Why the Germans are fussing about Street View

A street in Fuessen, Bavaria - ©iStockphoto.com/trait2lumiereFor several months, one topic has been in the news regularly in Germany: Google Street View.

This has several reasons, but to put it bluntly: Google didn’t ask permission.

Germany has some very strict privacy laws, many of which come as a result of the country’s recent history.  Those residents that lived through the period of the GDR are especially aware of people knowing too much about them.

There are, for example, rules on how photos of people can be used, and until a few years ago, you needed special permission to take an aerial photograph.

But whilst these situations are fairly clear cut and something that every photographer here needs to be aware of, taking a photograph of a building is different.

Many people take the opinion, that you need permission to photograph and then publish pictures of someone’s home.  On the other hand, I know of experts who say that this is not the case.  If taken from a public area, ie. the street, without any form of technical assistance, they say it is not a problem to take that photo and publish it. [Read more…]

How I use Google Maps

It was this article in the Telegraph that got me thinking about the way in which I use Google Maps.
The article itself is actually about Google Earth – a programme that can be installed on a computer to view Google’s aerial photos of the World.  I first came into contact with it a few years ago on a customer’s computer, but I have, as yet, never installed it on a computer of my own.  Instead, I use Google Maps.
Now, I am aware that Google Earth offers more features, such as being able to tilt the map and get a sort of 3D representation of the area that I am viewing, but for my daily purposes the Maps version is sufficient.
So how do I use it?  Well, the most obvious way is to look up addresses on the maps.  Whenever I have a new address to go to (usually to visit a new customer) then I look it up on Google Maps.  Knowing the area so well, that is usually sufficient for me to know where a particular street is.  Otherwise, I can print off the map of the area around the street that I have to go to, and that will normally be enough.
But if I don’t know the area that I am going to at all, such as some areas of Frankfurt, then will often take a look at the aerial view to see what the roads there are like.  For example, are there parking spaces near where I going to?  It can also be helpful to zoom in the road markings to see if there are any “no left turn” type of junctions on my route.
However, there are many more features to Google Maps that I occasionally use.  There is the ability to view photos that have been taken by other people at specific locations on the maps, so it is interesting to see pictures of places that I have visited, sometimes many years ago.  Of course, I can also look at places that I hear or read about, but will probably never get the chance to visit, such as Tristan da Cuhna in the South Atlantic.
Recently Google have been adding their “Street View” feature to a number of places that I have been to, most recently I was able to look at areas of Madrid that I visited in April.
Finally, there is a more serious side to how I use Google Maps.  Not only can I embed maps in blog posts to show where a particular place is that I have written about, but I can also place advertising on the map for the customers who’s websites I either create or optimise.
All in all, I may not be addicted to Google Maps as the Telegraph article suggested, but I certainly make good use of it.

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