Recently, while reading about housing grants, I ran across the term Windshield Survey. As I had with so many other unfamiliar terms that morning, I googled it. What I found left me so incredulous that I ran it past someone I know who has been writing housing grants for years. She confirmed it: a Windshield Survey is when government representatives (usually County level or below) drive around, taking pictures and notes of what they see.
Typically they're looking for evidence of substandard or out-of-code buildings, gathering evidence to support their petitions for funding or for potential participants in rehabilitation programs. While I appreciate their good intentions, this idea seriously creeps me out... because the information rarely stops with them.
Once government (at any level) has information, it begins to travel. Reports on out-of-code housing work their way to the ears of code enforcement officials, leading to citations and demands for costly clean up or repair work. They reach social works in the school system who start paying attention to your kids, looking for other evidence that things may not be well and opening up entirely new cans of worms.
"Higher income" homeowners find their properties being reevaluated to make sure they're paying enough in taxes and that recent improvements to the property were properly cleared with the local government and inspected, sometimes leading to extensive fees, fines and even forced replacement of or changes to finished work for the most inane of things - unapproved fence styles, expansion of a deck a single foot further than allowed, etc.
The good news is that government officials of any kind are not allowed on your property unless you invite them. Which means that a simple privacy fence or hedge can dramatically reduce their visual access to your domain.
Because its summer, our property is almost entirely invisible from the road. When winter comes, however, the foliage will die back and we'll be much more visible. Although where we live is unlikely to experience windshield surveys, we're discussing the possibility of putting evergreens in along the roadway to eliminate the need to worry about such things altogether.
I know that not everyone is as possessive about their privacy as I am. I understand that extroverts often highly value visually open property and the possibilities it opens up for unplanned interaction and easy-flowing parties. But I believe everyone has the right to know that this kind of thing goes on and to protect themselves if they so desire.
Oh, and while you're at it, think about putting a gate across your driveway... Now that we've experienced having one, I'll never be without one again!