Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 16:36 UK

Google Street View gets go ahead

Street View car, PA
The Street View cars have already been spotted in the UK

Google's controversial Street View photo-mapping tool has been given the all clear by the UK's privacy watchdog.

The system takes pictures of streets and adds them to online maps to let people see what locations look like.

The project drew criticism from privacy campaigners worried it could breach data protection laws.

But the Information Commissioner said it was "satisfied" that Google had put in place safeguards to avoid risking anyone's privacy or safety.

In a statement the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it had requested a further meeting with Google to talk about Street View prior to the service's launch.

It said the safeguards Google was putting in place, such as blurring faces and registration plates, were sufficient to allay worries about privacy.

The statement said: "Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow the identification of an individual, it is clear that Google are keen to capture images of streets and not individuals."

The delay between the images being snapped and them appearing on the web meant it could not be used as a tracking tool

UK rights group Privacy International raised worries about Street View which employs special vehicles to take panoramic snaps of busy streets in cities and towns. The digital images are then attached to Google's online map system so visitors can virtually travel up and down a route.

The Street View tool was first launched in the US in May 2007 and gave views of five cities. Since then it has been expanded to many more as well as overseas cities.

Although the Street View cars have been spotted in many places in the UK Google has yet to reveal when pictures will be added to maps of the country.

A Google spokesperson said it "welcomed" the decision of the ICO.

"We've always said we will not launch in UK until we are comfortable Street View complies with local law," they added, "and that we will use technology, like face-blurring, licence plate blurring and operational controls, such as image removal tools, so Street View remains useful and in keeping with local norms wherever it is available."

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