UK Google boss escapes cameras

THE £2m home of the UK head of Google, the internet search engine, is not visible in the company’s new Street View service.

The web function allows users to view photographs of thousands of UK streets and houses, with the option to swivel 360 degrees and zoom in on homes. Continue reading

Google Street View: Privacy campaigners promise legal challenge

Privacy campaigners are to launch a legal challenge against Google’s new Street View service which shows 360-degree photographs of public roads.

Screen grab from Goole Street View: Google Street View: Privacy campaigners promise legal challenge

Google said it has put in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of vehicle registration

The Street View service covers 22,360 miles of roads in 25 cities around the UK. Users can zoom in on images and virtually “walk” streets.

But campaigners claim it violates the right to privacy and could be used to plan crimes.

Simon Davies, of Privacy International, said: “These images are being captured without people’s permission for commercial use, and we believe that it is not legally acceptable.

“They are also putting into place a system for updating these images in the future, and for storing the images digitally where they could be misused.” Google was last year investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office over the plans, but was given the all clear.

The ICO said: “We are satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of vehicle registration marks and the faces of anyone included in Street View images.”

The site uses millions of digital pictures of streets captured using a fleet of cars with 360 degree cameras on their roofs.

Google said it had gone to great lengths to avoid privacy problems.

A spokesman said: “We have software that automatically blurs car numberplates and faces.

“Any user can easily flag images for removal by clicking on a ‘Report a concern’ link. We believe we have addressed all the issues.”

A Better Street View Comes to Canada

  Parts of Canada finally have their own Street View maps, but surprisingly, they didn’t come from Google. Instead, the maps were created in a joint effort between British Columbia-based and San Francisco-based MapJack, two companies that have teamed up to provide the service which Google has yet to bring to Canada. These new Street View maps also have features that the search engine giant doesn’t offer, including a fullscreen mode and views of pedestrian pathways where cars can’t travel.

CanPages Introduces Street View Maps, the Canadian business directory listing service similar to the Yellow Pages in the U.S., is home to the new mapping service where it’s accessed by performing a search on their homepage. After your search results appear, they are accompanied by a traditional map of the business location. At the top of the map, you’ll see an option to select “Street View” from the menu bar when it’s available. You can also click on any of the blue highlighted streets to delve directly into Street View at that particular spot. As with Google’s Street View, you can click on arrows to move forward and backward and there’s even a small cartoon figure that appears on the map for reference.

Although the CanPages’ Street View maps offer many similarities to Google’s, what’s most notable about this launch are the many differences between the two services. For example, all of the CanPages maps have been created using high resolution photography. Google, on the other hand, has only used high-res imagery in a select handful of international cities including San Francisco, Paris, and Seattle.

CanPages’s maps also offer a fullscreen view which you can use to fully immerse yourself into the city scene. However, don’t try to tilt the camera up to the sky – that’s one feature the CanPages maps don’t have – they’re limited when it comes to panning vertically.

Another feature of the new Street View maps is a configuration menu which allows you to customize settings like image sharpness, brightness, quality, and projection or the curved effect. You can also choose to turn on or off additional visual aids, the blue navigation dots, or the grid.

Perhaps the nicest feature, though, is the pedestrian maps. Captured by a team of photographers who traveled on foot with shoulder-mounted cameras, the CanPages maps let you explore parts of cities where cars can’t go. For now, this allows you to travel down pedestrian walkways, but the company hopes to use their unique camera set up in the future to film hotel lobbies, retail stores, shopping malls, and parks.

CanPages also made privacy a priority from the start. When Google launched their service, faces and license plates were plainly visible. Only recently have they responded to people’s concerns and began to blur these images. On the CanPages maps, however, not only are these items blurred, there’s also a link at the bottom-right corner of the map that lets anyone submit concerns about that particular image.

A Better Street View

Considering that Google’s Street View technology has still not made its way to Canada, the CanPages maps provide a good alternative – actually, given the features offered, we could even say they provide a better one. For now, CanPages Street View maps encompass the cities of Vancouver, Whistler, and Squamish (all in British Columbia). The company plans to expand to Toronto and Montreal next, followed then by as much of Canada as possible.

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Written by Sarah Perez