Making your house disappear from mapping sites

Our grandparents and parents used, what is now known as: old school methods for various things. They had hardcopy cook books, they bought things with less information available and they figured out where they were going by using paper maps.

We, on the other hand, live in a fully digitalized world, where almost all of the info we want is right at our finger tips. Don’t know what to cook tonight, go online and you’ll find countless recipes. Can’t decide which refrigerator to buy? Search for reviews on the internet and it will help you make up your mind. Haven’t a clue where the address you want to go at is? Type it in Google Maps (or any other similar app) and it will show you how to get there. Heck, you can actually see how the house looks like … and there lies the problem.

While apps like Google Maps do have their uses and are more convenient to work with than a big old paper map, they also pose a privacy risk for average people. From plain old criminals to operative of the shadow government, everyone and anyone can take a good long look at what’s going on with your house.

Google and other private companies have the legal right to use high-end spy satellites (the kind normally used by NSA and other such agencies) in order to “better map the surface of the Earth”. Right … like we’re supposed to take the word of a company that it is known for to stealing wireless passwords and other data from personal computers via their street mapping cars.

Until last year, the detail was limited to objects no smaller than about 20 inches. The US Department of Commerce lifted the restrictions, and now companies like Google and Microsoft (which owns Bing) can show images of objects to the world as small as 12 inches.

This means that everyone can see the color of your mailbox, what you have in your backyard, if you’re doing any kind of work around the house, what are you growing in the garden, etc.

“You can actually definitely see (car) windshields,” DigitalGlobe’s Kumar Navulur told Gigaom.com. DigitalGlobe is one of the satellite companies using the new technology. “We can actually tell you whether it’s a truck or an SUV or a regular car. We can identify pictures of a baseball diamond.”

If that didn’t give you shivers down the spine, this will: Google paid $500 million for SkyBox Imaging, a company that provides real-time high resolution pictures and it plans to add SkyBox imagery to Google Maps.

So basically what their saying is: we want to see what you do each minute of every day and we like to do it in full HD.

Unless you place a big camouflage tarp over your whole property, there’s little chance of escaping the eye in the sky. But don’t despair, there is still a way to maintain some privacy by blocking the street view mode of the mapping apps. The images presented in street view offer far greater detail than the ones from up above, so people that are curious about what you’ve been up to, may use this mode to get a front seat view.

Here are the instruction on how to blur out your property from different mapping sites:

Google Maps

  • Visit Google.com/maps and enter your home address.
  • Look to the lower-right of the screen. You should see a little icon that looks like a yellow person in the tool bar.
  • Click on that icon and drag it over to your address location on the map to access Street View.
  • The map should be replaced by a picture of your home or business. If you don’t see your home, then move up and down the street or rotate the picture until you do. (If it still doesn’t work, then Google may not have an image of your home.)
  • Click on “report a problem” on the bottom-right.
  • Follow the directions, and fill out the form.

Bing Maps

  • Visit Bing.com/maps and enter your home address.
  • From the top of the map, drag the blue icon that looks like a person to your street. (Note: Bing requires installation of a program, Silverlight. If you street does not turn blue when dragging the “blue person” icon, then your house has not been photographed for Bing’s maps.)
  • Click on the question mark at the bottom-right of the screen.
  • Click “report an image concern.”
  • Request that your home be blurred.

Yahoo Maps

  • Visit Yahoo.com/maps
  • Drag the gray icon that resembles a person (top-right) to your street. (If it won’t drag, then your street has not been photographed for Yahoo.)
  • Click on “report image” at the bottom-left of the screen. It will take you to a different website.
  • Click on “request blurring,” and follow the directions.

Once you’ve done this, check after several days or weeks to make sure your house is blurred out. I will also advise you to monthly check this status, as all of these companies do periodic re-mapping.

What we do on our properties should remain a private matter, and no excuse of modern development should infringe on our souvenir rights.

 

What other methods of blocking the view from such sites you know of?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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