I-Team: How to hide your face, car, and house from Google Maps
STATEWIDE (WGME) - Every day millions of people use Google Maps to check out new streets, cities and neighborhoods. In fact, Google reports there are now more than a billion monthly active users of Google Maps.
But what if you're on there and don't want to be?
The I-Team discovers a way to stop strangers from seeing you, your family, and your home on Google Maps.
Six years ago Makenzie Carlow was captured on Google maps when a Google car drove by her home in Winslow.
"It said Google. That's how I knew it wasn't just a car with a camera," Carlow remembers.
To this day, the image captured by that Google street sweep lives on when you search her address on street view.
"Now I find it rather embarrassing because I was so young and it was awkward," she said.
Carlow is far from alone when it comes to embarrassing things captured on Google Street View.
A woman in Canada sued google after a street view car caught a glimpse of her partially exposed breast as she was sitting on her porch. She claimed a "flagrant abuse of her right to a private life" and she won her small claims lawsuit.
"It doesn't take much imagination to see that there are situations that could be particularly sensitive," said Peter Guffin, a privacy attorney at Pierce Atwood.
Guffin focuses on issues involving technology and images captured on Google Maps.
"It could be taken of an individual entering or exiting an AA meeting or going into a Planned Parenthood or abortion clinic," Guffin said.
But he said in the United States, generally what you can see from the street is fair game.
"There's no law prohibiting what they're doing, but just because it's legal to do, doesn't mean it's not stupid," Guffin said.
Google told the I-Team they take the privacy of its users extremely seriously and want to balance privacy and the usefulness of a driver's eye view of the world.
A year after street view was launched, Google started using a computer algorithm to automatically blur faces and license plates.
With five million miles of road in street view, we found, sometimes they miss a few.
"There it is for the world to see," Guffin said.
Google went on to tell us that they provide easy to use tools so you can ask for images of your face or car to be blurred.
Now -- you can even blur your whole house if you want.
"A lot of people don't know they have the ability to request their image or home or car be blurred," Guffin said.
[Blur your face, license plate, or home on Google Street View]
- In the bottom right corner of google maps, click "report a problem"
- Focus in on what you want to blur
- Request the blur
- Enter your email
When the CBS 13 I-Team tried it out, we got a mailbox blurred within 24 hours.
Keep in mind, Google says any blur you request is permanent.