Friday, January 22, 2010

Paparazzi for the Common Man

Some time ago, the good people at Google had an epiphany. Someone sitting in a cubicle in California was looking at a Google map of some city somewhere and thought it would be amazing if they could see what that neighborhood looked like, even though they weren't there and probably never would be. So they went ahead and started paying people to drive around with these goofy, wide lens 4-way cameras on top of their cars taking pictures as they go. They then loaded these pictures onto what I imagine is the largest server known to man and the called it Google Street View. And I have to admit that it's brilliant and totally addictive. It is also mind bogglingly amazing that we have the technology and ability to do that. It really is.
This plan, however, is not without controversy. In a neighborhood in England residents actually mobbed the car taking photos for Google Street View because they didn't want their neighborhood shown in pictures for the world. And the military authorities around the world, of course, have taken exception with this plan as well. So there are areas of the world that are not represented and never will be, which is fine. But there is also the issue of I would assume hundreds of thousands of people who are caught in these photos without their knowledge or consent. Like the woman I saw when looking at the Pharaoh's neighborhood; she was not at her best that day. I doubt that she will ever see herself because who is going to pick that random intersection in that particular city, right? But what about people who were caught by the Google cameras while they were standing in front of their own homes. People like me.
Wait, what? Come again? It's true. I happened to be standing outside of the former Worldwide Headquarters, totally scrubbed out on my day off, at the exact moment that the Google camera car went cruising by clicking away. And, as an added bonus, I was looking directly at the car as it went by. And I don't look happy. AWESOME!
I am not going to tell you the magic address and coordinates for you to see the picture because, quite frankly, I don't really want you to see it. If you know where to look, well then you've probably already seen me in all my gray-sweatshirt-and-black-gym-shorts glory, so it's okay. If you manage to look down every street in every town until you find the right one, well then that's fine too and I suppose you deserve to see the photo in question. I am not going to call up Google and complain or lawyer up to get the picture taken down, it's okay.
The odds of getting caught in one of these pictures has to be astronomical. An exhaustive search of the Internet came up dry. I wrote to a gaggle of mathematics professors from all around the world and they couldn't figure it out. Six of them had heart attacks in the attempt. Four of them went bonkers. The problem broke a giant supercomputer at Stanford, all of the NASA computer, and the biggest abacus at Beijing University. I would guess it would be on par with winning the lottery, getting struck by lightening, or Mary Steenbergen sitting next to me at the movies. But I managed to get caught, and so did Jimmy James, standing outside his house when the car went by. And so did the crazy lady in the Pharaoh's neighborhood, so maybe the odds aren't so bad after all.
It's crazy anyway. Since I am such a media mogul I am just going to act like it was the paparazzi that got a hold of me. Oh well. No harm no foul. In the end it's kind of cool, because the only people who are going to look at that particular address are going to be people who probably knew me, so maybe it will bring a smile to their face. Or maybe they won't notice at all. Either way, one can't deny the fact. I am on Google Street View.

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