Page last updated at 08:58 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 09:58 UK

Google defends Street View tool

Street View
Street View includes photos of many US cities

Google has defended its controversial Street View photo-mapping tool, saying it will meet local privacy laws in European countries at launch.

The tool, which matches real world photos to mapped locations, has drawn fire from some privacy campaigners.

In the UK, Privacy International said the tool could breach data protection laws if people's faces were shown.

Google has said it is using face blurring technology to preserve the privacy of individuals photographed.

"In our view they need a person's consent if they make use of a person's face for commercial ends," Simon Davies, of Privacy International told BBC News.

Street View has already been launched in the US and includes photos of streets in major American cities. Photographing of areas in the UK, including London, is believed to have started last week.

Mr Davies has written to Google asking for details of the face-blurring technology, saying he would ask the UK Information Commissioner to intervene if he did not receive a satisfactory response.

He told BBC News that he was concerned that Google's technology would not work.

Google's senior privacy counsel Jane Horvath has responded saying that the technology had already been deployed.

She wrote: "We actually launched this technology publicly in early May, when we refreshed our imagery in Manhattan, New York.

"Since then we have applied face blurring to all new imagery launches in the US, including a major launch in June."

Google has said it plans to launch Street View in a "few European countries" but did not give any more details.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson added: "We think this type of privacy-enabling technology is the best way of meeting the challenge of continuing to respect people's expectation of privacy, while not stifling the development of new products and services that everyone can enjoy and benefit from."


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