Google Maps

Google's the reason to smile on the streets

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 January, 2009, 12:00am


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Be careful what you get up to while on the streets in the next few weeks - or you may end up immortalised on the internet by Google.

The Web giant's Street View computer program is to be launched in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan this year, and the company has been cruising the streets since last month taking photographs using a camera mounted on a car's roof.

Street View, which is a feature of Google Maps, allows users to navigate a 360-degree view of the streets of towns and cities. Versions of the program have already been launched in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and France.

Google Street View has proved controversial since it was launched in the US in 2007, publishing images of a woman in her underwear, a man walking into an adult bookshop and another relieving himself on a street.

There are other collections on the internet showing a man standing naked in a house, marijuana growing in the sitting room of a house and a burglary in progress.

After a number of reports posted on weblogs of sightings of the car with a camera mounted on the roof, the Sunday Morning Post tracked down the special vehicle in a car park behind the North Point wet market yesterday.

Caroline Hsu, Google's head of communications in Taiwan and Hong Kong, confirmed that the car was indeed photographing the streets of the city.

'Once the photos have been taken, they go through computer processing to make them ready for use on Google Maps,' Ms Hsu said. 'Street View only features images that anyone can see walking down a public street.'

She said the company had put 'very considerable thought' into safeguarding the public's privacy and had introduced a number of new measures to limit the chance of embarrassing images making it on to the internet.

'For example, we will use blurring technology for individuals' faces and licence-plate numbers, as well as provide image-reporting tools for users and authorities, similar to what we have done in the US, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and France.'