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Friday, July 09, 2010
Google to Resume Gathering Data For Street View

After having spoken to the relevant regulators, Google has decided to start Street View driving in Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden again starting next week.

Street View provides photographs of neighborhoods taken by Google cameras. The service has been extremely controversial in Germany and other countries as privacy groups and authorities fear that people - filmed without their consent - might be photographed doing things they wouldn't want publicized.

Several countries have been investigating Google over the data collection, and there are growing concerns from regulators and consumer watchdogs worldwide that Google isn't serious enough about people's privacy - a charge the company denies.

In May Google announced that it had mistakenly included code in its software in Street View cars that collected WiFi payload data. As soon as Google discovered the error, it stopped collecting WiFi data entirely and also grounded its fleet of cars globally in order to remove the WiFi scanning equipment and discuss what had happened with local regulators.

Google said that its WiFi data collection equipment has been removed from its cars in each country and the independent security experts Stroz Friedberg have approved a protocol to ensure any WiFi-related software is also removed from the cars before they start driving again.

Google now resumes the start Street View driving in Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden, and expects to add more countries in time. Google's cars will no longer collect any WiFi information at all, but will continue to collect photos and 3D imagery as they did before.

Google collects photos so that it can build Street View, the 360 degree street level maps. Photos like these are also being taken by TeleAtlas and NavTeq for Bing maps. In addition, Google uses this imagery to improve the quality of its maps.

Google also collects 3D geometry data with low power lasers (similar to those used in retail scanners) which help it improve our maps.

"We recognize that serious mistakes were made in the collection of WiFi payload data, and we have worked to quickly rectify them," Brian McClendon, VP of Engineering, Google Geo, posted on the company's blog. "However we also believe that Street View is a great product for users, whether people want to find a hotel, check out a potential new home or find a restaurant," he added.

While Google's Street View cars are ready to start driving around European streets, Autralia's privacy commissioner said Friday that Google's data gathering policy broke Australia's Privacy Act.

Google has promised to conduct a privacy impact assessment on any new Street View projects involving personal information.

The Australian Federal Police is conducting a separate criminal investigation of Google over Street View.

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