This image purportedly captured by Google Street View, of a woman giving birth on the sidewalk, turned out to be a fake. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Google Street View is a magical, marvelous thing. After launching in a handful of U.S. cities in 2007, the search engine giant’s ever-expanding mapping technology now allows users to explore Antarctica, tour the Kennedy Space Center, wander through the wreckage spawned by the catastrophic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and saunter through museum galleries in far-flung countries such as Qatar, India and Iraq.
For many users, however, the thrill of using Google Street View doesn’t always involve taking a leisurely virtual stroll down your suburban lane of your childhood from thousands of miles away, scaling the ancient monuments of Teotihuacan from your home office in Topeka, or following the route of the Tour de France from bed during a particularly rough bout of insomnia. For some, it’s all about the people watching.
While certainly not the main event, humans, for better or worse, are also on full display (well, except for the blurred faces) on Google Street View, which now covers, in some capacity, 48 countries and dependencies with more to come. You yourself may have even made a cameo appearance without even realizing it as a Google Street View car and its massive roof-mounted, nine-eyed camera slowly cruised by. Hopefully, you were fully clothed and not vomiting at the time.
On that note, given that there are legions of Google Street View users out there prowling the streets for Internet meme-ready images that fall snugly into the unusual, lurid, incriminating, scantily clad and Schadenfreude-inducing categories, we thought we’d round up nine — one for each of the Google Street View camera’s probing eyes — rather embarrassing/humiliating scenarios that have been captured by Google Street View cameras (some have been since removed by Google due to privacy complaints). Essentially, this is a cautionary article as these are nine things that you should try to avoid doing in public or on your own property if you’ve seen a car with some weird apparatus attached to the roof driving around. That is, unless you want to become an instant Internet celebrity for all the wrong reasons.
1. Pee in your garden
A word to the wise: If you live in a tiny French village and the Google Street View car has been spotted in the vicinity (trust us, it’s hard to miss), it’s probably best that you rely on indoor plumbing when nature calls. An al fresco urinator living in a rural village of 3,000 people in the Maine-et-Loire region learned this the hard way after Google Street View published an image of him watering his plants in his garden in a decidedly unconventional manner. Naturally, the nosy, Google Street View-savvy townsfolk stumbled upon the damning image and instantly recognized Monsieur Peepee even though Google was kind enough to blur his face. Soon after, relentless fertilizer jokes and assorted forms of public torment allegedly commenced. Quelle horreur!
As a result, the shamed gentleman took Google to court this past March, seeking 10,000 euros in damages and demanding that the offending image be removed. Said his lawyer, Jean Noel-Bouillaud: “My client lives in a tiny hamlet where everyone recognized him. He discovered the existence of the photo after noticing he had become an object of ridicule in his village.” He added: “Everyone has the right to a degree of secrecy. In this particular case, it’s more amusing than serious. But if he’d been caught kissing a woman other than his wife, he would have had the same issue.”
2. Wash your face in the nude on your front porch
Oh, how we miss the simpler times when a totally innocent act like stepping outside of your home totally buck naked to wash your face wouldn’t put you at risk of being captured by a marauding vehicle with a giant camera attached to the roof.
Last year, Google Street View cameras caught a woman wearing nothing but her birthday suit while holding what appears to be a jug of water standing outside of her Miami home. Google initially published the image in all of its full-frontal glory, but later blurred the casual nudist’s body (photo at right shows how it appears now). It’s unclear why the woman was standing naked outside of her front doorway — this wasn’t the suburbs of Tampa, after all — but one would assume that perhaps she was attempting to leave the house but forget to put pants on. Like we all do. Or something. The Huffington Post has a different theory, pointing out that she appears to be washing her face with said jug of water. However, CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk believes that the “obvious answer would be that Miami is very hot.”
3. Pass out drunk in your mother’s yard
So this one’s rather unfortunate. In 2008, a 36-year-old Australian man named “Bill,” overcome with grief over the tragic death of a dear friend, decided to have a wild afternoon out on the town with some mates. After imbibing what we’re guessing was more than a couple of post-funeral Foster’s, Bill took a taxi to his mother’s Melbourne home. The thing is, poor Bill never made it to the front door. Instead, he collapsed right in the front yard, feet dangling from the curb after stumbling out of the taxi. Naturally, the Google Street View car was there to capture Bill in all of his passed-out-in-front-of-the-house glory.
Although “not too happy” about the incident (he was later roused from his sauced slumber when police arrived and shook him awake), Bill never launched an official complaint and the image was later removed. “I mean, I wouldn’t have been there in the state that I was in, but I wasn’t really thinking there would be someone driving by with a video camera on the roof filming me, either,” explained Bill. “What do you do when you lose a mate like that? I know what he would have done if I left — he would have partied, too. That’s what I would’ve wanted him to do so that’s what I did with some friends.”
4. Clean out the trunk of your car naked
When Google Street View officially launched in Germany in November 2010, it was met with massive opposition and over 200,000 opt-outs due to privacy concerns (Google eventually abandoned expansion of the program in Germany in April 2011). Yet, one gentleman residing at Zwerchgasse 39 in the city of Mannheim decided to give the controversial technology a most unusual welcome by shedding his clothes and climbing into (or out of?) the open trunk of a convertible parked in the driveway of what one would assume is his home.
The resulting image remains one of the most bizarre scenes ever captured by Google Street View and it’s still a mystery if the baffling tableau was staged as a prank on the Google Street View team or if the fellow caught in the photo truly was cleaning out the junk in his trunk (some believe he’s fixing a taillight) sans pants (some believe he’s actually wearing shorts but you can’t see them). The sleeping (or is it dead?) dog in the driveway makes the whole thing even more surreal. After the image went viral and was published in Der Spiegel, Google removed it and placed it “under review.” Currently, the whole home — possibly nude man in the trunk of his car included — is completely blurred out like many a German address.
5. Drink beer while lying in the back of a pick-up truck
Need we elaborate on this somewhat notorious scene captured by Google Street View cameras at 1379 Elgin Ave. W in Winnipeg, Canada? Nah, probably not. (The image here is still available on Google Maps.)
6. Give birth on a city sidewalk
While not exactly embarrassing per se, giving birth on a city sidewalk isn’t exactly the preferred locale for most expecting mothers. Yet a passing Google Street View car captured the miracle of birth happening on a sidewalk in front of 37 Hubertusallee (a building apparently located directly across the street from a hospital) in the Berlin suburb of Wilmersdorf in 2010.
Here’s the thing: the rather distressing urban nativity scene — complete with woman lying on her back on a towel, legs spread and head being supported by another woman crouched behind her; a man cradling a newborn baby; another man flagging down an ambulance; a couple of dazed onlookers; and a hastily parked Smart Car with door flung open — was fingered as both an elaborately staged prank and a cleverly doctored fake complete with Google watermark and navigation pane (Google Germany confirmed it was the latter on its Twitter account).
7. Vomit on the pavement while your friend wearing reindeer antlers tenderly pats your head
Another one that needs little explanation except to say that this image — captured outside of a pub on Shoreditch High Street, east London — caused such an uproar in the exceptionally reserved U.K. in 2009 that it was promptly removed by the Google Street View overlords along with an equally embarrassing capture of a gentleman exiting a sex shop and dozens of other potentially damning images.
8 (and 9). Fall off your bike