Google Street View launched today in Vancouver
CityCaucus.com as promised made it down to the Google Street View national launch today at the St. Regis Hotel. First, a wee plug for the venue. As someone who used to stumble around Seymour and Dunsmuir (literally) for years, either rolling out of the Railway Club, or spending my paycheques on vinyl records at A&B Sound, I must say that the St. Regis impressed. Nice pub on the ground floor, must check out some time.
The launch was not at all heavy on flash. Google after all does give away most of their tools for free, so I guess we shouldn't expect dry ice and a live band. Most of the questions from the crowd were about personal privacy, which seems the topic de jour when it comes to online life. On that subject I draw your attention to this story about a campaign by Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart. Stoddart, who comes across as one of Canada's coolest bureaucrats in everything I've read, has been doing some fo the nation's best work on trying to build awareness about the privacy threats posed by social media.
On the subject of Google Street View Canada (now available at google.ca/streetview), there surely is a real wow factor in this. Given how quickly the social web has grown, it's stunning that high resolution 360° views of Vancouver's streets are now a click away. Vancouver's Mayor Robertson was on hand to speak and draw the connection between SV and our tourism push. Tourism BC (hellobc.com), who co-sponsored today's presser, has already integrated Street View into BC tourist guides in multiple languages. They're even drafting a site in UK English (their research shows it's a good idea) using the tool.
Always the cheeky one, I asked the Google guys if the Street View cars were running on gas, or if they've gone hybrid yet (answer: no, but soon).
Scanning our neighbourhood it was funny to notice that the images were taken during last Spring's election campaign. So you can see lawn signs for NDP, Green and BC Liberals in front of some houses. Does this constitute an invasion of privacy? Gawd, I bet it does and the lawsuit is probably already filed.
BC's own Privacy Commissioner David Loukedelis is reportedly not happy about the launch of Google Street View, stating that he and other Canadian privacy authorities are in discussions about the implications of this tool. To be sure, technology is leap years ahead our government's ability to respond to it.
**Take our CityCaucus.com Poll! What do you think of having your neighbourhood displayed on Google Street View?