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How we landed on Google’s Earth

Steven Wilson and friend Margie Gurwin are seen

Steven Wilson and friend Margie Gurwin are seen in an image at Google Maps. They were out for a bike ride on Park Avenue in Babylon in October 2017 when the Google camera car went by. Credit: Google

On a cool day this past fall, my friend Margie Gurwin and I realized we might have our last chance until spring for a ride. We got on bikes and whizzed through Babylon Village.

At one point, as we waited to cross Park Avenue, we noticed a small car coming toward us with an odd object on its roof. At first, Margie thought the shiny vehicle might be from the high school’s homecoming parade that weekend. As it got closer, we saw a Google logo on its side and realized that the thing on top was a camera. We thought it was cool, but didn’t give it much more thought.

Then, Margie went to Google Maps recently to look up directions and noticed that the view of her house was updated. In fact, the images looked like they could have been taken on the day we saw the Google car. On the website, she “drove” through Babylon to the spot where we had seen the car, and sure enough, the camera had seen us!

We had been Googlized! Our faces were blurred, but it was most definitely us.

I don’t know whether this is necessarily good or bad, but I must admit that in the middle of a cold Long Island winter, I find it therapeutic to occasionally visit a version of myself trapped in the virtual reality of a beautiful October afternoon.

Of course, we’re not the only ones who have been caught on camera. I read about a woman who wanted to see what new owners had done to her old home. She put the address into Google and was stunned to a see photo of her mom, who had died the year before, watering plants in the front yard.

The Google cameras don’t discriminate. They find people being themselves and freeze those moments in time — people in fistfights, in costume or in stages of undress.

For me, it happened to catch a happy and innocent moment, but it also suggests a darker side of technology that many feel brings us a step closer to the world of Big Brother, that they’re being watched.

We posted the image of ourselves on Facebook. I laughed off smart-aleck comments from friends about what else Google could have caught me doing, but the privacy issues remain food for thought.

For our part, that spot on the side of the road is forever changed. I just wish I had thought to wave.

Reader Steven Wilson lives in Babylon.