Fort Mill Times

Picture this: Your neighborhood on the Google map

The privacy of home is private no more.

Internet superpower this month added the Charlotte metro area -- including much of York and Lancaster counties-- to the Street View version of its popular Google Maps Web site.

Type in your address, and a full-color, 360-degree panoramic photo of your neighborhood pops up. You couldn't take a much better photo if you stood in the street and pointed a digital camera at your abode.

The program allows users to virtually move along streets, viewing traffic, homes, pedestrians and anything else in sight. It's like a video game combined with a map.

Street View images were compiled by a periscope-like camera atop a small car that has patrolled public streets and taken pictures since last fall. The photos were woven together to make a photographic map of the area.

Google has blurred the faces of the people who were caught on film, after a public outcry last year, when the first cities were made available on the site.

But there are still plenty of interesting local pictures: Type in Promenade Walk in Fort Mill and you'll see a man planting grass in front of his house. View the map of Indian Land High School and part of Doby's Bridge Road. Nearly every public street in Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Indian Land, Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, York and Clover is online. Even parts of the area's rural communities are available.

Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said that when the company adds a new area to the site, it tries to include the surrounding communities, too.

"We try to add coverage from the entire metropolitan area," she said, "not just the core downtown."

Columbia and Greenville are the only other two South Carolina areas online, although Google officials plan to one day have the entire country on Street View.

A decade or two ago, Americans may have been leery of detailed photos of their homes on the Internet. But in today's culture, where satellite imagery of your backyard -- though not very detailed -- is only a mouse click away, and all the photos were taken from public streets, Google Street View has received a rather warm welcome.

"Sounds pretty neat to me," said Loretta Romeo before joining her husband for dinner at Baxter Village on Monday.

The retired Fort Mill couple said the idea of having their home published online for all to see isn't such a scary thought. "Our house is already on," she commented, referring to the popular real estate Web site with photos of many homes.

Ann Shaver, a 24-year-old server at Beef 'O' Brady's, said the map might raise security concerns for some people, but she said it will be little more than a novelty for most.

"It has its ups and downs. I guess if you live in a nice neighborhood, you might worry about robbers checking things out," Shaver said.

"But it's just pictures. It's not real time, like a satellite. I think it sounds pretty cool."

See for yourself

To see the map, visit the Web site Type in a valid address and click the "Street View" tab.