Are Google Maps good or evil?

Webware, Stephen Shankland, July 22, 2008

Pop quiz: do you feel more or less secure with the arrival of Google Maps and other online mapping services?

I ran into that question when I got two very different news releases Monday. One argued that Google Maps helps awful people find you, but the other argued Google Maps helps you find awful people.

The first was from an outfit called Stop Child Predators, which launched a campaign to tell parents about the potential ills of Google Maps' Street View, which shows driver's-eye views of countless neighborhoods.

"This technology shows anyone in the world our communities, and exposes not only the routes from the bus stops to homes, but our children, without ever stepping foot in our neighborhoods," said Stacie Rumenap, the executive director of Stop Child Predators, in a statement.

On the other side was the announcement of, a new service from that said it shows where "sex offenders...thieves, violent offenders, murderers, or con artists" live in your neighborhood. The site shows people icons on a Google map; clicking an icon shows a person's photo, description, address, and criminal history.

"In a society where personal safety has become an important concern, provides useful information that will help families feel secure in their neighborhoods and personal lives," said, with President Bryce Lane adding, "We created to help consumers make the most educated decisions about the people they let into their personal lives and the lives of their loved ones."

So what's the verdict? Do online maps creep you out? Or do you feel safer because they enable you to keep an eye out for threats?

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