Google saves face amidst Street View concerns

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Google saves face amidst Street View concerns

Google announced yesterday that it will begin to use face-blurring technology on its Street View program to alleviate concerns about privacy.

Street View is a Google Maps feature that provides a panoramic, street level glimpse of over 40 U.S. cities and their surrounding suburbs. The people in those areas are usually clearly identifiable.

The new technology, which will blur any human face recorded by Street View cameras, is debuting first on the program’s Manhattan map system.

Since the feature’s launch in May 2007, Google has faced criticism that Street View is an intrusion to privacy.

Tension has risen particularly from areas with harsher privacy laws where Google plans to introduce Street View, like Europe and Canada, though the company promises to honour all local privacy laws.

Last month, a Pennsylvania couple tried to sue Google for putting the image of their house on Street View.

Amidst the trouble, Google has tried to remove all likely offensive images and has allowed people to request that images of themselves, their homes, and their cars be removed.

“At Google, we take our users' privacy very seriously,” said Google product manager Andrew Foster on the Google Australia blog.

“Street View only contains imagery that anyone can already see walking down a public street.”

The facial blurring effort has been a year in the making, and will apply to existing and future Street View cities.

Australia is slated to be the first country outside the U.S. to get Street View sometime before September, and Google says the Australian Privacy Foundation seems to be satisfied so far with their current efforts to protect privacy.
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