Just in case you have been oblivious of the development before now, you can now view your street and even your exact place of residence on the internet, thanks to Google Instant Street View, a feature introduced by Google. While it has been in existence in some other parts of the world as far back as 2007, it’s new here and has generated plenty of interest upon its availability in Nigeria. I got to know about the feature through my colleague and instantly tried to find out if it was as accurate as touted by typing in my address in the space bar. It was. The panoramic view of my area appeared before me in few seconds, and the song we used to sing as kids, “Come and see American wonder” immediately started playing in my mind.I was also able to do a virtual tour of some places of interest, and again the application did not disappoint, except where it displayed the overview of an estate instead of the particular street I had requested- a limitation that is likely to be addressed as the technology of the feature is updated over time. However, it was still impressive to me that I could just sit in my home or office and be able to view a person of interest’s place of residence. These are things we only see in movies. As soon as my curiosity waned a little, I began to consider the implications of this development for the Nigerian.
The Google Instant Street View feature is undoubtedly a game changer in many ways. First of all, the realization that henceforth, it will be difficult to give false information about one’s place of residence is bound to give some people sleepless nights, since anyone can easily discover such fib within a short space of time. So, for those who have developed the habit of claiming to live where they do not, the game is effectively over.
This also applies to Facebook and Instagram “big boys and girls” who would do anything to project the image of an affluence that is in reality only a figment of their imagination. In fact, I foresee a plethora of Instablog posts about “friends” calling one another out when that bogus lie about a place of abode that doesn’t exist comes to the fore. It’s inevitable that this will happen soon since the instant street view “spoiler” is here. Things are about to get rough, guys!
I also thought about the security implications of anyone having unrestricted visual access to one’s residence – a prospect that should be a valid concern for everybody, especially in these parts where security is still a far cry from what should obtain ideally. Never mind that you never gave them your address, there are countless ways to get a person’s personal details without having any direct contact with them. We fill forms every day, we interact with people all the time, and certain information can only remain unknown for so long.
And so, a random person checks out where you live while you are completely unaware. It also implies that robbers, stalkers, kidnappers and ne’er-do-wells, in general, don’t have to go through too much stress in carrying out their spadework on the next place to strike. The prospect of that is frightening, unless the initiators of this feature have carried out a thorough risk assessment and more importantly, put measures in place (possibly in collaboration with law enforcement agents) to effectively mitigate them.
And what about employers? In a country where unemployment remains a major albatross (as there are only a few jobs available at any given time for the teeming youth population in seeking employment), I do not believe it is far-fetched to nurse the fear of prospective employers discriminating against job seekers on the basis of their place of residence. Anything to cut down the overwhelming numbers jostling for a single position.
Imagine a scenario where two candidates are at par intellectually and have both been deemed suitable for the same role upon completing the interview process in an organization, and the HR Manager needs to choose just one of them. If one of them lives in a fairly decent neighborhood, while the other lives in an area known for cult activities or incessant youth restiveness; who or what’s to suggest that the hiring manager will not opt for the first candidate upon carrying out a quick investigation of their residences via Google Instant Street View?
Beyond these concerns, however, the street view is a welcome feature, particularly for those who may be visiting an entirely foreign destination. A quick consultation with the feature provides an image of where you are headed. With a graphic image of a destination, there’s zero possibility of arriving at the wrong place. This naturally translates to saved time and energy.
All in all, the feature, like similar applications is a welcome development but should be backed by security measures in order not to leave residents vulnerable to the exposure that comes with it.