If you ever looked at a specific neighborhood on Google Street View, there is a chance that one or more houses were blurred. When this appeared for the first time, people had different theories about it. Nowadays, it is not unusual to see a house blurred on Google Street View and most of the time, the explanation for this is simple. But why would Google Maps blur a house?
According to Google-Contributed Street View Imagery Policy, faces of people and license plates are automatically blurred. You can also request additional blurring of your face or car license plate if you think it is needed. This same policy lets you request to blur your entire house, car, or body by submitting the “Report a problem” tool.
Google Street View offers 3D images to viewers, and some people are not comfortable with it for various reasons.
What Exactly is Google Street View?
Google Maps is the most popular navigation tool in the world. Encouraged by its popularity and no doubt profitability, Google came out with Google Street View and figured out how to integrate it into Google Maps to make it even better for its users.
Google generates street views with cars, and sometimes individuals equipped with technology to take street view photographs worldwide. These pictures are then incorporated into Google Maps.
Street View enables you to virtually walk down the street and observe the surroundings. You can make an impression of a particular neighborhood before you even get there. Landmarks in 3D allow a unique, almost real visit.
By incorporating Street View into Google Maps, the map became much more than a tool to go from point A to point B. People can observe different neighborhoods when buying a house or searching for schools for their kids. Anyone can virtually access almost any part of the world without having to go there.
But “with great power comes great responsibility.” There are different threads online where people share funny or unusual sights seen on Street View. Some of these have gone viral, and I can only imagine that the people involved weren’t pleased about it, which brings me to the next point.
Why Do People Blur Their Houses?
There are numerous reasons for blurring homes. Some homeowners do it because they are a bit paranoid and don’t realize that the image was captured at one point, and no one can actually observe you in real-time when using this Google maps option. Others have more logical reasons, and these are the most frequent:
Celebrities, including famous singers and actors, appreciate their privacy. Those people are often subject of harassment from paparazzi and delusional fans. By observing their houses and surrounding properties, you could find good spots to stalk them and take pictures. Having their houses blurred will slightly reduce this possibility.
But you don’t have to be famous to be concern about your privacy. Some people are more sensitive than others. But regardless of how famous you are, Google provides the Report a Problem tool for you to blur your house.
People have different safety concerns. Politicians and high-profile business people often have security agents around and sophisticated security systems installed. They may want to remove their homes from Google for a similar reason as celebrities.
If there is nothing to observe, potential criminals or other people with bad intentions will have a more challenging time to find flaws in their security, which they would use to their advantage.
To do something, they have to show up at the location and observe from proximity (to see the doors, windows, and hiding places), and there is a chance they will be caught while doing so.
But just like with privacy, it’s not just politicians or businessmen who are worried about safety but also everyday people. Some live in neighborhoods where robberies are frequent, so they want to make it harder for thieves by asking Google to blur their house. Whether this is an effective way to prevent robberies or attacks is another question.
Some people ran away from abusive family members and relocated; they understandably want to do whatever they can to feel safer.
Inappropriate Image Captured
Now we are coming back to viral pictures. Google usually blurs or removes those at their own initiative to meet their Inappropriate Content policy, but mistakes and oversights do happen. Imagine sunbathing in a funny position in front of your house and getting captured by Google Street View cameras. You would probably want to delete that. If you do it before it goes viral, nobody will ever know.
Here is something you may want to add to your to-do list: If your neighborhood has been mapped for Street View, go and check your house. You never know what you will find.
There are numerous examples of inappropriate images, and you have probably seen a few. There are even more which were found by the owners in time, and now those are blurred.
Google Street View is a unique and highly effective tool for those with good intentions. On the other hand, it also enables those involved in shady activities to observe their targets or ridicule innocent people.
How Can I Request to Blur My Own House?
Luckily, the blurring option is available to anyone, not just for secret government sites and rich celebrities. Here is how to request it for your own home:
- Open Google Maps
- Type in your address
- Open Street View by clicking onto the tiny yellow human icon which is located at the bottom right, and drag it towards your house
- If you see your house in 3D and want to blur it, there is a “Report a problem” option in the bottom right corner. Or you can click on the 3 little dots on the top left and then click “Report a problem”
- An image preview with a red box will appear
- Place it over your house and select the “My home” option in the “Request blurring” option
- Click on “Submit”
After that, you will get a notification email saying your request will be handled. After some time, depending on how long it takes them to do so, your house will be permanently blurred. If something seems out of order, they will contact you for further details.
Note: This service is unavailable in some places because Google Street View doesn’t exist, and nothing will actually happen. If you were worried about your privacy, this is a good thing because the area was not mapped in 3D.
Below is a video that demonstrates how to do this:
What Are the Concerns Related to Blurring Your House?
Blurring may seem like an excellent preventive measure for privacy and safety, but there are a few downsides too:
The Blur is Permanent
Maybe you wanted to blur the image because you were going through some renovations once and didn’t want to show it. Unfortunately, once you blur your house, you can’t reverse it. So, it pays to think twice before you blur your house.
Your House Can Be Blurred Without You Asking
I have not been able to find out how Google confirms that the user submitting the request is the property’s rightful owner. Some threads within Google support indicate that at least some houses are blurred without the owner requesting it.
This can have negative consequences if you are trying to sell your house. Potential buyers may search for houses through Google Street View and think that there is or there was something wrong with your house.
Do you think a skeptical buyer will believe your answer: “Google made a mistake.”
Maybe. Or maybe they’ll think there was something wrong with your house you are trying to hide.
I understand that their policy is that once you blur your house, you can’t unblur it. It is probably too much work to go one by one and retake individual pictures. But if you didn’t request it, there should be a process to fix it.
While it appears rare, Google can reject your request to blur your place, especially if you live in an apartment building. This could be a problem for those concerned about personal safety. You can complain and contact Google, but it is going to be a long process.
I have created a quick summary video for this blog post. If you like this video, consider subscribing to the House Notebook Youtube Channel.