I discovered Streetview thanks to the alternately awesome and creepy article in today's Salon.com about Alternate Reality Games (ARGs).
The launch of the new Street View function on Google Maps a few weeks ago brought a new flash of paranoia for McGonigal. Google, everyone's favorite purveyor of enthralling but creepily powerful things, sent vans topped with cameras down the streets of five major U.S. cities, taking pictures all the while. Now users can take a virtual stroll down a San Francisco street, and can see real photos of everything in their path. The program kicked up a swift controversy because some photos show identifiable people in the windows of their houses, or parked cars with their license plates clearly visible. Already, users have found great delight in turning up photos of women bending over, women sunbathing, and an unfortunate man leaving a seedy strip club.
This tool, or similar ones that may be coming down the pike, must have people in the intelligence community twitching with happiness, McGonigal speculates. And she wouldn't be surprised if their thoughts tend in an ARG-ish direction. "Players of these games sort through so much intelligence and come up with really sophisticated analyses for them," she says. One "crazy scenario," she adds, would be a game designed by Homeland Security in which players combed through entire cities looking for certain people or signs of suspicious activity. McGonigal knows it sounds like a stretch, but says the regular come-ons she gets from D.C. groups keep her nervous. "I don't know if I believe they could make an ARG that would suit their purposes, but I believe that they want to do it," she says.