas.

Bowing to pressure from the European Union and others, Google instituted a program in May of this year to blur the faces of individuals caught within Street View pictures.

Internet search and mapping systems have long been criticized as potentially useful for stalkers and other criminals. It seems clear that with increased convenience, usefulness and access to information come some level of risks and trade-offs.

Is the Stop Child Predators organization’s concern over Street View truly valid or an effort to get attention by attacking a well-known target? Thus far, I haven’t heard of any incidents of stalking or attacks being enabled by Street View. Further, child abuse statistics state that 95% of victims know their attackers already and most kidnappers are family members or acquaintances — perpetrators who would likely already be familiar with children and who probably already have knowledge of their street addresses, schools and so forth. In this context, focusing concern on Street View would seem to be a bit like closing the gate after the horse has already bolted.

Playground in Google Street View, San Francisco
San Francisco playground in Google Street View

I’m supposing that if other organizations join in by expressing concern about pics of children in Street View, Google might have to go further than just blurring faces to blurring out children altogether.

5 comments for Google Street View Attacked As Potential Tool For Child Predators »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2

    Their campaign practically creates a step-by-step instruction manual for predators to make use of Google StreetView, rather than making said predators figure it out themselves.

    Probably not the goal.

    Comment by Julie Kosbab — 7/23/2008 @ 12:01 pm

  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    I think the negatives for the whole street view thing far out weigh the positives.

    Reports in the UK of thieves using it to assess properties to rob and the best escape routes etc.

    Comment by Dave Robinson — 7/24/2008 @ 1:14 am

  3. MyAvatars 0.2

    I’m sorry to say I completely disagree. Are you telling me that potential paedophiles wouldn’t have been able to find a park before google street view came along? Are you telling me that an individual who had decided to engage in these horrific activities wouldnt have been able to figure out distances from bus stops or parks? Are they incapable of using cameras themselves? How is this any different from google maps?

    It is this level of paranoia and over protection which creates fear and a lack of trust in society? Were you wrapped up in this much cotton wool when you were a child? I know i wasnt…

    Comment by Matt Inertia — 7/24/2008 @ 3:22 am

  4. MyAvatars 0.2

    They could be attacking Google for the attention, but I kind of doubt it. As a parent this kind of group actually disgusts me. They aren’t really in favor of protecting children, they go are out on witch hunts just looking for anyone else they can blame for parents doing a lousy job of being parents. They never scream little Jenny and Sally were kidnapped, raped and murdered because the parents had know idea where they were or what they were doing. These groups like to blame everyone from google for their mapping technology to the country of origin of the perpetrators.

    For the record if you don’t want google street view seeing you do something embarrassing or through your living room window, put up curtains instead of showing it to anyone and everyone that drives down the road.

    Comment by Brad — 7/24/2008 @ 3:41 am

  5. MyAvatars 0.2

    We agree with the first commenter… by making this public, they ARE giving predators detailed instructions on how they can “best utilize” Google STreet View.. .ridiculous.

    Comment by Nick Stamoulis — 7/25/2008 @ 5:15 pm

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