There’s a lot of debate about around the topic of privacy, especially when it comes to your right to privacy in public spaces. One thing almost everyone can agree on, however, is that everyone has the right to privacy in and around their homes. This means strengthening your security online in the digital era, which includes removing your home from Google Street View and other map applications.
Cyber security does include protecting your privacy, and there are plenty of reasons to protect the privacy of your home and vehicles from search engines. We’re going to discuss this in this post before we jump into a few quick tutorials on how to remove your home from Google Street View, Yahoo! Maps and Bing Maps. Let’s get into it.
- What is Google Street View?
- How to use Google Street View
- The problem with Google Street View
- Google’s battle with privacy
- How to remove your home from Google Street View
- How to remove your home from Yahoo! Maps
- How to remove your home from Bing Maps
What is Google Street View?
Google Street View is a real-life view of Google Maps that uses real, panoramic images to display streets all around the world. It’s designed to complement Google Maps, providing a visual representation of your destination, but it’s also used to give virtual tours of sights around the world. The service officially launched in the United States in 2007, and although it’s received plenty of praise, it’s also received a decent amount of criticism over the years. This mainly has to do with the way the service is created and implemented.
This is the Google Street View car. It’s what Google uses to capture images of streets around the world. These cars come equipped with a camera apparatus that has as many as 11 cameras. The team pays attention to weather conditions / patterns and population densities in the area they wish to photograph to determine the best times for collecting images. The cars also come equipped with sensors that measure signals for GPS, direction and speed. This data makes it easy for the team to connect the images to their respective geographic locations and routes.
How to use Google Street View
Start by searching for your home in Google Maps. The usual map you’re likely familiar with will appear. If you pay attention to the key at the bottom of the page, you’ll see that roads available in Street View are highlighted in blue.
All you need to do is drag the little yellow person icon over to a road that supports Street View. It’s just a matter of using your mouse to control the direction Street View goes in after that.
Let’s go over the privacy issues many have experienced with Street View.
The problem with Google Street View
The problem with Google Street View lies in its primary function, which is to display actual imagery of every street in the world (or wherever Street View is available). This includes every person, building and vehicle on these streets. That’s where the problem begins.
Kurt “The CyberGuy” Knutsson, on a segment of Fox & Friends, stated he found his home on Google Street View and was embarrassed by the fact that the photograph had been taken while the door to his “messy garage” was open. Even more worrisome, his vehicles’ license plate numbers were entirely legible. One thing Knutsson did not touch base on was the fact that thieves could use these images to determine which houses and neighborhoods to target.
Google’s battle with privacy
We’ll get into how to remove your home and license plate number from Street View in a second. Let’s first take a moment to touch base on Google’s issues with privacy in general.
The company was forced to pay a $7 million fine for violating the privacy of citizens, for starters. This is because it admitted to collecting private data, such as passwords, email addresses, medical records and financial records, while collecting data for Street View. Google employees were also forced to go through privacy training following this verdict. The case was brought forward by a total of 38 states in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission fined the company $22.5 million in a separate case after it violated privacy settings in the Safari browser.
The capabilities of discovering identifying information about citizens is also troubling. Science wrote an article about a company that was able to use Street View and machine-learning algorithms to determine the make, model and year of 22 million cars. The data was then able to be used to determine personal information about each vehicle’s owner, including which income class they belong to alongside their race, education level and political affiliation.
The list goes on, and all it does is reveal one more reason why many citizens prefer to keep as much of their personal information out of the hands of search engines as much as possible, especially ones as powerful as Google. With that said, let’s learn how to remove your home from it.
How to remove your home from Google Street View
Hopefully, you left the tab open when you searched for your home on Google Maps. If not, simply enter it again so we can begin. Drag the yellow person icon to your street again to enter Google Street View. Remember, if your street is not highlighted in blue, your home is likely not on Street View (yet). If it is, position the camera so you’re facing your home, and click “Report a Problem” in the bottom-right corner.
Simply follow these steps to complete the task:
- Focus on your home – A new tab will open up with a questionnaire you can use to request for your home to be blurred. You’ll need to focus the camera on your home again, but make sure it’s inside of the provided red square this time.
- Request blurring – Select “My Home” since that is the focus of this tutorial. However, please note that if you’re truly concerned about privacy, you also have the option of having your face, license plate and objects blurred.
- Report image quality – Leave blank.
- Verification – Enter your email address, and fill out the CAPTCHA.
Hit the Submit button to complete the questionnaire. Let’s move onto Yahoo! Maps.
How to remove your home from Yahoo! Maps
Yahoo! Maps doesn’t seem to support their own variation of Street View any longer, but you can follow these instructions if you find your home on it:
- Search for your address on Yahoo! Maps.
- Drag the gray person icon located in the top-right corner to your address. If it won’t work, it likely means your home hasn’t been captured by Yahoo! Maps, yet.
- Click on “Report Image” in the bottom-left corner.
- Select “Request Blurring”, and follow the on-screen instructions.
You may also need to report your home in the HERE Map Creator, the technology Yahoo! Maps uses.
How to remove your home from Bing Maps
Go to Bing Maps, and enter your home address. Hover over the Road menu after that, and select “Streetside”.
Drag the blue person icon provided to you to your home’s location. Similar to Google Maps, focus the camera on your home, and click the “Report a privacy concern with this image” link in the bottom, left-hand corner.
Follow the remaining instructions:
- Email address – Enter your personal email address Microsoft can use to contact you.
- What kind of concern do you have? – Select “House”, but note this is the drop-down menu you can use to correct privacy issues concerning your face, car / license plate or object as well.
- Description – Briefly describe the reason you’re reporting a problem.
- Image preview – Select the preview that has most of your home in the image.
Complete the CAPTCHA, and submit the form to complete it. Check back within a few weeks to ensure your home, face, license plate or object is blurred no matter which service you use. Re-submit the issue if not.
Google violates privacy in a variety of different ways as it continues to grow and provide more services. Fortunately, it provides at least one way for you to protect yourself and keep your home and identify safe from the cameras of the Google Street View car. This is especially the case if Google Street View reveals sensitive information.
To recap, all you need to do is view your address in Street View, click Report a Problem, and request for your home, face, license or object to be blurred. We don’t recommend blurring your place of business (unless you work from home) as customers may use Google to find where you’re located. You should, however, make sure your face and / or license plate were not captured at your business. Request them to be blurred as well if so. We want to hear from you on this topic. How do you protect yourself online? Let us know in the comments below!