Exposed! Google reveals secret shame

May 28, 2008

Hyperbole was among my mother’s traits, especially when I was a kid. Before issuing a warning or threat regarding my behavior, she would foreshadow her pronouncement with squinted eyes, like a gunslinger telegraphing lethal intent. Then she might let loose with the cliché of clichés: “It will go on your permanent record!” I’d respond with a look of mock horror.

Mom, if you can hear me from the hereafter, I say this: you were right.

I’ve learned that a blot besmirches my permanent record, and anyone with a computer and Internet connection can see it. And Google is to blame!

For weeks last summer, I neglected to move two piles of mulch and clay along the side street next to my Northeast Portland house. I’m sure the neighbors bad-mouthed me, though they praise the results of my landscaping projects. Snide mutterings I could handle. But Google also chose that same time to photograph the property for its Street View mapping service, exposing my shame to the world.

Earlier this month, Google announced it will begin blurring the faces of people visible in Street View photos. Some are seen doing things they might not have done if aware a camera was nearby. But what about my mulch and clay piles, long since removed?

I want the world to see the orderly me, who surfaces occasionally but inevitably disappears for extended periods. Now that employers are doing Google searches and MySpace checks on prospective employees, aren’t I at risk? Hasn’t Google exposed me to potential damages?

Please, Google, airbrush my permanent record!

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UPDATE: I don’t feel so bad, considering this Street View image from Chicago.