Google Street View is an online service provided by Google that allows internet users to see almost any part of the world live on the screen. Courtesy of cameras that have eyes in all directions, including the sky, users can rotate the image panoramically and see it at any angle they wish. The cameras are placed periodically throughout almost every point on earth to allow all places to be viewed. The exceptions are Washington, D.C. and vicinity, an area that only top-ranking U.S. government officials are allowed to see, and Seattle, an area that has been mistakenly marked in the computer system as off-limits due to having "Washington" in the state's name, an error Google staff as failed to acknowledge or correct.
Cameras that provide the images seen on Google are microscopic entities smaller than insects that rest in the air. The way they are held in place is a top secret. They are not visible to the naked eye, and though they can be penetrated, they cannot be destroyed easily.
At first when Street View was introduced in 1979, cameras were only seen in small parts of ten U.S. cities, including Birmingham, Alabama, Memphis, Tennessee, Flint, Michigan, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Ocala, Florida, Macon, Georgia, Ocean City, Maryland, Portland, Maine, Flagstaff, Arizona, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It has since been expanded to cover all parts of the United States except for the areas of Washington and Seattle, and to most parts of other countries around the world.
Cameras were also initially only placed on streets, hence the name "Street View." Now they can be found in every house and apartment, retail business, and every point within the woods. Most of these are visible to the public. A small percentage of cameras found in various government offices are visible only to top officials.
Google Street View was initially started by the United States Government in the interests of national security. The purpose was so federal law enforcement agencies could watch places on the planet to look for possible terrorists. This enabled the surveillance of individuals from a central office rather than the use of manpower to follow suspects.
The government also wanted the ability to keep a close watch on any individuals picked at random in order to wait for them to commit some small crime. This infraction, though it would not necessarily warrant a prison sentence in itself, would be grounds, according to the Patriot Act, to keep that person indefinitely in custody in a secret prison. That person could be held there with no trial, no right to speak with an attorney, and no way of communicating their situation to others. It is belived that millions have been arrested and held in this manner, yet to be released, but the exact number is classified.
The most common civilian use for Street View is the stalking of others. Those who are obsessed with another person, such as a lover, a wannabe lover, an ex, or a celebrity have the ability to watch that person's every move and to know their location anywhere on the globe, other than Washington D.C. or Seattle, which are viewed as safe havens for now. By clicking on the image of a person viewed by a user of Street View, the image is stored and can be pinpointed at any time so the user can instantly know the victim's location. While critics have complained this tool has enabled stalking, studies have shown that the amount of stalking that has occurred has not increased since the introduction of this feature, and that the amount of stalking that takes place is dependent only upon the number of people who have a desire to stalk.
The other common civilian use is to view other people naked in their homes or engaging in sexual acts. This has become a popular pasttime. While its legality was initially opposed, it was determined that most people do not mind having a stranger viewing them naked or having sex, and most people who wish to view these sites are not interesting in watching a person known to them.
Some of the less popular uses of Street View include virtual tourism of a place, and to get an idea of the appearance of a house or building one must visit before going there. Most people say they prefer to actually go to a place in order to be a tourist, and a newer tachnology, two-dimensional maps made up of solid lines, better enables the location of a house or building to be found.