Google, the world’s most popular search engine, is often revered (and reviled) for its Street View images, which offer anyone with an Internet connection direct access to detailed photos of homes and buildings around the world.
But do these images pose a security threat?
A recent FM World poll found that the vast majority of facility professionals think they do not. The poll asked 100 facility practitioners if they “see Google Street View as a potential security threat in any way” to their organization.
Their answer was largely no. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they did not see the search engine’s images as threatening, with the remaining 29 percent saying they did.
One respondent said, “There’s nothing to stop a thief driving past with their phone video on to get the same, even more up-to-date, footage.” While another asked, “Who is really interested in this footage except for burglars? Isn’t our privacy invaded enough already?”
The second respondent has a point. While Google Street View might not pose any more of a security threat than other, more accessible forms of technology can produce, what real purpose does it serve? What is to be gained from looking at the front of the neighbor’s house, or the hospital or school up the road, beyond a voyeuristic thrill, or possibly, something worse? Nothing.
Even more of an invasion of privacy is Google’s Satellite View, which offers viewers plenty of top-down satellite imagery of homes and buildings everywhere, extending into their private property. Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney famously had his own vice presidential home pixelated and obscured in these Google images, a move U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has since reversed.
But perhaps Cheney had a point. Views such as those offered by Google can, when used improperly, result in not only an invasion of privacy, but also a security threat. As both private citizens and people with an interest in facilities, we have a duty to fight things that encroach on our freedoms and jeopardize our safety. And maybe Google crosses the line.