Funeral Spotting on Google Earth

by MSO

Here's an image from Google Earth of a funeral that was taking place in Nottingham, England.

When Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin brought Keyhole Inc., a software company that was funded by the CIA, they thought it was fascinating and they realized its potential and how it would change the way we view the Earth. They rebranded the software as Google Earth and introduced it in 2005. All of a sudden, the world was available on your computer with aerial and satellite images of all its nooks and crannies. One of the first things people did when the imagery becameĀ  available was to hone in on their childhood homes and haunts with excitement to check out the old neighborhoods where they grew up. The ability to become Peeping Toms from the safety and comfort of our homes trumped any issues of privacy.

With Google Earth you can choose from a selection of layers that can be overlaid on the primary map. Want to see what bars and clubs are available in an area? Then select that overlay and see where they are all located and then get closer and closer and closer. There are numerous overlays of place categories from which to choose.

This has spawned a new online genre called Google Earth spotting. Sites have been set up where people post shots from Google Earth that fall into a certain category – plane spotting, volcano spotting, wrong car in the driveway spotting etc. and now there’s even funeral spotting.

One of the layer options available in Google Earth’s place categories is cemeteries and this has triggered a number of websites that are aimed at catching a funeral in progress on Google Earth. A picture of family and friends gathered around a gravesite, with the hearse and other vehicles is a real coup for players in the online funeral spotting game.

Depending on data availability, aerial and satellite images are updated every two weeks on Google Earth, so like all Google Earth spotting, coming upon a funeral happens by chance. A satellite took an image of a cemetery at the time a funeral was in progress and then someone, somewhere found that image at one of the hundreds of thousands of cemeteries in the world on Google Earth and posted it. There’s really nothing you can do about it though, Google is legally allowed to capture imagery from public locations regardless of how private the moment may be.


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