Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 26 July 2013

Google Street View and seeing people who've since died

I quite often use Google Maps' Street View to rehearse unfamiliar journeys that I'm going to make on foot (comically bad sense of direction, tendency to flip everything 180 degrees) and there are often people in the vistas that appear on the screen, although their faces are blurred out.

A few months ago a friend was looking at [their] home town and spotted an elderly relative who'd since died but whose image was clearly reflected in a window (the person was facing away from the camera so their face wouldn't have needed blurring). This is because some of the photos are a couple of years old.

My friend was delighted with this and sent screenshots to family members. I had a go looking at places where my mum might have been (she died a few years ago) but sadly didn't spot her.

I wondered if other people have spotted dead relations and friends while browsing through the Street View maps. If you know someone well you don't need to see their face to know it's them and I suspect it could be rather disconcerting for some.

Plenty of people might not know that Street View exists - you have to click and drag the little person icon onto the map to turn the map to Street View. In the first photo the little yellow man is highlighted with a pink marker that I drew on. In the second is a screenshot of what happens once you click and drag him onto the map, and the third is what you see when you 'release' him onto the pavement. You can then go in pretty much any direction (forward, back, turn around, look up etc) and take a wander round the area. I dropped the little chap into Blackheath.

The direction of the green thing next to the little chap (it looks like a green speech bubble pointing upwards) shows the direction that you'll be looking in when you let go of the person icon. You can move your mouse around to change his direction and position before dropping him. Or her.

Light googling suggests plenty of popular stories relate to children pretending to be dead and someone apparently covering up after a murder, ie the idea of Google photographing people who are actually dead. What I'm interested in is Google capturing people while alive who subsequently die but who are forever trapped on Street View.


  1. FYI, Google Maps is in the middle of transitioning to a new UI, which I gather has not rolled out in the UK yet. In the new UI, the little man you drag out onto the map, sadly, is gone. You have to search for an address or something to get a pop-up window, which if there is streetview available there will have a thumbnail that you can click to flip into streetview mode.

    I, for one, will miss the little man.

    1. Oh poo. I like the little chap too, although it requires my best and most focused motor skills on the mouse to get him pointing in the right way. Possibly this new thing will be easier for people not using mice (tablets) though.

  2. The current version of Google Maps, which is very different from the one shown above does still have the little man / woman / person / humanoid (which also looks different from the one shown above).

  3. There's a Street View image that shows my best friends uncle standing on the front porch of the house he was living in at the time. He's looking at the Street View car as it drives by the house. He's since passed away and it's kind of sad looking at the image. It kind of feels as though I'm driving by the house expecting him to wave at me.

    The thing I like about the image is that it shows a candid moment in his every day life at a time when he was healthy (a year or two later he passed away in the hospital after falling and breaking his hip).

    1. Thank you for your comment Davilo. Given that (I think) Google revisits places it's probably best to take a screenshot of the image (should you or your friend want to), as it may disappear in future.


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