People continue to find loved ones late on Google Maps

For years, Google Maps has offered Street View, combining panoramic camera images to recreate a digital facsimile of real-world physical spaces that you can explore online. Some people are finding that they run around the platform quite long and use a time travel function, They could only find the image of a loved one later captured by one of Google’s cameras – and apparently saved on Google Maps forever.

In the past few days, many posts announcing these discoveries have gone viral. One of the British writer Sherri Turner has already accumulated tens of thousands of “I like it” on Twitter. A similar tweet from a anonymous confession account it has also attracted attention from not only other Twitter users but also from major ones media outlets. Tweets have become threads where others share stories of searching for their dead relatives on Google Maps.

This isn’t even the first time people have used the time travel feature in Street View to go and search for parts on Google Maps – or to share the experience on social media. Google released Street View in 2007, and these types of viral Twitter posts are happening since at least 2013. The trend points to a sustainable model of Google advancing its endless search to map the entire world (Street View currently includes 87 countries) and constantly updating this data. Somewhere along the way, Google Maps users realize that this process has unintended consequences.

This effect suggests that the creation of these 360-degree worldviews requires momentary surveillance. Google Maps uses many, many cameras to create the immersive experience that Street View offers. Google says u digital recreation of the physical world it is powered by millions of rooms which capture more angles, harvest from the people “leads, pedaling, navigating, and walking around and capturing images. ”The company has also moved to allow users to send your own images to integrate your own Street View. While helping people remember dead family members isn’t really the intended purpose of Google Maps, a spokesman told Recode that it was “comforting” that people were using the platform in this way.

The time travel feature in Street View allows you to compare existing images with images that were captured up to 2007.
Google Maps

Turner, the writer, told Recode that she discovered the time travel feature in Street View earlier this week, when she was looking to see what a home belonging to her late mother, who died nearly four years ago, looked like. . He ended up finding that the last available image in Street View was from 2009. He showed the house with a light on, which told Turner that his mother was home when the image was captured. “This makes it a little more something that you feel you’ve stumbled upon instead of something you’ve made happen,” he told Recode.

Again, people have been discovering images of their loved ones late in Street View for a while. It had also happened before Google introduced the time travel feature. The phenomenon has also led to a healthy news cycle last year, when a Twitter user said she had found a picture of her great-grandfather on Street View. The tweet generated more than 400,000 “likes”.

But there is more to the story than the viral content. The images are a reminder that many people appearing in Street View do not know that their photos have been taken, and the dead do not have to say whether their image remains or not on the service.

More broadly, technology companies like Google hold a lot of power over this sensitive and personal data, and citizens have not played a real role in defining standards for how data associated with declining people should be. they are treated. It is especially important because Google’s approach to this data may not correspond to the religious and cultural norms surrounding death practiced by many of its users around the world.

“Increasingly, most of our online users are from southern countries.” Faheem Hussain, a professor at the Arizona State University School for the Future of Innovation in Society, told Recode. “What we’re seeing more and more is the absence of.” [the] the participation of the people in this design ”.

Late family members aren’t the only amazing discoveries on Google Maps. There are integers online community dedicated to exploring the mapping platform for unusual things, identifying everything from wild animals to sandstorms. There’s also a much darker side to the apparent ubiquity of Street View and Google Maps more broadly, which raises a myriad of concerns for privacy of and people. Back in 2013, for example, a father in California had to ask Google to hunt him down an aerial image of her son’s dead body. Google says it has systems in place to blur passwords and personally identifiable information of passersby in the photos it takes. But clearly, some people can also be identified if a family member knows what they are looking for.

The persevering tendency to find our lost loved ones inevitably serves as a reminder that Google has a major role to play in documenting our daily lives over time. There is no sign that the digital artifacts that are stored in Street View will go away anytime soon. Instead, they may become just part of how the story is recorded in a process we don’t necessarily have control over.

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