Google's fifth column

It started as sort of an Internet Age version of “The Mouse That Roared.” The village of Broughton, north of London with a 2001 census population of 241, rose up against the all-consuming power of Google earlier this month, when villagers stopped a Google Street View camera car from taking pictures around town. Street View, an attempt to create 360-degree, street-level pictures of locations around the globe, has occasionally raised privacy protests. Broughton residents, who describe the village as affluent, also worried that the images might attract burglars. So they fought the power and won a victory for the little bloke.

But it was short-lived. For one thing, the cameras are legal as along as the car stays on public roads — and Street View does blur faces and license plates. Google, however, was the least of the village’s problems; Broughton’s defiance incurred the wrath of those who live online. Messages soon began appearing on Twitter, calling for cyber soldiers to go take their own pictures of Broughton. They came, they snapped, they posted, some including sarcastic plans for burglarizing the homes. In the end, the villagers’ battle was against more than the Google giant. It was against a wave of online information that can’t be stopped. It’s hard to stand up for privacy when the public would rather post.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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