Naked Street View

Tuesday, 24th March 2009 by

Warning: This post contains partial nudity and other images that you may not deem suitable for the workplace or for children.

When we first posted our notorious Topless Sunbather here on Google Sightseeing back in September 2006, half the world seemed to be appalled that a person's privacy should be invaded in such a way and then posted on the Internet, and the other half wanted higher resolution images.

Evaluating the situation again nearly 3 years later, it seems that only half the people got what they wanted.

When Google launched their controversial Street View service in the US, we saw all sort of things that the press were appalled at; including our own post of the Google Street Fight that went on to become one of the best known Street View sightings. Perhaps because of the way US culture operates, we saw violence in the streets - but sexually explicit images never appeared within the US Street View images to any great extent.

On our Google Sightseeing Twitter page we've been posting Street View sights for nearly a year now, and we've seen the occasional poster or painting showing partially clothed women, but the inevitable Topless Street View Sunbather never materialised... that is until last week's launch of Street View in the UK and the Netherlands, which also brought updates to several European countries that already had partial coverage.

Google anticipated some of this of course; they chose to skirt around the edges of Amsterdam's Red Light District rather than have to remove all of the images later. Of course they couldn't avoid them all, and they did inadvertently capture several images of prostitutes sitting in their windows. In Groningen one woman was even seen showing off an extensive range of sex toys. Although these images have all now been removed, none of them showed any nudity to speak of.

In contrast to the Dutch prostitution system, in Italy the prostitutes can often be seen on Google Street View sitting in their folding chairs while awaiting some passing trade. What doesn't seem to be so common however, is for them to be sitting with their breasts entirely exposed.

So there we have it. Unlike with pixellated aerial photos, there's no doubting what we can see here - this image clearly shows a woman's naked breasts on Google's Street View service, and at time of writing it remains visible within the Google Maps imagery1. In fact there are a number of women with their breasts exposed in the Italian images.

Here in Europe it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to wear nothing but a thong when she visits the beach, so it's hardly surprising that the Street View car captured the following images when driving through Lazio (again, these images are both still available on Google at time of writing).

Google Street View has been getting a lot of grief from the UK's papers in the last few days, most of which has been blatant scaremongering. There's really nothing wrong with there being a picture of your house on the internet - it presents no increased risk to your security or privacy. Just like Google's satellite images, the community-positive local and global benefits2 of Street View will outweigh the unfounded, hypothetical fears concocted by newspapers with column inches to fill.

Seeing inappropriate images is another matter. In truth nobody expects to find breasts on their mapping service, despite the differing attitudes of people of different nationalities. While there are a small number of images that inadvertently appeared on Street View which should be removed3 - if it turns out that these woman don’t have a problem with letting the world see their breasts, then should Google remove their image at the request of somebody else?

On a related note, I wonder if this image of a semi-naked Glaswegian enjoying the summer sun will be removed?

  1. I suspect most Italians aren't in the least bit offended by seeing a woman's bare breasts, and so therefore haven't asked for the image to be removed. I guess we'll see how long it lasts now that I've posted it here though... ↩︎

  2. Such as navigation, tourism, house buying, and a plethora of other uses that haven't even been thought of yet. ↩︎

  3. We ourselves took the decision not to post a link to an image of a partially naked child, which has since rightfully been removed. ↩︎