Google Street View approved in Israel

By
August 22, 2011 17:07

Rights groups say the new service could erode privacy.

3 minute read.



Google Street View car

Google Street View car 311. (photo credit:Wikicommons)

The Justice Ministry announced on Monday its decision to allow the controversial Google Street View service to run in Israel.

A function of Google’s existing maps service, Street View allows users to view panoramic street level photographs of city streets and other locations in the country.

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Users can use the photographs to see what a particular location looks like, as if they were actually standing at that spot.

Google Street View was first introduced in 2007, and is now operating in over 30 countries including the US, UK and Australia. However, security concerns meant that Israel held back from allowing the technology to be introduced.

Only after lengthy negotiations with Google did the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority (ILITA), part of the Justice Ministry, agree to roll out the service here.

ILITA had sharply criticized Google in the past for rolling out the technology before privacy concerns had been addressed.

To produce the images that make up Street View, for example, Google uses vehicles that drive down streets taking millions of digital photographs and recording location data using sophisticated technology.

These images and data are transferred to a database held in the USA, which is outside Israel’s jurisdiction.

Under the agreement ILITA has reached with Google, however, Israeli citizens will be able to file civil litigation against Google regarding the company’s Israeli operations, via Google Israel, the Internet giant’s local branch.

Under the same agreement, Google Israel will provide an online service for Israelis to opt out of the service by demanding that Google blur all images of their homes, license plates and themselves.

Google also agreed that the cars used to take the millions of digital photographs will be clearly marked so that residents can recognize them as they pass along the streets.

Yoram Hacohen, the head of ILITA, said that the agreement with Google will allow Street View to operate while safeguarding the Israeli public’s right to privacy.

“The public hearing conducted by Minister Michael Eitan in the Public Participation website indicated the public support of introducing the service to Israel, alongside concerns relating to privacy,” Hacohen said.

“Our purpose was to provide the public with substantive and legal recourse in Israel for any problem or complaint that may arise, and I am happy to say that Google took seriously our requirements and that its cooperation enabled this authorization.”

Hacohen also noted that the agreement reached with Google is in line with standards in other countries which have a high level of data protection.

However, Google Street View has caused considerable controversy in numerous countries, including the US and EU, where Google has been accused of invading citizens’ privacy.

Immediately after the ILITA’s announcement that Google Street View will operate in Israel, rights groups slammed the decision.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the service could erode citizens’ privacy.

ACRI spokeswoman Dana Bar said that while the service did allow people to navigate the streets more easily, it could pose a threat.

“It is a shame that the Justice Ministry has failed to learn from the bad experiences European countries have had with this service,” Bar said. “There, people have already understood that regulation cannot protect their citizens from large multinational corporations.”

ACRI pointed out that Google’s Street View service is facing a large class-action suit in the US for alleged wiretapping.

A Silicon Valley Federal Judge said in June that the Internet giant can be held liable for damages for using sophisticated packet-sniffing technology to intercept private data via Wi-Fi routers belonging to private citizens.

According to the Associated Press, plaintiffs in the case allege that Google’s Street View cars had illegally collected around 600 gigabytes of private data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

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