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Google Street View Attacked As Potential Tool For Child Predators

The Stop Child Predators [1] organization has launched a campaign [2] specifically targeting Google’s Street View [3] as a tool that potentially enables predators to stalk and kidnap children more effectively.

Kids at the Park in Google Street View, San Jose [4]
Kids playing at a park in Google Street View

A video [5] 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 [6] 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 [7] that Google remove pictures of their areas.

Bowing to pressure from the European Union [8] and others, Google instituted a program in May of this year to blur the faces of individuals [9] 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 [10] 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 [11]
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.

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