My Streetview of shame...
A BBC correspondent decided to join in the viral fanfare of the launch of Google Street View
and publish a small zoomed in photo of their own house (thereby, trying not to give too much
away), but taken directly from Google Street View.
It might not seem like it but they were in effect publishing their Postcode on the internet.
Google Street view has an interesting side effect - the ability to verify other
information/show differences over time.
By matching this photo back to Google Street view someone is able verify a postcode. So by
innocently publishing a picture of your house (the key here is an image taken directly from
Street View) you have in effect published your full postcode.
There are millions of photos on Google Street View, but once you have you image match you
have the postcode. By using publicly available information I was able to narrow this search
It took only three searches - yes three (and a bit of lateral thinking) to get their
postcode and match this to the image - thus verifying the postcode.
From there you are able to nose around the neighbourhood.
With the verified postcode I was able to obtain Council Tax Banding/Price range, list of recent house price sales in that street.
Find out nearest tube stop, 15min route to work, train times, time between trains. (BBC
Television Centre being the main place of work)
The car they drive, a well known hybrid - the fact it has a BBC Car parking sticker, giving
access to the BBC Car park. Other website information gained their personal gmail, telephone
number - and from this - the Broadband they use, and from what company.
Found their facebook account, their partners facebook account, links to other family
members. Their twitter account.
Thankfully this was all in the aid of research.
But People should really think twice about giving information out too 'loosely'.
An example, its your Birthday, your out a pub, you mention your name and the car you drive.
118500.com, 192.com allow this information to cross referenced to information online such as
the phonebook, a quick check with google street view, and there is that car they were
talking about - verified postcode (and date of birth). Yes there might be ten 'Jones' in your area - but each one can be checked.
Say you were a marketing/advertising company, which Google is - this is being done semi-
automatically for all of us.
Maybe this image / (and its Satellite equivalent) will get updated every two years, but say
in time - this becomes once year, then every six months and eventually weekly - or even
daily. How about hourly with a local car in each area that just drives around as the
technology gets cheaper, replacing traffic wardens. At what point does it become
unacceptable (if at all). What if each previous image is available to be compared.
If this was a 'paid for Government programme' paying a private company (Google) to implement this (spending on counter-surveillance as Gov call it) - would we be so happy about it and where is the point it become an invasion of privacy if it isn't now. After all the
information is available to everyone, but profiling and targeting can be done far better
paid organisations/councils/government with such resources and cross-linking/verifying data
they already hold. An this is the key, verifying information they already hold about you -
little snippets become facts, building up to be gigsaw puzzle.
The resolution of images used for street view / sat imaging could actually be far higher
than being used by the street view software (50MPixels or higher per image), to give the
appearance that you can't really see much, yet internal versions of the software could be
more revealing, and updated much more regularly.
If Google had kept this information internally for their own marketing means wouldn't we all
be up in arms? But by being 'in on it' is like taking part in some Police raid - doing our
own surveillance - we accept it -
Link this to the Government being share data between departments - you in effect create the
carrot and the stick approach. The services you are able to receive, become dependent on
your ability to be a 'responsible' citizen, the less responsible the more stick.
You can raise and lower the bar, hitting enough heads to generate enough revenue as people
go about their daily lives, similar to trying navigate an obstacle course getting time
penalties along the way. Like setting lower speed limits than really necessary or
implementing average speed cameras to provide blanket cover. Humans make errors - its a revenue stream.
Jackie Smith, Home Secretary said a few days ago:
'Even where organisations do not break the law, they can expect to be openly challenged if
they advocate actions which go against British traditions of democracy, tolerance, free
speech and human rights'
Its an interesting statement which I can't get my head around - it doesn't sit well as a
statement - there is an underlying issue with it.
- especially if you class the government as encompassing the traditions of democracy, as
Jackie Smith surely does.
You would be naive to assume that the collection of this data is solely for the benefit of society as a whole.