June 30, 2010 -- When Claire Rowlands, a 25-year-old mother from the U.K., checked out Google Street View recently, she didn't just see an image of her grandmother's garden, she saw a picture of her 3-year-old toddler wearing nothing but his shoes.
Though the search engine giant had blurred out the registration plate of a nearby car in the driveway, the image of her naked son Louis was left untouched, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported.
"I just felt sick to my stomach when I saw the naked picture of Louis on the Internet," Rowlands, who lives down the street from her grandmother in Walkden, Greater Manchester in the U.K., told the Daily Mail. "I'm angry, disgusted and upset about it -- they should be checking every image before it goes up. He was just playing in the garden and we didn't expect in a million years he'd have his picture taken and put on the Internet for anyone to see."
Soon after the company was alerted to the photo, a Google spokeswoman told ABCNews.com that it was replaced with an image that blurs out the child from the waist down.
"We certainly understand that photos like this can be very sensitive and concerning," she said, adding that Google has tools in place that let people flag images that they think are inappropriate or sensitive. Once the images are brought to the company's attention, the images are taken down as quickly as possibly -- which can range from within a few hours of the reports to a few days.
Another Google spokeswoman told the Daily Mail that the photo was replaced within an hour of being flagged.
Google has come under fire for Street View images before. In 2008, a Pittsburgh couple sued the company, claiming that Street View was an invasion of their privacy. The couple claimed the company trespassed when it collected images on their private road. In 2009, a district court in Pennsylvania dismissed the case, but in January, a federal appeals court revived part of the case.
Privacy groups in Europe have repeatedly questioned Street View's approach to privacy.
The mapping application has also generated some Internet buzz for presenting the occasional offbeat image.
Last week, the blogosphere lit up when a mysterious man with a horse's head -- dubbed "Horse Boy" -- surfaced on a image from a street in Aberdeen, Scotland. In May 2009, a British man was photographed taking his 10-foot boa for a walk along a quiet Norwich, U.K., street.
But despite the claims of privacy invasion and the peculiar pictures that sometimes pop up on Google's mapping applications, Google Street View, Google Earth and Google Maps have also supplied virtual travelers with a bounty of real and imaginary geographic wonders.
Take a look at a few of them below:
Man Walking His Snake
Leon Kidd, 25, was photographed carrying his 10-foot boa Nibblez along a road in Norwich last summer, the U.K.'s Telegraph reported last May. Norwich is one of 25 U.K. cities included in Google Street View, which lets users see cities and neighborhoods virtually from their computers.
Kidd, who owns five snakes, told the Telegraph that walking his boa is regular activity.
"I take her out nearly every day in summer in Earlham Park," he said. "A lot of people are surprised, others are curious and ask if they can touch her. She loves being taken out, especially going in the grass."
"I didn't even notice I was being photographed by the Google car," he said. "Then about three weeks ago my cousin phoned me and said I was in the newspaper."
Heart-Shaped Lakes and 10-Foot Snakes
Arizona's Oprah Maze
She's one of the biggest stars on the planet, so it only makes sense that she has a special place in Google Earth, too. Arizona's Schnepf Farms carves a maze with the outline of a famous person into its 10-acre cornfield each year around Halloween. Larry King, Jay Leno and Steve Nash are among the celebrities who have been recognized in this way. In 2004, Oprah Winfrey was the farm's celebrity of choice.
Google's Frank Taylor and Google Sightseeing's James Turnbull said there's a lot of love on Google Earth. They've compiled whole collections of heart-shaped things seen from space, as well as a handful of visible marriage proposals. This heart-shaped lake in Ohio is just one of several like it found by members of the Google Earth community.
Firefox Crop Circles
In a bid to generate some PR buzz for the Web browser in 2006, some Firefox fans made a gigantic Firefox logo in a crop field. According to the Google Earth blog, the project involved significant planning, building of the crop stompers, GPS devices and a helicopter (to capture the aerial photo). This crop circle is one of a large collection of crop circles visible through Google Earth.
Jesus in the Sand Dunes
In 2005, the Google Earth blogs were chattering about reports of the face of Jesus in Peruvian sand dunes. Some say they don't see the resemblance to Jesus Christ, but others still wonder about the origins of the hazy image.
Googling for Gold
Los Angeles musician Nathan Smith believes a 19th century Spanish galleon laden with gold and silver is buried on a ranch in south Texas. He is convinced he found its location using Google Earth.
The only problem now? If the ship does exist, it is buried on private property.
The family that owns the land doesn't want anyone digging up their property for a ship no one has proved even exists.
Citing Maritime Law, on Land
"It has been my experience, more times than not, a legend like this, there is some basis of truth," Smith said. "Because it has been around long enough that they have named it Barkentine Creek. That alone makes me think that there was, or is, something buried out there."
A barkentine is a kind of sailing ship.
Smith has brought the landowners to federal court in a case titled Smith vs. Abandoned Ship, and has argued he has the right under maritime law to dig up a ranch he doesn't own looking for a ship no one is sure exists.
Lost City of Atlantis?
Using the latest version of Google Earth, which allows users to peer under the sea, a British engineer believed he spotted the lost city of Atlantis off the coast of Africa, about 600 miles from the Canary Islands.
The image on Google Earth appears to show a grid-like pattern, which some have said resembles a planned city.
The ancient city was first mentioned by the Greek philosopher Plato, and legend holds it sank into the sea. The exact location of the city, and whether such a place even existed, has obsessed treasure hunters for centuries.
Google, however, had a much less exciting explanation for the undersea pattern.
"It's true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth, including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an ancient Roman villa," a statement from Google read. "In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process.
"Bathymetric [or sea-floor terrain] data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor," the statement added. "The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data."
In the summer, Google Earth helped British teenagers start a new craze: pool dipping. The cunning teens used Google Earth to find homes with pools and then organized pool parties using social networking sites. This led a police representative to tell the U.K. Telegraph, "We are advising owners of swimming pools to be on their guard and extra vigilant. We would also warn prospective swimmers that using someone else's pool is trespassing and therefore illegal."