New York’s Long Island uses Google to collect $75,000 in fines

Well this definitely has to be one of the more interesting uses of Google Earth, but apparently authorities in New York’s Long Island have been using Google Earth to track down people who have not had the proper permits for building those backyard swimming pools.

The report from the Wall Street Journal tells how the officials in the town of Riverhead used the satellite images and careful research to find 250 pools that had been built without proper permits. This allowed the town officials to levy fines totaling $75,000.

Riverhead’s chief building inspector Leroy Barnes Jr. said the unpermitted pools were a safety concern. He said that without the required inspections there was no way to know whether the pools’ plumbing, electrical work and fencing met state and local regulations.

“Pool safety has always been my concern,” Barnes said.

But some privacy advocates say the use of Google Earth to find scofflaw swimming pools reeks of Big Brother.

Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., said Google Earth was promoted as an aid to curious travelers but has become a tool for cash-hungry local governments.

“The technology is going so far ahead of what people think is possible, and there is too little discussion about community norms,” she said.

Google hasn’t responded to questions regarding any concerns they might have about the service being used this way.