Last summer, Google launched Street View, enabling street-level exploration of parts of New York and Las Vegas from the comfort of our chairs. The virtual landscape was constructed from a collection of panoramic photos, and the areas covered by the service are expanding. But last week, the Daily Mail reported on the arrival of Street View cameras on the streets of Britain by wailing that every one of our front doors is to be photographed.

Apart from this not being true, it implies that Street View is some kind of Google-sponsored exercise in surveillance, rather than an incredibly useful extension to online mapping. "But why do we even need this service?" cry the Luddites; well, how many reasons do you want?

You can become familiar with areas before you visit them; house-hunters can assess a neighbourhood; businesses can embed a picture of their premises on their website alongside directions; it takes the pressure off navigators who struggle with map-reading; and you can see places you used to hang out.

When Google added the route of the Tour de France this week, the fact that it let me glimpse someone standing in their window (www.is.gd/ST1) was irrelevant. Because it's only what I'd see if I actually went for a walk in Guémené-sur-Scorff.

If anything, Google's satellite images probably represent more of a threat to privacy, as gardens and swimming pools can be clearly seen by the general public. But the suggestion that Google's services are some kind of incentive to theft is bizarre.

If any burglars are reading this and are thinking about casing their local area, here's a hint: bigger houses in posh areas tend to contain more worth nicking. You don't need Google to tell you that.

Diagnosis required

Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk, or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic. Currently under discussion: How much is the internet changing the English language?

Comments