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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Vying for control of the Temple Mount – on Foursquare

CIE’s Director, Dr Andre Oboler, explains to Sharon Udasin of the Jerusalem Post why the popular US application “four square” is likely to be a hit in Jerusalem. He also warns that geo-location services are not for everyone, and some people should think twice before broad casting their movements.

Vying for control of the Temple Mount – on Foursquare

By Sharon Udasin, Jerusalem Post,  December 16, 2010.

The popular geo-location smartphone application takes hold in Jerusalem.

For Ariela Ross, being the “mayor” of Al-Aksa Mosque and the Old City’s entire Muslim and Christian Quarters is quite natural – as these are the places where she spends much of her spare time.

With 66 total “check-ins” as of Wednesday afternoon, Al-Aksa’s coveted mayorship currently remains in Ross’s hands through her own nine check-ins on the increasingly popular smartphone application called Foursquare, which allows users to tell their friends exactly where they are at any given time.

The app – which has 4 million users worldwide – maintains a history of who has gone where, also providing users with a platform where they can share and view tips about local destinations, according to GPS. The mayor of a site is the person who has checked in there the most times.

“You can see where the party’s going on, what’s a good restaurant to go to and where to avoid if you don’t want to meet people,” says Ross, whose mayorship at the Western Wall and in the Jewish Quarter was recently ended by a user named “Gavin S.”

While Foursquare has been trendy in the US since its release in March 2009 and has also become fairly popular in Tel Aviv and the country’s hitech center, it has only begun to take hold in Jerusalem recently, users find. As in Silicon Valley and New York City, people are generally more attached to their iPhones, Blackberries and Androids in the tech-savvy Tel Aviv and Haifa regions, says Ross, who herself works in hi-tech.

But experts predict that now that Foursquare has caught on here, it has the potential for the rapid growth that American cities have seen.

“Jerusalem is particularly active with events, lectures, launches, think tanks and international gatherings. It’s also a very small city with people who know each other and meet regularly even without the aid of technology,” says Dr. Andre Oboler, social media expert and director of the Community Internet Engagement Project. “In this environment the use of Foursquare and similar services can take off with viral growth. Adding to this is the regular flow of American tourists and longer term students.”

Even among Jerusalem’s currently close-knit group of users, competition is already fierce.

“I’ve noticed a few people checking into places that they’re not exactly at,” says Ross, who herself has 40 mayorships, most of which are in Jerusalem.

“I’ve been fighting with Jewlicious for a couple mayorships,” she adds, referring to fellow Jerusalemite and Foursquare user David Abitbol, who runs Jewlicious, a blog geared toward Jewish 20- and 30- somethings.

Ross says that she and Abitbol are battling at the moment over Al-Aksa Mosque and the Basher cheese shop inside Mahaneh Yehuda market.

“He currently has Basher – he just got back from a trip oversees and within two days he got it back,” Ross says. “It’s just a fun little thing but it’s a game in the end.”

While Abitbol agrees that running after virtual titles is silly and calls anyone with over 20 mayorships “crazy” – he has only 13 – he remains pretty angry when anyone impinges upon his own territories.

“I can’t tell you how many times I was at a place and then got an alert that one of the usual suspects just checked in, when in fact they were nowhere to be found,” Abitbol says.

“I live near the shouk [Mahaneh Yehuda] and every time I go there, I check in. Some people have begged me to not check in so that they can be mayor, others have bypassed that process and simply created duplicate entries.”

Abitbol is currently mayor of the shouk, leading the total 511 check-ins with his 22.

But it turns out that much more than the mere satisfaction of earning a mayorship title drives people – and companies – to take part in this game.

“For businesses, when somebody checks in, it gets broadcasted to all of their friends,” Ross says. “It’s another way to get the word out, it’s another marketing tool.”

Oboler adds, “Foursquare is all about where you are and what you and your friends are doing. Unless of course you are a business, in which case the key is who your customers are, where they are and when they are there.”

Oboler says that in addition to local restaurants and shops, larger offices like the Tourism Ministry could easily make use of Foursquare to attract visitors to various destinations within Jerusalem. But he warns that like other geo-location and social media tools, spreading information about oneself also “poses a serious security risk to certain individuals and types of individuals,” particularly to people like soldiers.

But security risks aside, Jerusalem users hope that yet another American trend will catch on here – namely, the willingness of local businesses to provide secret coupons and special offers to frequent checkin guests and mayors of their locations.

“In the US, some venues offer mayors or people who check in there inducements to do so – like free food or discounts,” Abitbol says. “In Israel that aspect has yet to catch on, but people still get a little crazy.”

Meanwhile, however, users like Abitbol and Ross will continue to enjoy frequenting their favorite spots, some of which are far more holy – and far more contentious – in real life than any smartphone game could reveal.

“I’ve spent so much time at these places,” Ross says. “It’s not like, ‘Oh I own the Kotel.’ It’s a fun little joke, but it doesn’t take away from the experience. Think of it as a virtual world.”

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