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Google On Street View In India: Permissions, Data Collection, Removal

Google India, in an emailed response to MediaNama, has said that the company has taken a formal approval from the traffic department of the Bangalore Police for Google Street View, and will be working with local authorities as Street View expands to other cities; the company declined to disclose which cities it intends expand to, or offer a timeframe, only that “our intension is to cover the whole of India”. We had raised issues related to capturing of WiFi information, personal information published online, and also storing of imagery related to sensitive areas, such as airports, railway stations, bus depots and crowded marketplaces, which are potential terror targets. We had earlier pointed out privacy issues related to Google Street View. A Google spokespersons responses, via email:

WiFi Access Point Information & Data Collection

“No information will be collected regarding WiFi networks or on the availability of any WiFi access points. The collection of WiFi data was actually unrelated to Street View, we just happened to be using the same cars.
As we’ve said before, it was a mistake for us to include code in our software that collected payload data, which is why we reached out to local authorities in the relevant countries to help answer any questions they have. Based on the concerns raised, we decided that it was best to stop our Street View cars collecting WiFi network data entirely and we are not collecting such data in any Street View car drives globally.

You can read more about this on our blog, in a post made by our Senior Vice President for Engineering and Research, Alan Eustace: WiFi data collection: An update.’

Removal of personal information

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If my photograph, or information of my vehicle is stored on Google Street view, how do I get it removed? Google has this to say: “It’s very easy to remove images from Street View. If a user finds an image that they consider objectionable they can report it by clicking on ‘Report a problem’ in the bottom left hand corner of the Street View image. Here there is an easily accessible link to report inappropriate imagery. Once the claim is verified, the image is removed.

Street View primarily features imagery taken on public property. This imagery is not available in real time and is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street. We also provide easy publicly accessible tools for people to request blurring of inappropriate or sensitive imagery.

For the collection of imagery in privately-owned destinations, we work with property owners and receive permission.”

Note, as an aside, to see at The Next Web: The Best Google Street View Fails, Wins, And WTFs. Should give you an idea of the kind of imagery that street view can collect.

Sensitive Information

Readers might remember that India has previously raised issues about granular imagery made available on Google Earth, and there are bound to be security issues with collection of sensitive information, or even specific market places, especially since India does face terror threats. Google informs us that it does not take “imagery of the inner areas of such locations unless we have the permission of the property owners. What you will see of such public locations is no more than what any member of the public sees whenever they pass by them.”…”Furthermore Street View imagery is not real time and does not show what’s happening on a street today.”

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The spokesperson adds that it is willing to discuss these concerns with public agencies and officials, and it plans its routes “carefully in order to ensure that we do not capture imagery of sensitive locations for which public photography is restricted. The team handling imagery capture for Street View are trained not to take photographs where there are indications that this is prohibited by law, but if mistakes are made we will act quickly to remove the images on being notified.”

Related:

Google To Launch Controversial Street View Project In Bangalore, India

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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