Did Google Cross a Moral Line?

JR - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 3:46 p.m. ET

There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere today about the role of PR in the modern tech world. Well, here’s a case where a company may need it — albeit, in a very different sense.

A Google Street View driver snapped a shot of a drunken man passed out in the street in Australia. The photo made its way onto the service, and now the story is making its way around the Internet.

In a nutshell, the driver didn’t stop.

He passed a man lying in the street, not moving — snapped a photo, and kept going.


Thankfully, the guy’s okay. But it sure didn’t look like he was when that photo was snapped.

For what it’s worth, the man tells the UK’s Daily Mail his friend had just died, and he had had too much to drink as a result. He’s not planning to file an official complaint.

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The scenario raises an interesting question that comes up often in the world of journalism: Did the driver have a responsibility to get involved? If we consider the driver a “photojournalist” of sorts, should he have stopped his job and stepped in? It’s something I’ve heard discussed in plenty of newsrooms over the years.

Sure, the general mantra is that a journalist never gets involved — he’s an invisible party, just observing and reporting the facts. Getting involved could change the story.

With that being said, any reasonable journalist will tell you that if a person’s life is in danger, and they’re in a unique position to help, they would drop their camera and do it in a heartbeat. Now, I’m not talking about being at a fire where rescuers are doing the job. I’m talking about being — well, on an empty street where a guy is lying in the road helpless and potentially in grave danger. That man could have died from alcohol poisoning or been hit by a car.

I, for one, am shocked to see that Google’s Street View driver didn’t stop to help — or, at the very least, make a quick call to 911 to get someone there who could. It’s immoral, and just plain embarrassing. Forget whether the driver was a photojournalist, a technician, or a graphic artist. He was also a human being — and sometimes, that has to come first.


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