A man who fell asleep in a drunken stupor on the grass outside his home was horrified to find his embarrassment posted on the internet. He had been drowning his sorrows over the death of a friend and collapsed after climbing out of a taxi. As he slept off his excesses, a car-mounted video camera passed by to record pictures of the street for Google's StreetView website. Within days a photographic record of the neighbourhood and its unusual presence was available for worldwide viewing.
The new Google service has been at the centre of controversy over claims it represents a breach of privacy. But the latest victim, who gave his name only as 'Bill', is not planning an official complaint. "I'm no too happy about it," said Bill. "I mean, I wouldn't have been there in the state that I was in, but I wasn't really thinking there would be someone driving by with a video camera on the roof filming me, either," Bill, 36, said from northern Australia, where he is working with a fishing company. "What do you do when you lose a mate like that?" he said of his pal, with whom he had been planning a motorbike holiday around the island of Tasmania. "I know what he would have done if I left - he would have partied, too. That's what I would've wanted him to do so that's what I did with some friends."
Bill said he accepted he could not expect to have complete privacy in a public street, but he questioned whether his embarrassing moment should be broadcast over the internet. Street View was launched in Australia last week and since then there have been a number of complaints about what has been captured on the video camera. One woman who wrote to a Sydney newspaper said she was mortified after logging onto the site.
"Both my parents were pictured outside their house, but my dad passed away a month ago," said Janice Creenaune. "While recognising that Google-time is never real-time, the image renews the raw loss," she said.
Another letter writer, Elizabeth Maher was, however, delighted.
"While others may have legitimate complaints about Google publishing pictures of their house, I was delighted to view ours, with me pictured hard at work in the garden, complete with broom and bucket, thereby dispelling any uncertainty as to who is the gardener in the family."
A spokesman for Google Australia, Mr Rob Shilkin, said the company had taken significant steps to protect the privacy of individuals, including face-blurring and tools for people to flag sensitive imagery for removal.
Since Bill's case became known to Google Australia, his embarrassing sleep-in has been removed from the site.