How Criminals Use Google Street View to Case the Joint

Blur your home on public maps to protect your safety

A man handcuffed in a courtroom.

 

Chris Ryan / Getty Images

Criminals launch Google Maps or Bing Maps, punch in an address, turn on Street View, and check out a residence or building of interest to perform virtual reconnaissance.The data isn't close to real-time and can be stale for some areas, but most major buildings aren't going to change a lot over a short period of time. Usually, the map data is time-stamped at the bottom of the image so the bad guys know exactly when the image was taken.

Adverse Uses of Street Maps

Ill-intentioned people use Google Maps and Bing Maps to:

  • Locate entrances to buildings
  • Determine locations of security cameras, gates, etc
  • Find good hiding places
  • Find holes or weak spots in perimeter fences
  • Locate utility boxes (power, water, gas)
  • See what make, model, and color of vehicle a building occupant or resident drives
  • See if locks, guards, dogs, etc, are normally present
  • Measure distances between objects (using Google Earth) to determine how quickly it would take to run or drive from one point to another.

Using Street View creates a lot less suspicion than if they were to actually visit the site and stand in the middle of the road for a look-see.

Although mapping cars won't drive up a private drive, if the building is on or near a public street then it is fair game. Google maps is also supposed to automatically obscure (blur) text on buildings, license plates, peoples faces, etc, but even without those tidbits of data, there is still a lot of useful information that is provided through Street View.

How Can You Prevent Your Home or Business From Being Seen

Request to have your home, car, etc, removed from Google Maps Street View or Bing Maps Streetside View by using the "report a problem" link on the page, when the image is centered on your home or business. You'll have to answer several questions, then Google and Bing will review your report and decide on next steps.