New Commentary in Search Engine Land on Google Street View

Matt McGee, Israel: Google Street View Will Be “Good For Tourism & Image”, Search Engine Land, Mar 6, 2011

If all goes according to plan, Google’s Street View service should be driving through select cities in Israel soon and the photos could be online later this year.

It’ll be Street View’s first move into the Middle East but, despite the obvious security concerns, the Israeli government says the service will be good for tourism and appears to be ready to let it launch with what one interested observer calls a “minimalist approach” to security issues.

About two weeks ago, a committee led by Israel Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor announced plans to cooperate with Google to bring Street View to Israel. The committee announcement says Israel’s experts will “work to protect vital public interests” in its talks with Google.

But Dr. Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia and editor of ZionismOnTheWeb.org, tells Search Engine Land that Israel’s approach to Street View security may be no more strict than any other country.

“When I spoke with the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem,” Oboler says, “they said they were looking forward to working with Google Street View and that ‘It will be good for tourism and for Israel’s image’. When I asked about restrictions, I was told security installations would be off limits, personal privacy would be respected, and ‘everything else is fine’. This is a minimalist approach, no different from Europe, which is surprising given Israel’s very real security concerns.”

Security Concerns Over Street View In Israel

Not everyone agrees with the idea of a minimalist approach to Street View restrictions in Israel. Mordechai Kedar, a retired Lt. Col. who served 25 years in Israeli intelligence told the AP that Street View could help terrorists find new targets. “We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” Kedar said.

In fact, Palestinian militants have already admitted that they use Google Earth when planning rocket strikes in Israel. In 2007, Google said it was looking into accusations that anti-Israel propaganda had been added as an imagery layer by Google Earth users. There’s even a US law that prevents the sale of satellite images of Israel at very high/specific resolutions.

History would seem to suggest that Israel should be hesitant about Street View. But Oboler says the government is “ready to engage” despite the possibility that some Street View images may cause embarrassment or worse.

“Links to pictures of Palestinians being searched at security check points will no doubt flood the internet,” he says. “The various protests that cause clashes with police will no doubt be caught by the Street View car, even if protesters need to be there continually for months to ensure it happens. Street View will, of course, see the security measures Israeli’s themselves go through on a result basis, such as a full airport-like security check, complete with an X-ray on bags, just to enter a shopping center or bus station. It will see the fallen rockets and holes ripped into trees, walls, and concrete missile shelters in Sderot. Ultimately, with everything captured by the Street View car, it will be a matter of what people search for, and which images go viral through social media. With hostile governments, terrorist organizations, and NGOs that have become partisan to the conflict in an anti-Israel manner, all scouring the Street View images for material to attack Israel, there will be political fall out.”

In a recent blog post for the Jerusalem Post about the pros and cons of Street View, Oboler suggested that Google be required to store its Street View data in Israel in order to ensure that the government can hold Google accountable to whatever terms the two sides agree on. But as others have pointed out, Google’s infrastructure is based on the use of thousands of redundant servers around the world and its products likely wouldn’t work if they were limited to hosting in a single country. Oboler recognizes that such a requirement would “force a significant change to Google’s approach to Street View’s implementation.”

Google Remains Quiet

Google’s cars have not yet driven in Israel and the company is staying quiet about its timetable for launching Street View in Israel. A Google spokesperson shared with us the same statement that it’s given other reporters recently:

Street View is a popular feature of Google Maps which is already available in 27 countries. We aim to offer the benefits of street-level imagery to users all around the world, however, we have nothing specific to announce at this time.

Despite the Israeli government’s apparent enthusiasm for the service, there are reports that Google would move slowly in Israel, potentially only driving three cities: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. Such limitations in where Street View goes might mitigate some of the potentially troubling images that Oboler mentioned above – missile shelters in Sderot, for example.

For now, Google and the Israeli government are talking through the steps necessary to launch Street View in Israel. The government’s statement indicated a desire that Google “operate the service in Israel as soon as possible.” Perhaps more so than in any other country to date, people will be watching Israel closely when it happens.

(flag image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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Discover Magazine: Google Street View Runs Into Controversies

Source: Patrick Morgan, Google Street View Runs Into Controversies in Switzerland and Israel, Discover Magazine, February 24th, 2011

Last year, Google raised the ire of many when it confessed that its city-mapping Street View vehicles unintentionally gathered unencrypted Wi-Fi data as they rolled past people’s abodes. To fix its image and to fend off lawsuits, the company soon tightened its privacy policies and ensured that its Street View cars stopped collecting that information. But the controversies just won’t stop. Google is now trying to convince privacy-conscious Swiss officials to drop the country’s tight Street View restrictions, while security-conscious Israeli officials are concerned that the technology will help terrorists.

Twenty-seven countries have been partially mapped via Street View, a Google product that provides 360-degree panoramic views from ground level. The company creates these images by sending groups of camera-studded vehicles to various parts of the world to snap pictures as they drive.

Although Switzerland is home to one of Google’s largest offices outside the United States, the country has strict privacy laws that have prevented Google from loading new Street View images of Switzerland for the past year. On Thursday, Google petitioned a Swiss court to lift this ban. The search engine company told Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court that its technology automatically conceals the identity of faces and license plates, and that it is no different from rival services.

But Hanspeter Thuer, Switzerland’s data protection commissioner, doesn’t believe Google: He showed several examples of images in which the people were readily identifiable.

“I don’t want a ban of Google Street View,” Thuer told the court. “But in the present form Google Street View breaches basic principles of privacy.” … Thuer wants Google to guarantee that all faces and car plates are blurred — if necessary by checking all pictures manually. He also demanded that private gardens and sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and women’s shelters be obscured. Google lawyers countered that the company is continually improving its Street View technology and that the images are too banal, and of too poor quality, to be used to identify individuals whose privacy might be breached. [AP]

While the Swiss court is still thinking the matter over, Google is still taking pictures. The company wants to add the ski slopes around Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain in its Street View maps, and recently sent out a camera-equipped snowmobile.

Street View’s constant expansion is also set to include Israel, where some government officials hope the online maps will promote tourism. However, other officials worry that the photographs of streets and buildings would aid Palestinian militants, who have already used Google Earth to identify rocket targets.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press. The 25-year veteran of Israeli intelligence said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks. [Los Angeles Times]

On Monday the Israeli Cabinet discussed the issues surrounding Street View, and ultimately decided to start working with Google on how the service could be safely introduced to the country. Experts say it’s likely that Street View will be prohibited from posting photographs of particularly sensitive locations, like government offices and power stations. And some Israelis think the Israeli government shouldn’t make the decision for the entire country, and argue that communities should be given a choice on whether to use Street View.

Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog post on the Jerusalem Post website that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest…. “Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the Street View car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission,” Oboler wrote. [Los Angeles Times]

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PuntoInformatico: Israel, is Street View security-conscious?

Source: Raffaella Gargiulo, Israele, Street View attenta alla sicurezza?, PuntoInformatico, 23 Feb 2011 (in Italian, below)

A government task force is debating whether to allow Google to introduce it’s street view photo-mapping application in Israel. The availability of this data could assist in the planning of terrorist attacks.

Rome – The mapping service Google is often the subject of controversy . This time, however, the concerns and accusations against the famous Street View service did not come only because of the potential invasion of privacy but also due to security concerns: detailed pictures of Street View could provide information to any would-be bombers.

Google wants to implement street view in 28 countries, included in Israel. A special government task force met this week to discuss whether the the Google Car that captures the pictures would be allow to beging work in Israel.

Many cabinet members are worried that such information and data collected by Google may be used by extremists for terrorist purposes. The committee was assembled to assess the possible risks the service could present to the country. The committee should report back within a few weeks.

The choices before the government are complex . On the one hand, there is the issue of opening up technological innovation and promotion of Israeli cities as a tourist attraction. The application could draw the attention of the world to the streets of Tel Aviv, Haifa and the wonderful landscape of historic streets in Jerusalem; on the other hand, there is the issue of public safety.

It’s likely that even if Israeli cities were put into Street View, there would be restrictions on strategic and military points of interest, with details obscured. Pictures would not be permitted of high profile targets such as army bases, the residence of the President, power stations or embassies.

Some statements to this effect have already been released by members of the Israeli committee, led by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor. The committee has affirmed its intention to find “as soon as possible”, the safest ways to introduced this service so that the implementation of the Google service can be consistent with the national security needs of Israel.

A spokesman for Mountain View, meanwhile, said that Google’s goal is simply to “bring the benefits of street-level imagery for users around the world.”

The question of security has been discussed in the Associated Press by Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar, a veteran who worked for the Israeli intelligence services for 25 years. He recalled how Israel in the past had the same security fears and concerns related to terrorist activity with Google Earth. “We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities”. He said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks.

Still, Andre Oboler, from the Zionist Federation of Australia, told The Jerusalem Post that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest, but warned also of the risks to public safety and privacy. “Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants, in particular, should have the right to be out of Street View mapping at least until the local community gives their permission,” he said. Oboler also suggested Israel “negotiate with Google on some key issues such as ensuring that the data collected from Street View remains on computer servers in Isreal rather than the United States, and that Google does more in the fight against antisemitism. ”

Israele, Street View attenta alla sicurezza?

Source: Raffaella Gargiulo, Israele, Street View attenta alla sicurezza?, PuntoInformatico, 23 Feb 2011

Una task force governativa per discutere se dare o meno il consenso a includere la mappatura fotografica di Israele. Tali dati potrebbero agevolare la pianificazione di attentati terroristici

Roma – Il servizio di mappatura di Google è spesso al centro di polemiche. Questa volta però le preoccupazioni e le accuse al noto servizio Street View non arrivano soltanto per via della potenziale violazione della privacy ma soprattutto per problemi di sicurezza: le immagini dettagliate di Street View potrebbero offrire informazioni ad eventuali aspiranti attentatori.

Google vorrebbe raggiungere quota 28 paesi coperti da Street View e includere nelle sue mappe anche Israele. Per tale ragione in settimana una speciale task force governativa si è riunita per discutere sulla questione del dare o meno l’approvazione alle Google Car di immortalare le strade del paese mediorientale.

Molti i membri del gabinetto allarmati del fatto che tali informazioni e dati raccolti da Google possano essere utilizzate da alcuni estremisti per scopi terroristici. La commissione è stata chiamata e riunita per valutare i possibili rischi che tale servizio potrebbe arrecare al paese. Entro poche settimane la commissione dovrebbe dare il suo responso.
La scelta del governo appare complessa. Da un lato, vi è la questione dell’apertura tecnologica e della promozione delle città israeliane a livello turistico per portare a conoscenza di tutto il mondo le strade lussuose di Tel Aviv, il meraviglioso paesaggio di Haifa e le vie piene di storia di Gerusalemme, dall’altro la questione della pubblica sicurezza.

Il dibattito, dati gli interessi in gioco, è ancora aperto. Probabilmente, nel caso in cui le città israeliane dovessero finire su Street View, si opterà per inserire delle ampie restrizioni relativamente a luoghi di interesse strategico e militare, dunque tentando di offuscare dettagli e immagini di aree pericolose, come ad esempio, le basi dell’esercito, luoghi nei quali si svolgono funzioni di difesa territoriale, o ancora i luoghi di residenza del Presidente, centrali elettriche e ambasciate etc.

Proprio a tal proposito, sono state rilasciate alcune dichiarazioni da parte dei membri del gabinetto israeliano, guidati dal Ministro dell’Intelligence Dan Meridor, nelle quali si è ribadito di voler trovare dei metodi più sicuri una volta introdotto tale servizio nei prossimi mesi. Dunque, sposare l’implementazione del servizio di Google con la necessità di sicurezza nazionale di Israele “il prima possibile”.

Un portavoce di Mountain View, intanto, ha dichiarato che l’obiettivo di Google è semplicemente quello di “offrire i benefici di immagini a livello stradale per gli utenti di tutto il mondo”.

Sulla questione è intervenuto con le sue dichiarazioni ad Associated Press il colonello Mordechai Kedatr, un veterano che ha lavorato per l’intelligence israeliana per 25 anni, che ha ricordato come Israele in passato aveva avuto i medesimi timori legati alla sicurezza e alle preoccupazioni per eventuali attacchi terroristici con Google Earth. “Abbiamo già problemi con Google Earth – ha dichiarato – che visualizza immagini satellitari di case ed edifici”, concludendo che “con Street View si potrebbero solo facilitare gli attacchi terroristici”

Ancora, Andre Oboler, della Zionist Federation of Australia, ha spiegato sul Jerusalem Post che Street View potrebbe incentivare il turismo nei luoghi pubblici di interesse storico, culturale e religioso ma ha messo in guardia rispetto ai rischi per la sicurezza pubblica e per la vita privata dei cittadini. “Comunità chiuse, kibbutz e villaggi per i nuovi immigrati, in particolare, dovrebbero avere il diritto di essere fuori dalla mappatura di Street View almeno fino a quando la comunità locale non darà loro il permesso” ha continuato il direttore. Oboler ha inoltre suggerito ad Israele di “negoziare con il colosso del web su alcuni punti chiave quali ad esempio l’assicurazione che i dati raccolti da Street View rimangano su server in Isreale e non negli Stati Uniti e l’arruolamento di Google nella lotta contro l’antisemitismo”.

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Dr Oboler’s analysis in the LA Times

Source: Jessica Guynn, Some in Israel warn against Google Street View, Los Angeles Time, February 22, 2011

The government decides to work with Google to bring Street View to Israel in the coming months, but some cabinet members worry that the street-level photographs will help terrorists plan attacks.

Reporting from San Francisco —

Google’s popular Street View map service has sparked privacy debates around the globe.

But in Israel, government officials are worried that the service could endanger public figures by giving terrorists detailed information that could be used in carrying out attacks.

Israel said Monday that it was weighing whether to allow Google to photograph Israeli cities to promote tourist sites despite risks to privacy and safety. Street View allows users to virtually tour locations in 27 countries. Google collects three-dimensional images for the service by dispatching a fleet of camera-equipped vehicles to the locations.

Israeli Cabinet members, led by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, have told experts to find a safe way to introduce the feature “as soon as possible,” according to an official statement. Cabinet members discussed the security and privacy implications of Google Street View on Monday and decided to work with Google in launching the service in the coming months, according to a statement.

Google said it had no specific time frame for launching Street View in Israel. In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson said: “We aim to offer the benefits of street-level imagery to users all around the world, however, we have nothing specific to announce at this time.”

But some in Israel are sounding the alarm.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press. The 25-year veteran of Israeli intelligence said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have said they use Google Earth, which displays satellite images of homes and buildings, to identify targets for rocket attacks.

The privacy watchdog group Center for Digital Democracy warned of another potential downside for Israeli citizens: It could be used for political purposes, including government surveillance.

“It will be the Israeli security forces, in addition to users, that will be viewing the system to identify potential threats and those suspected of potential anti-governmental actions,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the group. “The melding of governmental and commercial interests to enhance citizen eavesdropping is a chilling prospect.”

Israel has long tried to strike a balance between the innovation in its booming high-tech sector and the risk of terrorism. Chester pointed to Google’s acquisition of Quiksee, an Israeli company that allows users to upload videos of places to Google Maps.

Google Street View has encountered intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in a number of countries and in the United States, where there are concerns that Street View invades personal privacy. Google further raised privacy anxieties last year when it admitted that its vehicles inadvertently collected unencrypted data from Wi-Fi networks, setting off an intense firestorm of criticism. Google has stopped collecting Wi-Fi data for location-based services.

Google declined to say Monday which Israeli cities it might send Street View vehicles to, but it is said to be interested in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and possibly Haifa.

Even if Israel permits Google to move forward, it will probably prohibit sensitive areas from being photographed. That could include the streets where the prime minister and the president live, government compounds, security installations, power stations, foreign embassies and other high-security locations.

Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog post on the Jerusalem Post website that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest. But he warned against “blanket permission” because of risks to public safety and personal privacy.

“Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the Street View car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission,” Oboler wrote.

He also suggested that Israel negotiate with Google on key points, such as housing the Street View data collected on servers in Israel, not the United States, and enlisting Google’s help in combating anti-Semitism.

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InformationWeek with Dr Oboler’s analysis on Google Street View

Source: Alison Diana, Google Street View Entering Israel, Despite Security Concerns, InformationWeek, February 22, 2011

Some fear that terrorists could use information in the mapping service to carry out attacks, while others believe it could enhance the nation’s tourism industry.

Google has long-battled concerns that its Street View offering infringes on individual privacy, but the mapping service’s expansion into Israel is sparking concerns that terrorists could use the detailed information to carry out attacks, endangering the public and government officials.

On Monday, a government team chaired by minister Dan Meridor heard testimony from experts who discussed the implications of privacy concerns and public security, tourism, and country image, according to a government release. After directing these experts to continue working to “protect vital public interests regarding this innovative project,” Israel’s government decided to continue cooperating with Google in order to operate the Street View service within the nation “as soon as possible,” the government said.

The country hopes Street View can help promote the country’s tourism industry by showcasing attractions.


“Street View could be very useful in public spaces, parks, museums, hotels, and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. It could significantly help tourism. A Street View of the old city in particular could prove very popular,” wrote Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Not all regions should appear, cautioned some government officials. In particular, Israel is concerned about photographing sensitive locations, such as areas near the homes of the president and prime minister, retired lieutenant colonel Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” said Kedar, who spent 25 years with Israeli intelligence, noting that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks within the nation.

Like some counterparts in Europe and the United States, individual Israelis also may be concerned. Israel has privacy laws in place, and Google must comply, Yoram Hacohen, an attorney who heads the Israeli law, information, and technology authority at Israel’s Justice Ministry, told iBlogAuto.

“The law mandates that the public be informed by anyone collecting information for a database. If it wants to operate the service, it must advertise in newspapers that it plans to photograph particular areas. Anyone who doesn’t want to be photographed must approach Google ahead of time and ask not to be,” he said. “It’s clear that the public must be informed about these activities. If someone discovers himself on Street View and wants to have the image removed, there is a way to do this in the system. A person can erase himself. We will ask that the erasure and application processes be in Hebrew and not English.”

To collect data for Street View, Google sends out specially equipped cars to film all streets and buildings. In the process, the autos sometimes capture individuals, and the cars’ equipment also has grabbed users’ unencrypted wireless network data. Currently, Google offers the three-dimensional tour service in 27 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France.

Google does not have a specific launch date in mind for an Israeli service, according to published reports. The company on Monday declined to reveal which cities it would like to dispatch Street View vehicles to first, but it is said to be interested in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and possibly Haifa, said the Zionist Federation’s Oboler.

“We aim to offer the benefits of street-level imagery to users all around the world, however, we have nothing specific to announce at this time,” Google told the AP.

Although the government debate may mark Google Street View’s first formal entry into Israel, the developer is not new to the country. In September 2010 it acquired Quiksee — also known as MentorWave Technologies — for an estimated $10 million, and in April 2010 it bought LabPixies for about $25 million. Quiksee develops 3D tour software that lets users add to a Google map, creating an image similar to that shown in Street View. For its part, LabPixies writes widgets for iGoogle, Android, and the iPhone.


But Street View’s rollout may not go as smoothly, if the technology’s history is any indicator.

Governments in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain, as well as states such as Connecticut have raised varying levels of concern with Google. In December, Google refused to turn over to the Connecticut attorney general data its street-mapping vehicles gathered from personal and business wireless networks throughout the state.

“I am disappointed by Google’s failure to comply with my information demands,” Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal told InformationWeek. “We will review any information we receive and consider whether additional enforcement steps — including possible legal action — are warranted.”

Across the pond, British government officials got a commitment from Google to improve the way in which it handles data, the U.K. information commissioner said in November, after months of inquiry. The agreement committed Google to improving training related to security awareness and data handling for all employees. To address Germany’s privacy rules, Google complied with that nation’s request to manually blur peoples’ houses on-demand, rather than relying on automated tools.

Other countries’ problems with Street View should give Israel pause, warned some privacy advocates.

“What data could be collected in Israel, and how might this harm Israel? Both public diplomacy and security considerations need to be considered. How might this data be used against Israel’s interests, particularly if it is stored in the U.S. and subject to U.S. government control rather than Israeli control? Keeping the data solely in Israel would be a significant development,” wrote Oboler. “Whatever issues the task force considers, they will not be an exhaustive list of the impact Street View could have on the lives of Israelis.

“Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement.”

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In Israel Google Street View needs serious thought

Source: Andre Oboler, In Israel Google Street View needs serious thought, Jerusalem Post Blogs, Feb 20, 2011

Google would like to launch Street View in Israel. The web based application adds an extra level of depth to Google Maps. People can zoom in and see what the street actually looks like to passersby. Google uses roving vehicles that drive down the street taking millions of digital photographs to collect the necessary data. Street view pieces these together along with controls that allow users to step down the street, or turn their view to different angles. Want the red house with the blue door? Google street view has it covered.

Street view also comes with draw backs in the areas of privacy and security. Cars, people, and security measures are all captured. Street view is like having a team of surveillance personal who can immediately send you photographs of any location. The real difference is that they pull these photographs from their archive rather than taking them live. Another difference is that under pressure from privacy regulators, Google added technology to blur faces, license plates and other details identifying people and companies who have been photographed.

Photography has posed problems for Israel before. Three years ago I wrote “Let’s not give away all out secrets on the web.” The issue then was Facebook use by IDF soldiers who were taking pictures on base and in the field. These photographs had the potential to compromise security, but I urged the IDF not to go overboard. Instead, I suggested the flow of information could be managed using existing structures. That approach is not available here as Google itself takes the images.

Street view could be very useful in public spaces, parks, museums, hotels and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. It could significantly help tourism. A street view of the old city in particular could prove very popular. However, concerns about security in a small number of places, and about privacy in a far larger set of localities, suggest blanket permission would be unwise. Given its connection to Google maps, an edge to edge coverage is not needed. Google could easily provide street view only in front of designated locations of interest where permission has been specifically granted and if needed, where a risk assessment has already taken place.

Israel has specific needs, but the wider international concerns with street view should also be considered. These start with the ability of people to be easily removed. The original requirements were bordering on the comical, but they have improved. We still need to ask if they have improved enough, and whether Google can promise swift compliance with removal requests.

Gated communities, kibbutzim, and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the street view car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission. This need is not unique to Israel, but it may have special implications. In the UK village of Broughton an angry crowd surrounded the street view car preventing its work. A spate of burglaries had residents concerned that appearing on Google Street View could attract further problem. (The article about this incident in The Sunday Times may of course have led to the same result, unless you assume thieves don’t read The Sunday Times).

Google street view cars have also been found collecting and storing data from open wireless networks in addition to taking pictures. This data was not just related to the location of open (non password protected) wireless networks, but also included payload data. In Ireland Google was forced to delete this data. What data could be collected in Israel, and how might this harm Israel? Both public diplomacy and security considerations need to be considered. How might this data be used against Israel’s interests, particularly if it is stored in the US and subject to US government control rather than Israeli control? Keeping the data solely in Israel would be a significant development.

The basic disconnect between our assumption of privacy and the concept of street view should also be considered. Segments of the online world have found the irony of stalking the Google Street View car irresistible. Bonus points apply if you can catch Google breaking the law. Of courseGoogle will also catch you catching Google breaking the law. Beneath the fun and games, discussion in the tech savvy online community are ripe with concerns about street view, Google’s potential use of the data, and the wider implications of online monitoring that is publically available. These ideas also need consideration, though culturally Israelis may be less concerned about privacy and surveillance, provided it is for a good cause and not simply a company’s profits. Street view may also have positive benefits for Israel’s security services (at the expense of civil liberties), the balance in Israel may be different to elsewhere in the world.

Privacy officials in Israel as well as Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom have already raised concerns about Google Street View and Google Buzz. They have criticized the roll out of technology before full consideration and protections have been put in place for the public. Yoram Hacohen, head of the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority signed the letter on behalf of Israel. When the new task force, headed by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor meets, they may want to consultation with Mr Hacohen and see what role his authority could play in any future arrangements and what additional powers they may require. Some regulators overseas already have the ability to impose significant fines for privacy breaches.

Whatever issues the task force considers, they will not be an exhaustive list of the impact Street View could have on the lives of Israelis. Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement. This may be a good first step.

Israel also has a responsibility to act in the Interests of its people and of the Jewish people more generally. In light of that, Israel may also request further unrelated guarantees from Google, such as an undertaking to cooperate more fully with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the fight against Antisemitism. The Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism, of which I am co-chair, came up with many recommendations for service providers like Google. Now might be the time to open that dialogue with Google directly. Google has been far better than Facebook when it comes to respecting the rights of democratic states, but that doesn’t Israel can’t negotiate and ensure its issues are given a higher priority by the internet giant as part of any new expansion.

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Jew Watch Petition

This hoax takes the form of an e-mail claiming YouTube will remove the antisemitic website Jew Watch from their search results the e-mail reaches 50,000 people. Some versions link to an online petition against Jew Watch.

What the hoax aims to achieve

This hoax was once legitimate, but that was back in 2004. Google responded saying it didn’t matter how many signatures were received they would not change their results. The petition today has 625,000 signatures. More background is below.

The Impact of this hoax

Each time this e-mail circulates it causes people to discuss JewWatch and they often link to it. This is one of the factors that make JewWatch a top search result.

What to do about it

Do not pass the e-mail on. Alert those who sent it to you that it is a hoax and direct them to this page. Do not link to Jew Watch while discussing this problem online. Each link exacerbates the problem.

If you want to provide a link on the text Jew Watch, link it to a site about the problem e.g. http://www.zionismontheweb.org/antizionism/jewwatch.htm or ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew_Watch.

Further Background

Jewwatch.com is an antisemitic website containing numerous articles on alleged “Jewish conspiracies”, “Jewish controlled press” and “Jewish Mind Control Mechanisms”. It ranks on the first page of a Google search for the word “Jew”.

Steven Weinstock, a real-estate investor from New York and former Yeshiva student started an online petition which requests that Google remove the website from its search results. The petition stated that if 50,000 signatures were obtained, Google would agree to remove the website from its search listings. Google have stated clearly that they “do not remove a page from  search results simply because its content is unpopular or because [they] receive complaints concerning it”.

The search engine uses a complex computer algorithm that take into account many factors to calculate a page’s rank. While it is unfortunate that the term “Jew” produced a website such as Jew Watch, it is not intentional on the part of Google. A detailed explanation on this issue is provided by Google at: www.google.com/explanation.

Please be advised that this petition is a hoax and Google will not remove the website based on the number of signatures obtained on this online petition. Adding your name will not have any effect on the search results or listing of anti-semitic websites in the Google registry.

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Possibility of policing the internet?

Published as: Andre Oboler, Possibility of policing the internet?, The Australian Jewish News, March 12 2010, p10

The Community, needs to have a debate about the feasibility of policing the internet.

Over the past few weeks, the internet, and specifically social networking site Facebook, has been taking some knocks.

Commentary has come from all levels of politics. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said “we need to be deploying all practical measures” against cyber crime and internet bullying. Senator Nick Xenophon’s suggestion of an Online Ombudsman was “worth a look” according to Rudd, and Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, has noted “growing calls for broader debate on the challenges posed by new media”.

The media attention is the result of users posting illegal content, including child pornography and bestiality, on a Facebook page set up as a tribute to two murdered Queensland children. Facebook called the latest outrages “despicable”.

The Jewish Community has been expressing concern for years about the use of internet communications to attack individuals and communities.

In the last six years, with the growth of “Web 2.0” – a phenomenon that has seen the internet grow increasingly interactive – the nature of the problem has changed.

Instead of an enumerable collection of hate sites, there is now a pervading online culture of anarchy.  In this emerging online world everyone can say and do as they wish, without regard to the impacts on others or society at large.

And Facebook has been a strong promoter of this culture of freedom from responsibility.

We saw this over the last few years when the company refused to remove Holocaust denial from their platform.

It was only in 2010 that Facebook began quietly removing most, but not all, forms of Holocaust denial as matter of course.

Facebook has said the vitriol on the Children’s tribute pages was removed not only for violating the terms of use, but also for “violating the human trust” associated with the situation.

If Facebook has developed a moral compass, which balances free expression with the other legitimate needs of society, this is welcome indeed.

The real challenge in front of us is to create a safe online space by creating a positive internet culture – one where people respect others and realise that the law and society’s moral code still apply online.

The challenge for internet monoliths is to take responsibility for ensuring complaints are handled quickly.

Just recently, three Google executives were convicted by an Italian court for not acting quickly enough to protect the privacy of an autistic boy.

Any debate the community has will need to weigh up the impact and burden on the internet industry of monitoring content versus the needs, rights and expectations of society.

Other sectors have burdens – from food safety requirements to financial regulation – but, ultimately, our rights as citizens are more important than our rights as “Facebook users”.

Dr Andre Oboler is a social media expert and director of the community internet engagement project at the Zionist Federation of Australia.

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