News & Politics

I Flipped Off the Google Street View Car Today

The question is, why?

The Google Street View car drove past my house today, and I flipped it off. I have never been a big bird-flipper, and since reaching middle age I never stoop to such an adolescent display. I don’t think I’ve raised the finger in 30 years, not that there weren’t plenty of reasons to do so.

I was at my desk, over which a large window looks out onto the street. Here comes a subcompact with a roving eye on its roof-rack and an apprehensive-looking female millennial behind the wheel.

As we used to say in middle school (and I’m ashamed to admit), I shot her the bird.

This got me to thinking; why?

I’m neither a casual bird-flipper, nor am I all that bothered by the encroaching surveillance that has become part of contemporary existence. I’m in the camp that considers Edward Snowden a traitor.

So why did the Street View car inspire me–a person who values a civilized social contract–to regress to the schoolyard level?


I can count the number of times I’ve deployed the digit on a couple of sets of fingers.

There was that time as a pre-teen when I shamefully flipped my father off in response to his Draconian curfew, and got my mouth washed out with Lava hand soap in the bargain. At a mid-1990s Ozzy Osbourne concert, I remember raising my middle finger at a gargantuan hologram of Richard Nixon, just on general principles. The song was “War Pigs.”

These, and a handful of times in traffic, represent my entire history with arguably the most famous hand gesture in Western civilization.

From the standpoint of privacy versus security, I support comprehensive measures to keep track of what’s going on in this country. I agree with Marco Rubio, John McCain, and New York Representative Peter King among many other credible experts on the issue of electronic surveillance. We should have it.

As a law-abiding citizen, I’m not that worried about being targeted.

If they Google my public persona, they’ll find articles, lots of articles. It’s not like I’m hiding in a tarpaper shack. My so-called private information would bore the socks off investigators

If they check my email, they’ll learn that my company’s bid for the painting of an office space has been accepted, and that the color selected is “Cityscape.” If they listen in on my phone conversations they’ll learn that whoever installed my front deck did not include the proper flashing, and that the deck and framing underneath are now unsalvageable.

If they check my search records, there will be some embarrassment, but nothing illegal.

Besides, I use Google Street View as a business tool. If I’m going out on bid, I’ll street-view the structure for a preview of the job.

So, who the (expletive deleted) am I to flip off the Google Street View car?

It has everything to do with gut resistance to the idea of corporatist globalization, as I’ll explain on the next page.

It’s one thing to have your government creating a file on you. You expect that. You’d might even worry if they weren’t doing stuff like that, on a mass scale, all the time, right?

It’s something else to have a company car positioning you on the map of the world. Google doesn’t represent a sovereign country. Its cartography is profit-driven, and it can be extremely intrusive.

My Aunt Joan in Rio Vista, California, likes white women’s slacks. The whole clan identifies Joan with the wearing of women’s white slacks. We love those slacks. If you zoom in on Street View at Aunt Joan’s address, you’ll see that she has just opened her front door, and that she is wearing white women’s slacks.

Isn’t that just a little too close for comfort?

To be clear, I am all for corporatization and globalization when it is beneficial to the United States. I have qualms about multinational corporations collecting data on my own block.

There is very little I can do about any of this. It is legal in this country to take photos from public streets. Street View blurs faces, but you have to contact them and ask to have your house blurred. So, the entire planet will know exactly where I live, they just won’t know that I’ve got a Yellowstone Park buffalo wind chime hanging over my porch.

The only thing I can do is offer a salute when Google’s all-seeing Prius comes down my street.

Maybe my finger will join Aunt Joan’s slacks.