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Google Street View 'ghosts' recreated by street artist

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An artist has taken inspiration from the people captured for eternity by search engine giant Google for a new street art project.

New York-based Paolo Cirio created the 'Street Ghosts' project, after taking inspiration from the often blurry images of people captured by the Street View car as it photographs the world's cities and towns for Google Maps.

Google Street View 'ghosts' recreated by street artist


After printing low-resolution, human scale posters of individuals shown on Street View, the artist placed them in the exact physical spot where they were originally captured by the car.

Alongside New York City, the images have also been placed in Berlin, and London, with more cities planned for the future.

The images do not offer any details of the people, but rather bring a "gauzy, spectral aspect to the human figures, unveiling their presence like a digital shadow haunting the real world", Cirio says.

In a statement on the Street Ghosts website, he explains that he wanted to explore the issue of private information, such as someone's likeness, being put on public display.

"The collections of data that Google and similar corporations have become the material of everyday life, yet their source is the personal information of private individuals," Cirio adds.

"By remixing and reusing this material, I artistically explore the boundaries of ownership and exposure of this publicly displayed, privately-held information about our personal lives."

Cirio says that the ghostly human bodies appear as the "casualties of the info-war in the city, a transitory record of collateral damage from the battle between corporations, governments, civilians and algorithms".

Google has been criticised for the invasion of privacy with its Street View project, including allegations that it harvested data from unsecured home wireless networks as the car passed by using a software programme.

The search engine giant uses a facial blurring algorithm for all people shown on Street View images, but Cirio notes that the rest of the bodies, hair and clothes is "more than enough" to identify people.

On the Street Ghosts website, he accuses Google of being a "giant social parasite that resells us what was collectively created by people's activity and money".

"Google appropriates the social labour we perform by constituting the public; simply by investing the city with social meaning, we unintentionally provide value for Google to capture," he adds.

"This Street Art intervenes by confronting the public with the aesthetic qualities of the data they didn't even know they were alienating, and forces them to reckon with the possibility of their own image appearing as ghostly slaves trapped in a digital world forever."

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