Google Street View offers up a window to the world in all its bizarre, intimate, and often raw glory. That window just so happens to peek into your home, as well. What that peek reveals may be more than you’ve bargained for — think views into bedroom windows, potential fodder for stalkers, and more.
Thankfully, there is something you can do about it. Specifically, you can ask Google to permanently blur your house out — leaving only a smeared suggestion of a building in its place. The entire process is surprisingly easy.
The lobbying organization Privacy International filed a formal complaint to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) alleging that Google failed to properly de-identify the people it captured. As a BBC report at the time noted, that type of failure could have serious repercussions.
“Among them were a woman who had moved house to escape a violent partner but who was recognizable outside her new home on Street View,” read the article, describing complaints made to Privacy International. “Also complaining were two colleagues pictured in an apparently compromising position who suffered embarrassment when the image was circulated at their workplace.”
Google has never exactly been a steward of anyone’s’ privacy. In 2010, the company admitted that its Street View vehicles — the ones endlessly circling neighborhoods around the world — had secretly been collecting information from unencrypted WiFi networks they drove past for years.
Here’s what you do:
1. Go to Google Maps and enter your home address
2. Enter into Street View mode by dragging the small yellow human-shaped icon, found in the bottom-right corner of the screen, onto the map in front of your house
3. With your house in view, click “Report a problem” in the bottom-right corner of the screen
4. Center the red box on your home, and select “My home” in the “Request blurring” field
5. Write in the provided field why you want the image blurred (for example, you may be concerned about safety issues)
6. Enter in your email address, and click “Submit”
Importantly, be sure it’s what you want. Google warns you that once it has blurred your house on Street View “it is permanent.”
Don’t forget, though, you live in the place. If you ever need to be reminded of what it looks like, presumably you can go outside and see for yourself.
After you hit “submit,” you should receive an email from Google noting that it’s “reviewing the image you reported and will email you when your request is resolved.” The company may follow up, via email, and ask you to be more specific about the area you want blurred. If so, you will need to do the entire process again — clearly detailing the specific area of the picture you want blurred.