Plan your next heist via Google Maps

New feature lets users "case the joint" of local stores

Google has posted a new video on YouTube showcasing the cool features of its Google Business Photos - the aim is to allow businesses to "provide 360-degree, interactive tours of businesses so you can check them out before you go."


The accompanying video shows a happy hipster who enjoys music searching on a local record store (kids, ask your parents what those are), then getting hungry and looking for a good Chinese restaurant, and then deciding that he wants to find a "cool hat" store so he can buy a happy hipster hat and wear it while eating his Chinese takeout.

While the purpose of this is to give local businesses a chance to get more customers (although, do customers really need to see the inside of a store before they visit?), one of the first things I thought was, "how can the bad guys take advantage of this?" If you were a criminal, wouldn't you want to know what the inside of a store looked like - where the cash registers were located, whether you could spot any security cameras, where are the exits, etc.? Instead of doing the footwork of "casing a joint" beforehand, congratulations! You can now use Google!

I don't think that local banks or other places with lots of cash will necessarily sign up for Google Business Photos, but don't the risks (of letting criminals know what your store layout is) outweigh the rewards (of letting regular customers see your store)?

In addition, this could be a boom for businesses that usually try to hide what's going on inside their locked doors. Want to see what the local massage parlor looks like without risking the embarrassment of being seen going inside? What about that video store that always has those dark windows? Of course, those businesses likely wouldn't participate in such a program, but it would be funny to see if they did.

One final question for the Google people who made the video - why does a hipster who's eating take-out Chinese food care about what the inside of the restaurant looks like?

Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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