Google Street View offers a window on the world in all of its bizarre, intimate, and often raw glory. This window also happens to peek into your home. What that glimpse reveals may be more than you expected – think glimpses of bedroom windows, potential stalker fodder, and more.
Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. Specifically, you can ask Google to permanently blur your house so that only a smeared proposal for a building remains in its place. The whole process is surprisingly easy.
As the name suggests, Street View, launched in 2007, offers a street view of many cities around the world. Spotted by moving vehicles and individual photographers with camera-loaded backpacks, the service was controversial from the start ̵
In 2008, the suburb of North Oaks, Minnesota ruled that it did not want to include pictures of it on Google’s service and threatened to cite Google for abuse. Google pulled the images down.
In 2009, the lobby group Privacy International filed a formal complaint with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) alleging that Google had failed to properly identify the people it captured. As a BBC report noted at the time, this type of failure could have dire effects.
“Among them was a woman who had moved to escape an abusive partner but was noticeable in front of her new home on Street View,” said the article describing complaints to Privacy International. “Two colleagues who were depicted in an apparently compromising position and who felt ashamed when the picture was disseminated at their workplace were also complained.”
And that’s just the obvious.
Google has never been a steward of people’s privacy. In 2010, the company admitted that its Street View vehicles – which circled endlessly around neighborhoods around the world – had secretly gathered information from unencrypted WiFi networks that they had driven past for years.
So maybe you are worried about an online stalker, maybe you don’t want strangers to look in your windows, or you value privacy for its own sake and just don’t believe that Google should have indexed and digitized photos of your home available for everything to see. Whatever the reason, it is relatively easy to ask Google to blur the image of your house or apartment on Google Street View.
Here’s what you do:
1. Go to Google Maps and enter your home address
2. Switch to Street View mode by dragging the little yellow human-shaped icon in the lower right corner of the screen onto the map in front of your house
3. With the house displayed, click Report a Problem in the lower right corner of the screen
4. Center the red box on your home and select “My Home” in the “Request Blur” field
5. Write in the space provided why you want the image to be out of focus (e.g. you may be concerned about security issues).
6. Enter your email address and click “Submit”.
Make sure that is what you want. Google warns you that once your home is blurry on Street View, it is “permanent”.
But don’t forget that you live in this place. If you ever need to be reminded of what it looks like, you can probably go outside and see for yourself.
After clicking Submit, you should receive an email from Google stating that “The image you have reported will be reviewed and you will be emailed when your request is resolved”. The company can follow up via email and ask you to further pinpoint the area you want to blur. In this case, you need to go through the whole process again and clearly indicate the specific area of the image that you want to blur.
SEE ALSO: 7 Google Privacy Settings You Should Enable Now
It’s not clear how long it takes Google to process the requests. So you can start right away. And when you’re done with that, do the same with Bing Maps (the process is surprisingly similar) – it’s not that Microsoft should get any special treatment, after all.