Beware, Google is watching you !

London, June 3:

Two students are sunbathing in bikinis. A man picks his nose in San Francisco. In Miami, a group of protesters carry signs outside an abortion clinic. Men slip into pornographic bookshops or shuffle out of strip clubs. There is even a burglar apparently caught in the act.

Has Google gone too far? That was the fear being expressed online yesterday after the internet giant launched Street View, which can zoom in so closely that individual lives are captured and offered up to a global audience. The innovation has done nothing to allay fears of a surveillance society, nor concerns that Google is becoming too intrusive.

Street View was introduced on Google maps for the San Francisco Bayarea, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami last week, and there are plans to expand the service to other US cities and other countries. The high-resolution images were taken from vans driving along public streets during the past year and will be periodically updated, but the company has not specified a timetable.

The backlash against Street View began after Mary Kalin-Casey, from Oakland, California, looked up her own street and saw her pet cat, Monty, sitting on a perch in the window of her second-floor flat. She complained on the blog website boingboing - “I’m all for mapping, but this feature literally gives me the shakes. I feel like I need to close all my curtains now. Dang, it’s so detailed, I can even see he’s a tabby!”

Wired magazine’s website was quick to invite users to vote on the best images. Captions included: “Girl bends over, guys check her out”, “Guy taking a leak into bushes?”, “Naked woman?” and “Break-in in progress”.