Google's Street View shows European images
Search engine provider Google has taken pictures of the entire route of the Tour de France and published them in its Street View service. The cycle race started yesterday, and as developer Daniel Ratner writes in Google's weblog, internet users will be able to follow each of the 21 stages from a pedestrian's viewpoint.
This is the first time the internet service provider has published European images in Street View, which has so far only offered street views of cities in the US. Images from Berlin may be next to appear, as Berlin daily Tagesspiegel has reported that vehicles equipped with special cameras have been seen around the city. In May it became known that Google intends to incorporate full photographic views of German cities.
For data protection, the images are to be processed with special software to blur people's faces or vehicle registrations. According to the weblog entry this technique was also used for the Tour de France images,.
Introduced in May 2007, the Street View service now shows views from around 40 US cities. Shortly after its launch, the service was already criticised for revealing more private details than people preferred. Concerns were also raised about possible security risks. In Canada, the responsible data protection officer was concerned about possible violations of the privacy of photographed persons. Google's data protection specialist Peter Fleischer has already responded to her concerns and assured the officer that his company will respect the applicable data protection principles in every country where it plans to provide street views.
According to a report in the German Focus magazine, European Data Protection Supervisor officer Peter Hustinx intends to examine Street View. In May, Hustinx commented on Fleischer's answer to the Canadian data protection officer. He said that if Street View can satisfy Canadian privacy regulations this indicates that the software can be adapted to the respective country's legislation. According to the officer, European data protection agencies have already strongly advised Google and other search engine providers to adhere to the European laws on data protection.
According to the BBC, camera cars are also already taking pictures of UK roads. While faces are to be blurred, just as they are in the Australian images, UK organisation Privacy International has voiced concerns about the technology and has asked Google to provide more detailed information about it. Should Google fail to respond within a week, Privacy International will ask the UK Information Commissioner's Office to take action against Street View displaying UK images.