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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