Following long deliberations, the Israeli Justice Ministry has allowed Google to feature panoramic views from various positions along Israel’s streets in its Street View service.
The service, which has been largely criticized for invading privacy, displaying shocking sights and criminal intent, allows users to navigate through a panoramic display of city streets as if they are actually walking on those streets.
Every country is sensitive regarding its resident’s safety and privacy. Google’s image system is prepared to handle these concerns, automatically blurring license plates and people’s faces.
The sensitivity issue is even higher in Israel, which fears terrorists will use the Google system to plan attacks. For this reason, the Justice Ministry has approved the service subject to a number of understandings, including the delegation of legal authority on Google Israel to make it possible to sue the company in Israel, and a request for transparency, obligating Google to provide detailed clarifications on the essence of the service and requests to blur images and property.
The clarifications will be published both on the Internet and in print. The Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority views Google Street as an “information bank”, and therefore the service is subject to clear rules in terms of data protection and transparency.
Google, on its part, will operate its famous fleet of specially adapted cars under “strict” standards. Sensitive facilities will not be filmed and photos invading individuals’ privacy will likely not be included in the service.
There is no other service that has been causing so much trouble for Google. In 2010, technicians in Google’s street cars in Europe were accused of collecting data from unsecured WiFi networks. Google claimed the information was collected erroneously, but was hit with a €100,000 ($145,000) fine by France’s privacy watchdog.
In addition, the blurring of faces as part of the service was only implemented after long legal battles.
This discussion is particularly embarrassing for Google, as it presents the company as a clear enemy of privacy. And yet, the discussion on citizens’ right to privacy in public areas is not that simple. Just think about celebrities, who are forced to deal with paparazzi cameras.
Even if Google does obey Israel’s stricter rules, it should be noted that the principles the company is driven by and its interests do not always match local interests. For example, check out the satellite map of Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street on Google Maps, which clearly displays the Kirya military base.