“We saw it earlier. We were like, ‘Man, what is that?’” he said. “I didn’t know what it was.”
"It" was sort of a three-dimensional symbol of the online world: a Google Street View car, which sports a camera perched a few feet above its roofline so that it can take 360-degree photographs from the streets of Jacksonville neighborhoods.
The images Google Street View puts online include those of private homes, businesses and even people walking along the street.
Cheatham said he was not familiar with Google Street View, but could imagine the positives and negatives of the service.
“It can help people out with finding an actual location,” he said, explaining Street View can go beyond what services like MapQuest do by offering a picture of the destination.
“A con is if somebody that wants to do some dirt on somebody, they can know exactly where they live,” Cheatham added.
Eric Key tweeted a picture of the car later Tuesday afternoon while it was stopped on the north side of JSU’s Stone Performing Arts Center.
“She was pulled over and on the phone. Getting her bearings, I guess,” he said of the car’s driver. “You can’t see her in the picture, but she’s actually smiling.”
Key added that when he lived in California, he saw Google’s Street View cars everywhere. This is the first time he has seen one in Jacksonville.
“You would think that we aren’t important enough,” he said. “But it proves that wrong.”
This is not the first time Google Street View has photographed in Calhoun County, but it does appear to be an expansion of Jacksonville coverage. Street View currently covers most of the area’s highways and major roads, with more concentrated coverage in the Saks, Anniston and Oxford areas. However, much of the Jacksonville area does not yet appear in Street View, aside from the square and Pelham Road.
Jacksonville resident Steve Rogers spotted the car two weeks ago in LaGrange, Ga.
“It looks like a Ford Escape with a Google thing on it with a camera that looks like a big disco ball,” he described, adding he uses Street View on occasion. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s how they do it.’”
In an email, a representative from the Google Press Team said the company is not able to provide information about Street View cars in the U.S. or any specific region at any given time. The representative was able to say the cars re-drive areas every few years to refresh their imagery in order to provide users with the most accurate and helpful maps possible.
Bruce Edmiston, owner of the newly-renovated 16 Jacksonville Square, said he is glad Google Street View is updating the images.
“The building looked old in the old Street View picture,” he said. “It should look better now. If it gives us a new street view, that’d be a plus.”
Sheldon Smith is originally from Habersham County, Ga., but has lived in Jacksonville for about four years. He spotted the Street View car the last time it surveyed the area.
“I saw it around here about a year, maybe a year and a half ago,” he said.
Smith added he has used Street View to help plan vacations.
“It was kind of neat to go at the Street View level and figuring out how close the house was to the beach,” he said. At the same time, I think there are some privacy concerns ... I think being able to see someone’s house has the potential to be abused.”
Jeremy Joubran echoed Smith’s thoughts on the service.
“I think it’s nice ... I think they should do it to an extent,” he said.
Joubran added he thinks Google should edit out identifying or personal markers and information, especially in photographs of personal residences.
“If somebody has a kid in the yard, they should edit that out,” he said, giving an example.
Tina Thomas lives in Anniston, but manages Jillybean’s Cupcakes and Ice Cream in Jacksonville. She said she had never heard of Google Street View, but did not like the idea of it.
“I have concerns about privacy,” she said. “I’m a very private person.”
Amy Daley, however, felt the opposite. Although Daley believes Bing’s Streetside, a similar service, is better, she said she has frequently used Street View.
“I love it,” she said. “Anytime we’ve moved ... we’ve always looked at Google Street View to see the area.”
Staff writer Sara Milledge: 256-235-3549. On Twitter @SMilledge_Star.