ELK GROVE (CBS13) — Living in a world of shrinking privacy, Walt Babigian was worried crooks could scope out his home using a now ubiquitous technology: Google Street View.
Street View, which Google introduced in 2007, uses panoramic photos of streets across the United States and other countries, meant to provide a front view of buildings, houses and other locations.
But Babigian, who admits he’s overprotective of his family, thinks its being used by bad guys too — to scope out a neighborhood, he said.
“You’ve got high bushes in front of the gate,” he said, pointing at his computer screen and a picture of a front yard. “You don’t even have to drive over.”
From any computer, he said burglars can identify hiding spots, how to break in, if you have an alarm system sign in your neighborhood, or even what kind of car you have.
“You don’t know when Google goes by your house and takes a picture, so you can’t prep ahead of time,” Babigian said.
Former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness has never heard of a burglar casing a neighborhood through Street View, but said it’s certainly possible.
“I think it’s a legitimate concern,” he told consumer investigator Kurtis Ming. “If your house is more difficult to be burglarized than the house next door to you, it’s going to be the last house burglarized.”
So a concerned Babigian asked Google Street View to blur his house — and it worked.
Once you pull up an address on Street View, consumers can click the “Report a Problem” button — located at the bottom right, under the Google Street View image.
CBS13 tried it out with two addresses, and Google followed through, blurring both addresses.
Seth Rosenblatt of CNET said Google quietly started granting blur requests a few months ago to avoid potential privacy lawsuits like the company has faced in other countries.
Google has faced lawsuits in other countries over Street View showing people’s license plates and faces.
“There are good legitimate reasons why you would want to obscure your address or your entire building,” he said. “[Google is] very sensitive to negative press.”
Google tells CBS13, “there have been options for “house”, “face”, “license plate”, for a long time, dating back to 2007.” A spokesperson said, “we take the privacy of our users extremely seriously… We automatically blur faces and license plates that appear in street view, and provide easy to use reporting tools so that people can ask for images of their house, car or themselves to be blurred.”
For Babigian, the blur is not his only line of security.
“This is what Street View was looking at until I had them blur it,” he said.
He also has an alarm, security cameras and lights, so his home isn’t a big target.
“It doesn’t stop them from doing it, but it doesn’t make it easy for them to do it,” he said.
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