Cars, tricycles fitted with high-resolution cameras begin scanning tech city Bengaluru
Google has launched its online mapping service ‘Street View’ in India.
Special cameras mounted on cars and tricycles have begun gathering 360-degree detailed photographs in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India’s technology hub. The photographs will be processed and collated to provide a panoramic view of the city in the service.
The service first started in the US in 2007 and is now in operation in over 25 countries. However, Google run into trouble repeatedly, including hefty fines, with several governments in Europe over privacy concerns.
In the UK, in April 2009, the service was given the go-ahead by Information Commissioner Office (ICO). The UK’s data security watchdog turned down over 70 complaints over concerns of privacy against the then one-month old service. However, the ICO had ruled that Google must blur the images of people’s faces or number plates on the service. It had also said that it will monitor closely to make sure Google responds quickly to deletion requests and complaints.
In November 2010, the ICO ruled that Google committed a "significant breach of the Data Protection Act" when its Street View cars collected personal information while mapping the UK’s streets. However, Google escaped a fine after admitting and apologising for collecting data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, without consent.
This year in March, French regulators fined Google €100,000 ($142,000) for collecting private data over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks without the knowledge of users for its map service Street View. The Commission nationale de l’information et des libertes (CNIL) accused the search engine company of collecting private data such as e-mail exchanges and passwords without informing the users about it. It was the first time a regulator had fined Google for a privacy breach and the fine was the largest the French regulator has issued to date. Google admitted the error and apologised for it.
And finally, in April, the service, which Google claims will help "urban development planners, law enforcement agencies, house-hunters, and travellers", faced another roadblock, this time in Switzerland. A swiss Federal Administrative Court asked Google to make pictures in its Street View service unrecognisable, after data protection commissioner Hanspeter Thuer complained that the service breached privacy rules. The court said, "The defendants must make all faces and number plates unrecognisable before the pictures can be published on the Internet." The court added that the interest of the public in having a visual record and the commercial interests of the defendants in no way outweigh the rights over one’s own image, as the pictures can be made more or totally unrecognisable, and this is a proportionate measure.
Earlier this month, Google said it would appeal against the Swiss ruling.
Briefing reporters about the Street view service in India, Google India chief Vinay Goel said Street View complies with local laws related to security and privacy in India.
He said, "Street View is designed to comply with all local laws including those related to security and privacy in India."
The company said that people with privacy concerns can complain.
A Google spokeswomen told AFP, "We have got permission from Bangalore [Bengaluru] police, and are in touch with state and central governments."
"We want to map all of the city, but anyone can complain if they are unhappy about coverage."
Google said that images would be made accessible after the data is processed.
Street View in India plans to scan images of important monuments and tourist spots as well, said Goel, however he declined to provide details about expansion plans of the service in India.