Since 2007, Google Street View has been documenting the paved world. We have become dependent on Google’s searchable mapping, and as many cartographers before it, Google has provided new insight into what the geography of our world is really like—at the street level. Expanding our vision even further, Google has opted to take Street View off the “beaten path”, allowing us to intimately view things we might never have expected to. The Street View car and its on-foot counterpart, the “trekker”, have now been into the White House, up to the Everest base camp, and underwater to the Great Barrier Reef.

This expansion of Street View isn’t limited to the exploration of natural beauty. This past year, Canada announced Google’s partnership with Polar Bear International, in which Google street view cameras mounted on all-terrain vehicles explored the Churchill region, home to the world’s largest polar bear community. With this particular endeavor, Google is reportedly trying to make real change, to great acclaim within the scientific community. The pursuit of real-time research into the effects of climate change on a delicate ecosystem is something Google sees as being of utmost importance, and as Google’s project leader in the Arctic puts it, “to save the polar bears, you’ve got to save the sea ice. To save the sea ice, you’ve got to save the environment.” Beyond Churchill, Google is taking its crusade to save the natural world to Denali, the Amazon, and Antarctica.

Google also still has corners of the world to explore that are populated by more than bears. For a country like Mongolia, which sees itself as finally making its way onto the international stage, the arrival of the Google Street View “trekker” is cause for pride and celebration. According to the UB Post, the trekker was seen on June 12th filming the Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Equestrian Statue. Officially according to Google, the majority of Asia remains un-covered by their cameras.

It would seem that with Google’s dedication to the spread of natural and cultural imagery should be cause for celebration. Yet, while saving polar bears and spreading natural beauty around the world all sound wonderful, a recent Supreme Court investigation has marred the project's image. Earlier this year, Google was sued for abusing the trust of the public by secretly using the Street View car to collect people’s personal information, including email and passwords, through wiretapping. Before the U.S. investigation began, Google had already been caught collecting German citizen’s data while recording street imagery there. When questioned by the German authorities, they claimed that the practice had been entirely accidental. Google tried to make largely the same apology to the U.S. government this summer, and also pointed out that technically, WI-FI transmissions weren’t covered by wire-tapping laws. At present, it stands that Google is claiming innocence in this accusation, and, as they have rejected Google’s appeal, the Supreme Court appears not to believe them.

This case has unsettling ramifications; Google potentially has access to any information transmitted by the millions of WI-FI routers in the proximity of Google Cars over the past seven years. Whatever the ruling, this investigation’s outcome will likely have real impact on the future of Google and other swiftly developing tech companies like it. If this wiretapping was intentional, we’re going to have to rethink how much information we entrust to corporations like Google; and with Google’s release of new technology like Nest, it’s acquisition of information about our lives isn’t likely to slow down. On the other hand, if Google’s claim to innocence is true, we are still not off the hook, as it means that others with less pure intentions could gather information about us as easy as “accidentally”.

There is no denying that Google's Street View is quite powerful. The ability to give people what feels like first-hand access to remote and beautiful places is not insignificant, nor is the ability to further scientific research. Our generation has access to an amazing amount as a result of swiftly developing tech companies like Google, but this recent finding by the Supreme Court is a reminder of how important it is to tread carefully into uncharted territory. As the Street View Car—and Google by extension—continues to expand its reach across the globe and across our lives, we seem to be leaving ourselves exposed to attack by a potential enemy the majority of us don’t really understand. Convenience, beauty and knowledge in a user-friendly interface are great things, which undoubtedly add value to our lives. However, this recent Supreme Court finding is just one chapter in the technology vs. privacy debate, and continues to remind us that it would wise to investigate the hidden costs behind some of the amazing technological developments of our generation.