Google Hits the Streets, Raises Concerns

Google Inc. bills the latest twist on its online maps as "Street View," but it looks a bit like "Candid Camera" as you cruise through the panorama of pictures that captured fleeting moments in neighborhoods scattered across the country.

In San Francisco, there's a man picking his nose on a street corner, another fellow taking out the trash and another guy scaling the outside of an apartment building, perhaps just for fun or maybe for some more sinister purpose.

Further down the highway at Stanford University, there's the titillation of a couple coeds sunbathing in their bikinis. In San Jose, there's the rather sad sight of a bearded man apparently sleeping _ or did he just pass out? _ in the shadow of a garbage can, with what appears to be an empty cup perched in front of him.

In Miami, there's a group of protesters carrying signs outside an abortion clinic. In other cities, you can see men entering adult book stores or leaving strip joints.

Potentially embarrassing or compromising scenes like these are raising questions about whether the Internet's leading search engine has gone too far in its latest attempt to make the world a more accessible _ and transparent _ place.

"Everyone expects a certain level of anonymity as they move about their daily lives," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group devoted to protecting people's rights on the Internet. "There is a certain 'ick' factor here."

Google is hoping to elicit "oohs and ahhs" with Street View, which was introduced on its maps for the San Francisco Bay area, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami earlier this week. The Mountain View-based company already is planning to expand the service to other U.S. cities and other countries.



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