What are Google’s ultimate plans with street view?

July 3, 2010

Google street view car Something doesn’t add up. The Google Street View project has caused Google more PR damage than any of their other projects. There are presently investigations in Europe, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. In addition more than 30 US state attorneys general have launched their own probes. As law professor Eric Goldman says:  “This is the one that will cause regulators to drop the hammer on Google”

So what’s in it for Google? Here’s the things we know (or can easily deduce). This project must have cost a fortune. The equipment, logistics and scale of mobile cameras scanning every square inch of every major country in the world is not a lightweight undertaking. So we know – a lot of money is going out.

Is it an integral part of their prime search functionality where 95% of their advertising revenue is generated? From what we can see – No. Maybe there are some 10 year plans in place, but even then, they certainly don’t jump out at you in the same way as say YouTube’s advertising potential did.

Is it a service that consumers can’t live without, and are likely to get hooked into? Absolutely not, in my book. Sure – it’s a nice-to-have and has a kind of “wow, check this out” kind of appeal. But most people I know have been kind of spooked when they’ve seen photos of their own house published unknowingly on the World Wide Neb. It certainly did that for me – I live outside the city in a small village and it definitely rattles something in my psyche to know that a car mounted camera from Mountainview (on the other side of the planet) drove down my little seaside road at some point in the last month. I wonder what the neighbourhood kids, playing on their skateboards on the street, thought of this weird contraption driving past with a huge mechanical eye sticking into the sky gyrating and zooming in an electronic whir?

And now it emerges that the camera wasn’t only digitizing the scenery, but was surreptitiously slurping my emails, passwords, and virtually anything else that passes over my little wireless network. And “Oops, sorry, we weren’t aware of it…” just doesn’t cut it Google. You’ve got the smartest guys on the planet behind the controls – pleading ignorance is very, very lame.

So, in summary, we’ve got a project that costs millions, is causing Google maybe billions in lost international goodwill (not to mention legal fees) and seems to have no relation to their core business plans. Like I said – something doesn’t add up.

Note to Eric Schmidt: “Oops sorry we’re not really sure what we are doing with Google Street View” will be just as lame. You’ve already demonstrated that very little Google undertakes is without concern for it’s shareholder’s pockets.

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