Nearly all of Cheshire’s communities can now be seen online via Google’s Street View service. MARK DOWLING explores the implications and highlights a selection of pictures, all courtesy of Google.
WEB giant Google has expanded its Street View service to include nearly all of Cheshire.
Internet users can now view panoramic images of houses and county landmarks on all major roads and about 95% of suburbs in Chester and the county from a ground-level perspective.
The expansion is designed to benefit those who are seeking help with directions, view places in different countries or even house-hunting.
But insurance firm Legal and General has warned the latest advance in technology, coupled with internet users posting personal information about themselves online, could make them targets for burglars.
The insurer’s report, The Digital Criminal, shows 38% of social networking website users have posted status updates detailing their holiday plans and 33% posted status updates saying they are away for the weekend.
Reformed burglar Michael Fraser, of the BBC’s Beat The Burglar series, helped compile the report.
He said: “I call it ‘internet shopping for burglars’. It is incredibly easy to use social networking sites to target people, and then scope out more information on their actual home using other internet sites like Google Street View, all from the comfort of the sofa.
“It scares me to see how many people are prepared to give away valuable information about themselves, to people they simply don’t know well enough - if at all.”
Garry Skelton, marketing director of Legal & General’s general insurance business, said: “People need to be very wary about sharing information that could put them or their homes at risk, particularly if this is with people that they don’t really know.
“Always be aware that a lot of the time, talking on a social media site is like talking out loud in the street or down the pub: you are never completely sure who might be listening in.”
Google has implemented automatic privacy measures by blurring details such as pedestrians’ faces and car number plates.
Users who are still concerned can use the ‘report a problem’ tool by flagging inappropriate or sensitive imagery for review and removal. They also have the option to remove themselves, their car or their house completely from the application.
Previously, Street View was only available in 25 UK cities, with the nearest city accessible being Liverpool.
To use Google Street View, type in an address or postcode into maps.google.co.uk.