Report: Google begins taking Street View pics in Milan, Rome

Google appears to have begun photographing streets in Italy for its controversial Street View feature

Google has begun photographing streets in European cities in preparation for the launch of its Street View feature on Google Earth this side of the Atlantic.

Cars with the Google logo, carrying what looks like sophisticated laser-scanning photographic equipment on their roofs, have been spotted on the streets of Milan and Rome in Italy, according to a blog posting that includes close-up photos of a car.

The feature has sparked some controversy in the US, where Street View is already available for several cities, including San Francisco. The photographic images of the streets often include pedestrians on sidewalks or in cafes, and car license-plate numbers are clearly visible.

The feature is likely to draw even more criticism in Europe, where privacy rules are tighter than in the US For this reason Google is treading carefully.

"We want to launch in Europe when we have figured a way to respect local laws while maintaining functionality," Jon Steinback, the company's policy communications manager, said in an interview.

"We've always said that Street View will respect local laws wherever it is available and we recognize that other countries strike a different balance between the concept of 'public spaces' and individuals' right to privacy in those public spaces," said Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, in a blog posting.

"In other parts of the world local laws and customs are more protective of individuals' right to privacy in public spaces, and therefore they have a more limited concept of the right to take and publish photographs of people in public places," he added.

The rules on rights to privacy in a public place vary across the European Union. The European Convention on Human Rights, which is upheld in most EU countries, demands some protection of individuals' privacy, but it is interpreted differently by different countries.

In the US, Google will remove images of people if they ask it to do so. However, this retroactive action isn't likely to satisfy Europe's data-protection authorities.

For this reason, Google is considering installing blurring technology that would make distinguishing features such as faces and number plates unrecognizable. "We would only consider such action if the process of blurring could be automated," Steinback said.

One alternative would be to reduce the resolution of the whole image to protect people's privacy, Steinback said.

Europe's top data-protection officials weren't immediately available to comment on the privacy implications of Street View.

Google wasn't able to say exactly which European cities are being targeted initially, nor whether it has discussed its plans for Street View with EU authorities.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Meller

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?