It's official: Google's Street View has now officially reached all seven continents. Google today announced that it has added Brazil, Ireland, and Antarctica to its Street View library, which provides panoramic images of street-level scenes from locations around the world. It's a major milestone for Google's three-and-a-half year old service, but it's not one that will be universally celebrated, as Street View is now (and has been, almost since its launch) under fire for its alleged privacy violations and data collection practices.
What Is Street View, Anyway?
Privacy concerns aside, Street View is pretty darn cool. By sending an army of drivers in special camera-equipped cars out to cruise the world's roads, Google was able to compile panoramic, 360-degree images of locations around the world. You can switch to Street View from within Google Maps, so you can see exactly what a place looks like without having visited.
And the Backlash Begins
It didn't take long for the backlash against Street View to begin. Many people soon discovered that their faces were easily identifiable in Street View, and not everyone was too happy about the fact that whatever they were doing at the time the Google car happened by was now recorded on the Internet for perpetuity -- especially one man caught exiting a strip club, and another woman sunbathing. Google promised it would obey all applicable privacy laws and allowed people to contact them in order to have their images removed.
But the trouble didn't end there. As the service spread overseas, so, too, did the complaints. As Street View launched in the U.K., Japan, and Greece, the privacy complaints mounted. The same thing happened when Street View hit the Netherlands and when Google tried to launch it in Germany.
Matters got even worse when it was revealed that Google's Street View cars had been sniffing wireless networks on their journeys -- collecting communications from non-password protected Wi-Fi networks.
All the Way to Antarctica
But Google refused to be stopped, as the company resumed collecting images for Street View in even more countries before the Wi-Fi controversy had been resolved. (Google did promise to stop collecting any data from Wi-Fi networks, though.)
And now, that image collection has reached all the way to the ends of the earth...or just about. Now that Street View has reached Antarctica, Google's service has parts of all seven continents covered. With the addition of Brazil, Google notes that you can see that country's beautiful beaches.
And now that Street View is in Antarctica, well, you can have a look at what that continent's penguins have been up to.
We all know that these creatures can't complain about having their images posted online. Perhaps that was part of Google's plan?
This story, "Street View Reaches the South Pole: Will Penguins Complain?" was originally published by PCWorld.