Saturday, December 5, 2009

Intrusive views of my street

The Google Maps squad arrived in town. Apparently in the first week of April 2009. They've worked through my street—that's to say, the D531 road—from Choranche down through Pont-en-Royans, and the results are spectacular and surprising. Google's street-view approach produces a shock when you see it applied in a sparsely-populated rural zone, and I have the impression that certain local residents are likely to be somewhat scandalized by this invasion of privacy. Indeed, I find it hard to believe that the French authorities would have given Google the green light to carry out such an operation, of an intimate village nature.

[CORRECTION: As explained in a comment, Google's visit actually took place on Friday, 13 March 2009.]

To see the images on your computer, start up Google maps and type Choranche, France. Here are some specimens of what you'll find, with my comments:

I start out with the image that shocked me most of all: the patio of the Jorjane hotel-restaurant in the village of Choranche. The photo gives the impression that the place is in a sad state of abandon. Now, it's a fact that my friend George Pontvianne often puts his business into hibernation for short periods. Besides, he has been trying to sell the Jorjane for some time. But it's quite unfair that Google should display this particularly dismal image for anybody and everybody, in the future, who might happen to look up the Jorjane for one reason or another. It's the static and permanent nature of the fallout of Google's intervention that shocks me. What I'm trying to say is that, a few days later, a photo taken at the same spot would have shown a patio thronged with joyful bikers. So, the Google photo is wrong, in that it's not at all a typical vision of the Jorjane. In any case, I've just phoned up George and suggested that he should ask Google to delete their images of the Jorjane.

About a kilometer to the east of the village (a few clicks on Google maps), this is a view of the house of my great friends Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier, who are clearly recognizable in this Google image. Their two visitors are probably recognizable, too, for professional viewers. Here again, it's unacceptable that the entire planet should be offered the image of Serge and Tineke accompanied by X and Y. And, for reasons of security (Tineke is a famous sculptor), it's equally unacceptable that roadside views should indicate precisely the fenced edges of their Rochemuse domain. Clearly, Google is going too far. And I wouldn't be surprised if Serge and Tineke were to raise their voices at this level...

Much further to the west, Google lets you explore the roadside house of my neighbors Dédé and Madeleine. As for my place, Gamone, up on the slopes, you can't see too much. Google has not yet provided me with justifications for updating my existing old-fashioned resources in the way of self-defensive firearms. (I'm joking!)

I'll let you follow Google Map down along the D531 into Pont-en-Royans... where there are other surprises. I've just been sitting in on an Internet session on this subject in the home of neighbors in Chatelus. Their kids were thrilled to find perfectly-recognizable images of themselves on a sporting arena in the village. Is this good? Sure, the kids in question are going to astound their school friends with the revelation: "We're all on the Internet!" But that raises an obvious delicate question: Is it right that a giant US corporation should be able to move into our French villages and then display recognizable images of school kids at play? The answer, I think, is a resounding no.

I conclude by a quiz question: How have my neighbors and I been able to determine the exact date at which these images were obtained?


  1. Give that the kids could be playing any day - I'm guessing you would have to rely on Tineke and Serge to tell you the day they met their visitors?

  2. In the series of images, at the level of the Picard restaurant in Pont-en-Royans, a sign indicates that the road through the gorges of the Bourne will be closed during a precise period in April 2009. The repairs carried out an identifiable automobile at the local garage pushed the time frame back a few weeks, to the middle of March. Elsewhere in the village, the fact that Nathalie's bakery and the hairdressers were open ruled out certain days, etc. The days on which the kids played games provided further clues. But, as you suggested, Badger, the precise date could be obtained from my friends Tineke and Serge. On Friday, 13 March 2009, they were bidding farewell to a couple of insurance inspectors (following the fall of a few rocks in their garden) when the funny-looking Google vehicle flashed by.