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Palo Alto Residential Streets on Google StreetView

Original post made by Anonymous, Walter Hays School, on May 31, 2007

In Google Maps' new feature "StreetView", every single Palo Alto *residential* street is covered. While I am quite proud of how our city looked, I cannot help but wonder: did Google ever contact Palo Alto City Council about what they are doing?

Sure, first amendment rights allow them to take pictures in public space s and publish them. But driving a vehicle meticulously around and taking pictures continuously, and linking this with the addresses on the map?

Comments (29)

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2007 at 6:46 am

Privacy does not extend to public things. Your facade is by definition your public face.

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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2007 at 6:50 am

They are not required to inform anyone to just take pictures in public.

There is even case law that supports photography like this. See the California Coastline Project.

Web Link

To find it read whats under the link, "concerned about the project"

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Posted by JJ
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2007 at 7:09 am

I strongly feel invasion of privacy after looking at the street view of the city.

I am all for maps, but are we also offering a tool for the criminals/terrorists to plan for routes that would result in
property loss and maximum damage?


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 1, 2007 at 7:22 am

Please note the following from the link posted by RS, above, addressing the issue of security concerns:

Security and Terrorism Concerns

A number of visitors have expressed a concern that this site contains photographs of some locations that might be of interest to terrorists. We have thought long and hard as to whether the publication of these photographs is a real security risk that outweighs the enormous good that could come from this project. It is important that the project be a complete record of the coast, and it could not be if we redacted this material.

We do not believe that our publication of these photographs, in and of itself, creates a real risk because:

* Photographs like these are available elsewhere on the web: A quick search of Google for any of these facilities will return much information, including photographs, some of which are from government web sites.
o Microsoft's Terraserver has pictures of the entire country, with free, unfettered access to all.
o Mapquest or Yahoo Maps offer you a "click here to see a photo" link when you bring up a map given an address. Enter 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington DC, for example...

* Photographs like these are easy to take: Anyone could charter a plane for a few hundred dollars and take pictures with this resolution using an ordinary 35mm camera. There is no "rocket science" involved. We are more interested in providing a historical record; terrorists are more interested in current photographs.

* Exposing security problems will get them fixed: There is no true security in obscurity. Public knowledge of a security flaw forces the flaw to be fixed. We have learned this a long time ago in the software industry.

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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2007 at 8:26 am

I don't think they did Barron Park. What about the satellite pictures that is offered as well?

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Posted by GoogleHead
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:34 am

I think its cool. This is not a first ammendment case since the government has not tried to stop them. The first ammendment does not "give" anyone the right to free speech. If you read the constitution, we HAVE the right naturally has human beings, and the 1st Ammendment merely restrains the government from infringing upon that natural right.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2007 at 9:58 am

Just googled my address. I would like to know when it was photod. I have heard about the laser pic and the hot babes pic (advertising truck outside someone's home) and next time I would like to know just in case something embarrassing was going on!!!!

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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2007 at 10:25 am

I think the pictures on my street were take in 07 based on some objects in my yard and the status of a neighbor's remodel.

I wish the pictures were better quality, but I do like the interface that allows you to "walk" down the block. Too bad its not my house that is pictured when I enter my address, but its at least only 1 house to the left.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2007 at 11:14 am

Based on the status of a teardown a couple houses away from mine, the pictures seem to have been taken about a month ago.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2007 at 3:38 pm

The California Coastline project mentioned was when Streisand sued the photographer for having included an aerial picture of her coastal mansion, violating her privacy. She lost and had to pay attorney fees. What really bugged Barbs was that, if you looked real close, you could see Brolin in a French Maid's costume just inside the pool door.

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Posted by A resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2007 at 12:50 am

The pictures were taken in 07 because it says so in the bottom righthand corner.

I'm not worrying about privacy since they've assigned the wrong number to my house. Also, it looks like I live on a hill. Hills in south Palo Alto?!!!!

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Posted by Fred
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 2, 2007 at 7:23 am

This is getting interesting....Check out the top 100 list of Google Street View Sightings here:

Web Link

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Posted by joe
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 2, 2007 at 8:30 am

Google has really gone over to the dark side. If they really can't see the difference between a random event visible to someone in the street for a moment and plastering it all over the web for every nutcase to find license plate numbers, photos of family members, etc...

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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 2, 2007 at 2:43 pm


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Posted by anonymous - NOT!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2007 at 9:47 pm

I don't like it. The pictures on my street were taken on a weekend in March, based on the tree foliage and the cars in the driveway. The resolution of the pictures are excellent; you can zoom right up and see my license plate. Great. I'm female and operate a small business out of my home. I published the address on my website, against my better judgment. Now this.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2007 at 8:22 am

I like it.

My house is numbered wrong, too. Maybe it would be easier if we all just changed the numbering on our houses to correspond with our new StreetView addresses. Google could pay for the "Great American House Address Swap" from petty cash, and then we'd all be squared away: data would meet reality in a seamless flow. <--friendly Google neighbor joke ;-)

The interface is still a little jerky. It would be nice if I could plot a route via google maps, click "goStreetView", and then smoothly traverse that plotted route virtually:
1.) at a cadence that I chose and could modify during the "trip" via a control (slider) button;
2.) while looking in the direction that I chose and could modify via a (rotational knob) button.

...of course maybe these features already exist and I just haven't noticed them, yet.

For such virtual trips, it would also be nice to have a "jet-pack boost" button, where I could jump above the street, to one of the regular satellite imagery levels, to complete portions of my trip at higher speeds. At the jet-pack level it would be nice, at certain heights, to see clickable icons over hotels, restaurants and for-sale homes on the map/images below (like the points of interest on car GPS devices), so I could click on spots of interest that I spy, either for further tourist/business information or to make dinner reservations, buy tickets, etc. Of course traffic information would be nice to have superimposed over the hybrid map, as well.

I guess it's all about data-set integration, these days.

...though I am not sure that it would go over well, yet, to see everyone's phone number superimposed on the image of their house along with the ( value of their home, their drivers license photos, gun ownership status, and daily work schedule + vacation calendar.

Not all of us are ready for progress. <--nervous joke ;-)

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Posted by Theresa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Wow. Crazy. I'm glad my house is on a flag lot for so many reasons. Google just provided me with another.

That said, based on stuff on the street, the photos on my street were taken in mid to late April.

That said, I can see some good reasons for this sort of app. One of my kids will be moving this summer, and she'll be able to use the app to check out neighborhoods in advance of going there in person. Also, my house is very difficult to find; with this app people coming here for the first time can see where my driveway is in relation to my neightbors' houses. It may prevent some of the inevitable phone calls I get about 10 minutes after a guest is due at my house that go like this:

Me: Hello!

Them: Ummmm ... I can't find your house. I don't even know where I am now.

Me: Well, where are you?

Them: I think I'm back on University.

Me: Oy. I'll coach you back here and just stay on the phone until you find my driveway. Here goes.

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2007 at 7:55 pm

If you want to see what the Google Van that took the picture looks like type in the address: 434 Sherman Ave, Palo Alto CA. Then look in the glass window on the first floor of a building at the side of the steet.

It looks like a dark van - I'm guessing green in color - with a white GPS looking disk on top, all though that could also be the camera housing.

Nothing on the side of the van says Google from that angle I saw.

The pictures in our area appear to have been taken at three different times depending on the street. One in late March, from a lower angle, one on a Wednesday (collection day) afternoon in April and another on a weekday, but not Wednesday in May.

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Posted by Private citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 9:53 am

I agree with 'anonymous - NOT!" People in Palo Alto routinely have to park their cars on the street or in driveways, and license plates are visible on these photos. You can't apply old privacy arguments to this situation, any more than you could apply old copyright laws to new electronic media. (Media organizations did try, but lost in the Supreme Court.) This is just wrong, but it will probably take a fight in court to get Google to at least black out personal identifiers like license plates. Hey, they backed down against the Chinese government. Anyone?

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Posted by naive
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 4, 2007 at 12:48 pm

what is all the fuss about anon and others?
I am naive, and don't know.
Seriously, what kind of security threats are ya
concerned about? license plates? I can see those
when I drive buy your home anyways? or when I walk by....
what's it all about?
please enlighten me if you can. thanks

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Posted by anonymous - NOT!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 1:38 pm


If you take the trouble you can see those things when YOU physically drive by, true enough. And now you and the rest of the world can see those things from the comfort of your own home in mere minutes. Why should this matter?

In my case, I operate a home-based business with a website that displays my business address. Now anyone can type that address into Google, see what my business looks like from the front (it's an internet business, not a storefront, if you're wondering why I'd care), know what kind of car I drive AND know exactly which car it is. I could just remove the address from my website, but that doesn't erase the permanent records of older versions.

I don't like how easy Google has made it to link so many personal things together so easily for the entire world to see. What if I write about my beautiful little girls somewhere, for example on an online forum where I believe I can trust others but I don't really know for sure. Now that these dots are so easily connected, does it mean I should be paranoid of what I write about myself and my family? I just don't like it.

Are you ever asked to show your ID when using credit cards, etc.? The person requesting it can Google your address, view your home, maybe see your license plate, and know which car in the parking lot is yours.

Not that the world is filled with wierdos with bad intentions, but I don't like making it so easy for the few nutcases.

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Posted by Naive
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:23 pm

non anonymous- thanks for the reply. I suppose that we don't need to make things any
easier for those on this planet who don't play fair.
Thanks again.
If anybody wants to add to how this can be used in a harmful manner please don't hesitate to do so.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:33 pm

There are many other security risks.

Another link on this website actually points out Steve Jobs' address and you can see his car. The fact that he keeps his home anonymous is now lost. For most of us, not in the public eye, our home is anonymous in that you can drive by without having anyone know who lives there, but when it is all pointed out for various reasons, that is asking for trouble.

How about if you had an out of state license on your car, of if you had a gas leaf blower in the picture, or if you were having something delivered that you didn't want a family member or neighbor know you had. There was no warning with these pictures and almost anything could have been going on and voila it is there for anyone to see. I looked at my son's school and there is a picture of the whole school. Should that be there?

The possibilities are endless.

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Posted by Naive
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2007 at 2:46 pm

does the website/google thing tell you who lives in the homes?

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Posted by anonymous - NOT!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2007 at 3:25 pm

No, but a phone directory does, depending on how you choose to list yourself. There are reverse phone directories online, too.

Type your phone number in Google and see what comes up. If you're not there it's because you've taken the trouble to remove your listing. There are plenty of people who are unaware that this is even a "feature" and so their numbers show up.

Try searching for your phone number, address, and name. It'll give you a good idea of how easy it is to fill in the dots in your particular case. My prospects at anonymity don't look good. :( Even my kids birth announcements are online, thanks to the local newspaper's archives.

There are many, many ways to gather all the pieces together into one nearly complete picture. What people might do with it is another story. It could be as harmless as snoopy nosiness.

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Posted by Naive
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 4, 2007 at 6:55 pm

thanks again!

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jun 4, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Good demo of Street View Web Link

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Posted by Chris White
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2007 at 10:31 am

I think it is rather cool. I miss living in good old Palo Alto. When i get home from work today I am going to take some tours of places I used to hang out.

Like this comment
Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Figured it out ther were taken about March 28-30 2007

Got the idea of looking at what was showing at the Stanford theater.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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