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Private Streetview

This project started when I found a photo on Flickr, an online photo album. The subject of the photo is rather mundane, but it piqued my interest because its aesthetic was very similar as the photos taken by Google for their Streetview services. I set out to find the location of the photo to compare both pictures. 


By looking through the elements in the scene I collected possible clues as where to find this location in Google Maps. However, before I could narrow my search I hit a roadblock. Google Streetview is completely blocked throughout Germany. Why? I started researching to find out more about Germany's relation with Streetview. I found that that Streetview is incompatible with Germany's privacy laws. Google usually only blurs faces and licence plates, however in Germany this is not enough. Privacy advocates objected to the Streetview feature and pointed to people leaving strip clubs, protesters at abortion clinics and people in general participating in activities visible from public property which they do not wish to have published online.

Instead of finding a workaround, Google decided to disable Streetview altogether. I believed there had to be a better solution than disabling Streetview, the goal is to maintain everyone's privacy while Streetview is still able to give a location's environment.


After some experimentation with filters and digital manipulations of Streetview's photographs, my solution is recreating the environment using elements like a railroad line borrowed form a traditional top down map. By reducing the complexity of the scene the surrounding architecture is recognisable but does not contain any private information.