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Google’s StreetView all set to image India

Bangalore, India: Google Inc. launched a fleet of cars to capture street images to create its online mapping in India. However, the Internet giant is under fire from several overseas governments for invading privacy through StreetView.

The company said the drivers of the StreetView vehicles will photograph streets in the southern Indian city of Bangalore and that the service will eventually cover the rest of the country. It didn’t give any specific timeframe on when the images will be available on StreetView.

StreetView is already available in 27 countries. The feature, available on Google Maps, has become popular as it allows users to virtually explore and navigate a neighbourhood through panoramic street-level images.

In a bid to protect privacy, the vehicles will capture images of public places alone and blur out faces of people as well as vehicle licence plates to make them unidentifiable, said Vinay Goel, Google India product head.

The company will accommodate requests from users to additionally blur any images that feature them and it will take several months before images go live on the search engine, he added.

Google came under intense scrutiny from several western governments last year after its StreetView vehicles inadvertently collected email addresses, passwords and other personal information from Wi-Fi networks. The search giant, which launched the StreetView services in 2007, had been collecting and keeping such data since then. Google had apologised for what it said was a mistake and shut down its StreetView Wi-Fi collection soon after an internal investigation discovered it in mid-2010. The company was investigated by authorities in Australia, Germany, Spain, Italy and New Zealand on this issue.

Source: Wall Street Journal