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Google To Launch Controversial Street View Project In Bangalore, India

Google has announced the introduction of Street View for the Indian city of Bangalore, on Google Maps. Street View allows users to zoom-into places on Google Maps and get a 360 degree, street level imagery of the location, as if they were walking down the streets. Google has started the collection process and its street view cars will drive all over the city to capture street images. Once completed, street view will be added to Bangalore on Google Maps on desktop as well as mobile versions. In addition to collecting street images, Google will also feature images from famous places in and around the city. We do not know if the service will be extended to other Indian cities, in the future, but we have requested Google for more information.

Launched in 2007, street view is available for 27 countries, including US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, South Africa and some parts of Europe. However, the service has come under the scanner, a lot of times for privacy breach in many countries.

Privacy Breach Instances

– Google had to introduce blurring of faces, license plates of cars and house numbers, after privacy conerns were raised in many countries. It even hosted dedicated opt-out pages in some countries. At the moment, it allows users to ‘Report a problem’ and request for further blurring or removal of the image.

– On the German authority’s insistence, Google had to allow residents to opt-out of having buildings shown in street view.

– Google’s street-view image collection vehicles were equipped with antennas that collected WiFi data from WiFi networks including SSIDs(name of the networks), MAC addresses (unique ID of a router) and payload data – including information sent and received on open WiFi networks, which might have contained user passwords and e-mails. After giving a rebuttal to the German Data Protection agency, Google admitted its mistake, asked a third party agency to delete the data and decided to stop street view cars from collecting WiFi data.

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– A fine of €100,000 was slapped on Google by France‘s online privacy watchdog, earlier this year for unfair data collection from WiFi networks, through street view.

– A lawsuit was filed in a federal court in the US state of Oregon , accusing Google of violating Federal privacy and data acquisition laws by collecting information from open WiFi access points, asking the company to pay up upto $10,000 per violation instance.

– The European Union had told the company to warn people before taking pictures for street view and to reduce the length of time that it keeps the images generated by the service.

– The Czech Republic‘s chief data privacy watchdog turned down an application by Google to to collect data for the the Street View service citing public and private privacy concerns.

– After an year of banning the service, Austria allowed Google to offer the street view in April 2011. However, Google does not plan to offer the service in the region, since the Government might demand an opt-out or blurring feature for residents.

We have written to Google India asking them about the kind of information that the service will collect and whether the service will collect information on WiFi access points in India. We will update the post as soon as we hear from them.

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Meanwhile, digging out one one of our old posts, have a read at how The Register exposed privacy issues related to Google Street View.

Image Source: Google India’s Twitter Account

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