How to build a fake Google Street View car and keep your data

F.A.T. (Free Art & Technology) Lab

Google Street View is an application that allows users to virtually dive into Google’s popular Maps feature and travel around at street level. It uses millions of 3D photographs to give users a 360° horizontal and 290° vertical view of their location. The photos are typically taken via car-mounted cameras. Privacy advocates have objected to this application, suggesting that the photos may include shots of people in places or performing activities that they do not wish recorded and publicy available. Google maintains that the photos were taken from public property and suggests that users are able to flag inappropriate or sensitive imagery for Google to review and remove. Shortlisted for 2010 Futurity Now Transmediale 2010, F.A.T. (Free Art & Technology) Lab replicated a Google Street View and published the DIY kit on “How to build a fake Google Street View Car” in 8 easy steps, from renting the correct car to buying the right materials (wooden boards, cardboards, glue), building the camera octagon with no camera inside and mounting the main pole to the base unit. The project is part of ‘FuckGoogle’, a collection of browser add-ons, open source software, theoretical musings and direct actions aimed at creating an awareness of the role Google plays in our daily lives. The motivation behind the whole project is that a corporate entity, even one as beloved and competent as Google, is in control of a large stake in the digital network and public utilities upon which we have all grown so reliant. Furthermore, as a publicly-traded company, it doesn’t have to answer to anyone but its largest shareholders, despite the fact that its decisions affect the lives and private information of millions of people. But few even question or raise a voice in opposition to the Google-ification of the Internet. As an organisation dedicated to enriching the public domain through the research and development of creative technologies and media, FAT lab objected with a straightforward claim: “We all love Google products. But no single corporation should be trusted with this much of our data. Fuck Google. Keep your data. Distribute the web”. The main concern now for FAT is how long it will take to raise awareness in the wider audience. One question remains, however: will people really care about this? Would people be angry at seeing their photos on Street View? Or would they proudly publish the news on twitter, facebook, youtube, and all the existing social networks? This thought has been highlighted by Weinberger’s recent adaptation of Warhol’s famous quip – “In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.”

Valentina Culatti