Google Street View gets green light

Justice Ministry says Google can operate its map service here.

August 21, 2011 23:35
2 minute read.
A Google office.

Google office 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The Justice Ministry on Sunday gave permission for Google Inc. to operate its Google Street View map service in Israel. Street View offers a panoramic picture of streets and public spaces created by roving vehicles equipped with cameras.

The pictures are accessed through Google Maps. The project has been at the center of a public and legal debate.

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People, vehicles and buildings can be identified in Google’s photographs of streets, thereby raising issues over invasion of privacy, which the Justice Ministry’s Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority discussed. Seventy percent of 5,000 people voted in favor of the service on the government’s services and information portal.

Google Street View affects the privacy of residents in the area of the pictures, the Justice Ministry said Sunday.

“The panoramic photographs of public spaces randomly capture people and other objects that can identify a person, such as motor vehicles’ license plates and residences,” it said.

However, “Google has been operating technology that automatically blurs these and other details for a long time,” it added.

The Law, Information and Technology Authority set a number of conditions for operating Google Street View in Israel, out of concern for the privacy issues and general sensitivity of sites and streets.

The first condition stipulates that even though the service operator is based in the United States and the service’s database will be kept outside the country, the state will be allowed to initiate civil legal proceedings against Google in Israel with regard to the operation of Google Street View.

Secondly, Google will not be able to challenge the Law, Information and Technology Authority’s authority to initiate criminal or administrative proceedings for violation of the law for the operation of Street View in Israel, even though the service is not based in Israel.

Thirdly, and most important, Google Street View will provide the Israeli public with an effective and reliable online mechanism to request additional blurring of images, license plates and residences after they are published, in cases of flaws or inadequate blurring by Google before the images are published online.

The fourth condition requires Google to notify the public via newspapers and the Internet about its right to request additional blurring and to provide general knowledge about planned photograph routes.

The Justice Ministry also requires the photographing of vehicles to be clearly marked so that the public can identify them.

“The registration terms we approved enables the operation of this high value service without damaging the Israeli public’s right to privacy,” Law, Information and Technology Authority director Yoram Hacohen said in a statement. “I am pleased that Google honored our requests, which are normal in countries with the strictest information-privacy protection laws.”

Google did not say when it would begin operating Street Views in Israel.

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