The mystery of Google Street View's blurred Brooklyn brownstone

Why would a whole residential building in Brooklyn be blurred on Google's famed site? Do the residents have something to hide? Is a cast member from "Girls" visible?

What lurks behind this suspicious blurring? Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

We've all had shifty neighbors.

The sort who don't say "hello." The sort who have strange visitors late at night who come on bicycles.

I have been that sort of neighbor once or twice. However, I've never thought to blur the entirety of my house out on Google Street View.

Yet this is what the occupants of 291 Clermont Avenue, Brooklyn, seem to have done.

I was alerted to this phenomenon by Gothamist, which exposed its own perplexed state to Google. Gothamist had noticed a thread on Reddit featuring this house.

Google would give only a canned response:

We automatically blur faces and license plates that appear in Street View, and also provide an easy-to-use reporting tools so that people can ask for images of their house, car, or themselves to be further obscured. They can simply click on 'Report a problem' on the bottom left-hand side of the Street View image to submit a request that our team will review and take action upon as needed. In this case, we likely received a request from the person living here to blur their home.

Note the use of the word "likely."

This clearly allows for the possibility of the unlikely. Which allows for one to speculate what might be happening in what looks like another relatively chi-chi brownstone.

Public records suggest that this building is a walk-up with three family apartments. Trulia offers that there is an apartment available inside for an utterly bargain $1,875 per month.

But I wish less to snoop into the residents' lives and more to speculate on what might have driven them to this highly assertive action.

Clearly, initial speculation will focus upon the idea that there might have been evidence of nudity, infidelity, gross inebriation, or simply a cast member from "Girls" visible when Google's highly focused drivers came by.

I prefer to think that this blurring is based on some sort of principle.

It may be that the residents got together and decided they would simply make a public statement about how they would prefer to live their lives.

It may well be that they are neo-hipsters who are fighting against a generation's mentality that self-exposure and so-called sharing represent the natural state of humanity.

There are surely so many peculiar people living in Brooklyn that this would be entirely possible.

I have one other flighty hypothesis, however. It is a simple one.

This building may harbor German residents.

The practice of blurring out whole homes on Google Street View is entirely natural in Germany .

Those not enamored with bathing constantly in public waters were delighted when Google's own headquarters in Munich were blurred out by one of the other occupants of its office building .

Could it be that one of the apartments in 291, Clermont Avenue, Brooklyn, harbors a principled Teuton who encouraged the other residents to take a stand?

There again, Germany has also been home for other reasons why Google Street View might deserve to be blurred.

Who could ever forget the apparently naked man in the trunk of his own Mercedes in Mannheim, Germany?

 

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