How far is too far?

We’ve all heard about and likely visited the Google Earth and/or Google Maps websites. Now read about Google’s latest feature:

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Google said it will refresh its Google Earth/Google Maps strategy at the Where 2.0 conference here this afternoon.

In a speech before conference attendees titled “The Evolution of the Geoweb,” Google Earth and Maps Director John Hanke announced new features called Street View and Mapplets. He also called for more standardization of the Geoweb.

Street View enables users to view and navigate within 360-degree street level imagery from San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami. The images are at a high enough resolution to allow users to zoom into the fine print of nearby street signs. The feature is similar to the bird’s eye-view feature Microsoft introduced with its Live Local Search last fall.

Stephen Chau, a Google Maps product manager, told that Google’s first priority is to add more cities to the Street View roster, rather than keep the current five cities frequently updated. The imagery, which is between a month and a year old, comes from Google and third-party vendors, he said.

Drudge has a few searches up that he apparently did, just to show how close and how intimate the “street view” can get. Go here and click on the “street view” link and then you’ll see pictures of cameras on the cities this is currently being done in. Then click “zoom in.” You should see a little person standing in the middle of the screen. Click on that to see how close Google Maps can take you. Drag the little person around a bit for views of other parts of whatever city you’re searching in.

What do you think? Is this taking things too far in terms of privacy? Or is it a useful tool to help people get to know cities better? Or is it both?

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