Google Street View Respects Cow’s Privacy, Blurs Its Face


Google Street View, a function of Google Maps that allows users to zoom in on sites all over the world to see panoramic views of places from the ground, is serious about privacy, blurring license plates, people, some buildings, and, apparently, cows.

On Monday, the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari tweeted photo evidence.

In the photo, the cow’s face is totally blurred, raising the obvious question: Does this cow look more human than other cows? The cow next to the protected cow did not get the blur treatment, and they both seem to be fully bovine.

According to the BBC, a spokesman for Google said, “We thought you were pulling the udder one when we herd the moos, but it’s clear that our automatic face-blurring technology has been a little overzealous. Of course, we don’t begrudge this cow milking its five minutes of fame.”

A spokesman for the cow said, “Enough with the lame puns.”

Google Street View began experimenting with blurring people’s faces back in 2008. And in 2014, Google was ordered to pay a small amount to a Canadian woman who was upset that Google Street View blurred her face but failed to blur her cleavage.

The revelation about Google’s blurring of this cow’s face comes just days after researchers say attempting to obscure identity online is basically pointless. As Wired reported, researchers from University of Texas at Austin and Cornell Tech say they “trained” software to “undermine the privacy benefits of standard content-masking techniques like blurring and pixelation by learning to read or see what’s meant to be hidden in images.” According to Wired, one of the researchers said anyone with basic technical knowledge would be able to teach software to uncover pixelated or otherwise obscured identities, creating a risk for people—including children, witnesses, or bystanders—whose identities have been obfuscated in photos on the internet.

Cows, though, probably don’t care.