Google Street View: good for directions, great for catching crooks

Street View Car

Street View Car

Google Maps capture all sorts of things — like people getting on with their daily lives blissfully unaware of the fact that something is watching them. Sometimes it also captures the more grizzly and questionable things some of us get up to.

Although the people at Google Maps Street View maintain that they respect people’s privacy and explain that “individuals and license plates are blurred. We have developed cutting-edge face and license plate blurring technology that is applied to all Street View images. This means that if one of our images contains an identifiable face (for example, that of a passer-by on the pavement) or an identifiable license plate, our technology will blur it automatically.”

Not everything falls under the radar though, and this technology has been very helpful in solving crimes and even murders in recent years since it launched in 2007. The service that provides 360-degree panoramic street-level views and now covering five-million miles of road worldwide has the advantage of being at the right place at the right time in many cases as the one below.

Earlier in April this footage was captured by a Google Street View vehicle in Detroit, which shows a man holding a gun at the same house where a deceased toddler was found in a closet.

Google Streetview Crimes

The story about the dead toddler appeared on television news showing the house where she was found. Coincidentally it appeared to be the same house someone spotted an armed man at while using Google Street View. The case is still ongoing, but this evidence will undoubtedly serve as a crucial clue.

In Lithuania tax officials have tapped into this tool to catch cheats. Officials can sit in the comfort of their offices and let the service give them a virtual tour of streets helping to uncover many tax violations.

The murder of Nancy Cooper got solved thanks to Google’s handy tool. Her husband, Brad Cooper, left a digital footprint all over his wife’s emails while monitoring them and damningly planned the route on Google Maps he would use to dispose her body. This served as crucial evidence in the murder case and Brad was sentenced to life in prison in 2011.

A 14-year old boy got justice after his bike was stolen from him in broad daylight in 2008 in the Netherlands. At first the police had no leads and the case went cold until a few months later the teen stumbled upon an image of himself on Google Street View. It shows the two men just moments before they grabbed his bike from him. The Dutch police petitioned Google to unblur the image so that they could identify the suspects. They happened to be twins, and were sent to jail shortly after they were identified.

On a less serious note, thinking of doing something unruly on the streets? Think again and learn from these two who even though the image is blurred still look mortified after realizing they were captured by a Google Street View vehicle. There’s no need to explain what’s going on in this image.

Street View Couple

In the years since its launched Google Street View has captured many memorable moments such as Paddington Bear, the naked Florida woman and the mystery of horse-boy.

Street View Horse Boy

Whether it’s to capture sinister moments happening round the clock across the globe, helping to fight crime and solve murders or to give a glimpse into the strange and funny things people do and the fascinating world we inhabit, there’s no doubt that Google Street View is a very handy technology.



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