In the United Kingdom, where more than 4 million closed-circuit video surveillance cameras watch public spaces around the clock, it's Google's gaze rather than the government's that causes people to recoil.
Though less than a month old in the United Kingdom, Google Maps Street View is already a flash point for privacy issues.
Last month, Google had to deal with sensationalistic accusations that its Street View images included a photo of a naked toddler, among other alleged privacy invasions.
Google characterized the article making the allegations as misleading and said the Independent on Sunday, which published the story, promised a correction.
More recently, residents in the Buckinghamshire village of Broughton surrounded a car capturing Street View images on Google's behalf and refused to let it enter the town. Thankfully, no torches or pitchforks were involved.
"Forming a human chain to stop it, they harangued the driver about the 'invasion of privacy,' adding that the images that Google planned to put online could be used by burglars," the Times Online reported.
Google argues that, to the contrary, Street View helps prevent crime. "[W]hen we spoke to the Metropolitan Police in the U.K., they told us that they have seen no evidence that Street View could lead to a rise in crime," Google product counsel Gavin McGinty said in a post on his company's European Public Policy blog last month. "Indeed they believe that mapping can be useful in raising awareness locally about crime and helping people take action to prevent it."
McGinty also disagrees with notion that potential criminal misuse of Street View is Google's fault. "Saying that Street View is enabling crime is like blaming the motor industry for crime because criminals also use getaway cars," he said.
Despite having his lawful access to public roads denied, the driver retreated when the police arrived on the scene, leaving the village of Broughton unphotographed, apart from the hundreds or thousands of images of the village that can be seen using Google Image Search, Flickr, online real estate sites, and the like.