Back when Google Earth and Google Street View first started, most of us realized it was only a matter of a decade before the satellite technology we were looking at would go hi-def. For the last 10 years, Google Earth has been a rich source of fun being able to fly over the earth at will and look down on certain landscapes. But while the images were real, the suspension of disbelief in flying over our own homes was still distorted no thanks to satellite images flattening structures. When flying over a major city, for instance, every tall building was literally flattened to give the illusion that Godzilla had more or less turned every skyscraper into a squashed tin can.
Google’s Street View was a different story, mainly because it literally took you right up to the front doors of buildings and homes. Even if there was some slight fuzziness so you couldn’t see directly into windows (and deliberately blurred out faces), somehow we secretly wished it could show even more. Most of us started to change our minds on that thought once we located our own abodes on Google Earth and Street View. When I saw how good the clarity was on the Google Street View image of where I live, I’ve since been conflicted on whether improving satellite imagery is a good idea.
No matter what anyone thinks or worries about, satellite technology is going to now improve with commercial satellite image provider DigitalGlobe getting the ok from the Department of Commerce to lift restrictions on satellite clarity level. It’s going to mean Google Earth having images that look much clearer than usual down the line. And with Google purchasing another satellite company intending to give even sharper imagery than what DigitalGlobe provides, it’s going to create a strange dilemma for people who love to spend considerable time outdoors around their homes.
Will Outdoor Activity Wane Because of Satellite Fears?
In more recent years, there’s already been some alarm that kids are spending too much time staying indoors and playing video games than going outside and getting exercise. Plus, with privacy issues a problem in some neighborhoods without having to invest in large-scale fence construction, how does one shield outdoor activity from satellites updating information regularly? Reportedly, once Google gets their satellites into orbit, images on Google Earth will be updated often for more accuracy and with visibility up to a meter. This means being able to clearly see you if you happened to be outside swimming in your pool or in a hot tub during the summer.
No doubt a new pastime from voyeurs will be sitting in their rooms looking in people’s backyards on Google Earth. As it is now, you can currently see enough detail to get an idea of how people live, including clearly seeing backyard pools from miles up as you fly over urban landscapes.
Once it gets to the point where we know we’re being watched from up above, will people have to enclose their backyards with a sunroof in order to gain any privacy? Only the wealthy will be the ones who can invest in such things to keep their privacy by literally creating outdoor environments while still being indoors. The middle class and poor will end up being the ones who will still have their yards exposed, unless they’re lucky enough to have ancient trees around them to obscure the image. Then again, with better clarity from new satellites, it could even enable us to see through trees.
It might lead to a new generation not going outside to do things around their homes out of fear of being watched by new Google Earth voyeurs. Lawyers are already getting fired up about the lawsuit potentials down the road, especially in locations where privacy is necessary. For private citizens, though, they’ll probably be sitting ducks to being scrutinized more than ever. We may develop a generation who nurtures environments mostly indoors rather than take a chance outside. And when they do go outside, they’ll feel like they have to mind their own manners just walking around their own backyard.
With this new philosophy on living in the future, you have to wonder how it might be depicted in a movie once again depicting a not-so-distant time period. At best, better satellite imagery at least can place the world in a better context than it ever has been before for every earthly citizen. Perhaps with that in mind, a natural etiquette can develop where we don’t nosedive into someone’s backyard when deciding to mimic the feeling of flying over suburban America.