A new book by Scott Macquaire publishing house Strelka Press on GeoMedia concept, which, according to the author, is born on the crossroads: convergence, ubiquity, given the location and feedback in real time. Strelka Mag publishes an excerpt devoted to the scandals around Google Street View, Google Maps and competition of the company with other online mapping services.

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The potential of Street View to influence the dynamics of public space from the outset was obvious. In the USA the appearance of the Street View images of recognizable people taken in an awkward position in public, immediately aroused the concern of violation of privacy. Examples of possible infringements of privacy on the opening stage of the service called cases when people went out venereologic clinics or went to a public house, lying drunk on the street or climbing over a fence, apparently on someone else’s territory. Google was also criticized for the fact that, according to its rules deleting content, the burden of the appeal was assigned to members of the public. Concerns over privacy has suspended the launch of Street View in countries outside the jurisdiction of the United States. Unlike the United States where you are allowed to photograph in public places and on the streets, the laws of Canada and the European Union banned the publication of images revealing details of the personal lives of people without their consent. First, in response to criticism in the United States, Google said:

“All the Street View photos made on the territory of non-private property. These images are no different from what any person can capture or see walking down the street.”

However, in June 2008, Google launched a computer program that automatically blurred faces, and a month later — the same program to hide car numbers. The fact that blur had retroactively apply to already collected in the US images, showed how controversial was the area that sought to enter the service Street View, and how deeply it has affected people’s feelings. But not all issues related to confidentiality are discussed with the help of the blur effect.

In April 2009 the villagers of Broughton in England decided not to allow the Google car to their homes. In may of the same year, the action’s Street View halted in Greece to the explanation by Google to its privacy policy. At the same time in Japan after numerous complaints of various violations of citizens ‘ rights Google was forced to reshoot many districts, installing cameras on the Google cars 40 cm below. But the biggest scandal involving a violation of the service Street View privacy erupted in 2010. It turned out that in the process of photographing streets the Google car has captured large amounts of data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks.

Despite the fact that Google denied that the data was gathered deliberately, the news was met with a storm of criticism and sparked a legal different reactions in different countries, giving a reason to speak about lack of legal certainty.

In 2010, total concern only intensified when Google changed the story and had to admit that she has captured not only the data about wireless networks, but the so-called payload (the payload data), including the full URL of visited websites, email messages and passwords. Although some jurisdictions, such as France, Germany, Italy and some US States applied the legal sanctions against Google, others, like Britain, did not. But the matter did not end: in mid-2012 there were reports that, despite assurances, not all data collected by Google cars were destroyed.

This Saga has forced people to rethink the issues concerning their private life, be aware of their importance and relevance. The lack of a clear legal reaction suggests that new media platforms with global reach, such as Street View, entering into our lives, not only show the imperfection of the existing legislation, but also violate the accepted cultural norms.

But as significant as these disorders, it is important to recognize that this is only the visible tip of the iceberg of a rapidly growing data.

Even given the enormous scope of the collection city images, most of us are clearly not meant personally to please in the network Street View. Too much focus on this opportunity, we risk missing the overall picture — not to see how data-based projects such as Street View, transformerait all social space of the city. Having considered the situation from this point of view, we see that, whatever the intervention, Street View privacy, is a far more important intervention occurs, that is to say, after the fact. In greedy economic system, it is important that you can see on a particular picture and what information the user is seduced by a database of cards reveals about themselves, about their habits, preferences, routes and routines. The fact that the disclosure of this information is in the background, in the “black box” that Nigel Trift called technological unconscious, means that the leak is often ignored.

Continuing to argue in the same spirit, I want to note that innovation Street View is not that the panoramas we can get to know someone, and that this service allows you to completely transform the urban space in the data. And this ability plays an increasingly important role in the overall business strategy of Google. It is highly likely that in 2007 when the service was launched, the importance of this was much less obvious, including for the company Google. But that all changed in 2012, when erupted real war map services, one of the participants of which was Apple. Signal the growing importance of Street View in 2008 was the decision by Google to take control of key data (core data) in this field. In the Eulogy, dedicated to the concept of Web 2.0, Tim O’reilly argues that “data is the next Intel Inside”. O’reilly believes that the most important factor, which is one of the first mapping services in the Internet MapQuest has lost its dominant position and has been replaced by the players who came to the market later (such as Google) was the inability to protect their key data:

Let’s take the example of highly competitive market of web mapping view as a misunderstanding of the importance of owning the key data may impair competitiveness. The first market of web maps was MapQuest in 1995, came for her Yahoo! then Microsoft, and recently joined Google — all of which the company licensed from information providers, in fact, the same data (O’reilly 2005).

Google has created Google Maps based on data licensed from third-party providers, including TeleAtlas and MapQuest. The fact that she was able to take a dominant position in the market, which came later than the other, demonstrates that success depends not only on access but also on the ability to organize, process and deliver to the user. However, the control key data is extremely important as to differentiate the service, and for protection from potential competitors. Today Street View takes Google Maps to both these roles, ensuring the company’s leading role in the field of online cartography.

In his article in the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal is one of the few detailed in Google is the process of creating a General map — this is a project called Ground Truth — from many different sources. Starting with the base layer, which contains official data (e.g., obtained from the Bureau of US census data base topologically integrated geographic encoding and binding [TIGER]), operators of the project Ground Truth combine these data with data from other sources, including data from the U.S. Geological survey and a private satellite and aerial photography Google. The overall objective is to create a map more accurately corresponding to the real landscape that it displays. Street View involved in this task in several important ways. Since 2007, Google cars dashed through the streets of cities around the world more than 11 million kilometers. During these visits generated at least three levels of data that can use Google: driving experience, confirming that the street shown on the map really exists, passable, etc.; the GPS metadata associated with millions of images; the images themselves.

Technology improvement of visual recognition leads to the fact that the Street View images themselves become an important source of data from which to extract more and more information.

In particular, the potential recognition of texts on road signs, read the road signs and markings and include them in Google’s registry of the physical world is extremely important for the functioning of such a tool like Google Atlas, internal platform, which integrates different streams of data Ground Truth. Such a method of obtaining data (partly with the help of algorithms, partly manually) significantly increases the accuracy of the guidance of navigators, but the drivers are only a small part of what potentially can give this method. Here is what Vice President of Google Maps Brian McClendon:

We can organize the entire visible text information, if it is optical recognition. We now use it to create our cards, removing the street names and house numbers, but there are many other applications.

We already have the so-called look-up codes (codes view) for 6 million companies and 20 million addresses — when we know exactly what you’re looking at.

We learned to recognize the logos and find, for example, signboards of restaurants KFC… using semantic analysis we can identify all the collected pixels. This is the main part of our work.

The data volumes involved, even Google. In 2012, Madrigal wrote that every two weeks, the Google Maps team publishes more visual data than they do have Google in 2006, and most of them are panoramas of Street View.

But even more impressive than the amount of data that produces metamorphosis, which is due to the Street View project takes place in our understanding of the relationship between online and offline worlds. If Google started as a company, dedicated to the task of organizing data on the Internet, now its attention is increasingly directed towards the provision of the physical world as data. Manik Gupta, Google responsible for the production of cartographic products, says it this way:

If you look at the offline world, the real world in which we live, not all information about it is on the Internet. And the farther we go through life, the more we try to fill this gap, to resolve this difference between what we observe in the real world and [the online world]. This is what the Map service.

Physical things can be turned into digital data in different ways- with text description by scanning or attach a radio-frequency sensors and labels. But one of the most efficient and economical methods of bringing the smallest detail of the city in the data is probably a visual capture. Invested in Street View, Google has pioneered an economical and large-scale data collection on areas with a combination of images and geo-location. In the process of its development, this project has played a crucial role in consolidating the success of Google Maps.

The fact that Apple in 2012, takes the decision to develop its own map service shows the big strategic importance of this sector of the digital economy.

Cartography is particularly important for mobile devices: pre-installed on a billion or more smartphones running Android Google Maps help the company to maintain a dominant position in the areas of mobile search and advertising based on geolocation. In addition, as noted by Jim Thatcher, Google Maps have become one of the basic platforms on which now is the work of many other computer programs and related data designed for the urban environment. No sooner had the Apple to abandon Google Maps as its place came new services (e.g., Uber). Mapping platform begin to play an increasingly important role in normal operation of transport, freight transport and retail trade. Madrigal writes: “your Location Google may be the most valuable asset of the company. And not only because of these data themselves, but because location data enhance the value of the rest of activities and knowledge Google”. The problem faced by all competitors of the companies that are trying to oust Google from its leading position in these areas, is that Google has long been independently collects data that are used in their mapping and other applications. In conclusion Madrigal says:

“I went out [of office Google Maps] with the belief that collecting this volume of GEODATA, which gathered by Google, is unlikely to be under the power of someone else.”

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