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Israel Becomes First Middle Eastern Country to Allow Google Street View Cameras

"God forbid a country should need to reveal its secret facilities just because Google invented something."

Google Street View car and bike equipped with cameras. (Photo: Flickr/Hodowaca)

After six months of deliberation, Israel will allow Google Street View cameras to snap 360 degree photographs of its street, but only under certain conditions.

The Associated Press reported that use of the tool in plotting terrorist attacks and privacy issues were concerns that prompted the Law, Information and Technology Authority to develop guidelines with Google for Google Street View. Although Google automatically blurs license plates and faces, here are some additional stipulations in the guidelines include according to Haaretz:

  • Google must provide citizens with an account of what Google Street View does and means, the rights of citizens and routes the camera crews will follow.
  • Users will be offered an efficient and reliable way online to blur residences and other objects.
  • Google must instruct Google Israel to heed legal proceedings in the country, meaning that any civil litigation brought by citizens against the company will be carried out in this country, despite the fact that Google's main center is in the U.S.
  • Google has promised not to dispute criminal claims that might be raised against Street View by arguing that the Law, Information and Technology Authority lacks standing to prosecute criminal claims against the company in Israel.
  • Google "agreed to all of our requests," said Moti Ohana, media adviser to Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, who headed the committee, according to AP. But Ohana didn't offer any other details on the arrangement. In allowing Google Street View to move forward, Israel has become the first Middle Eastern country to have this service roam its streets. Google Street View is available in more than 30 other countries on all seven continents.

    Haaretz has Google's reaction:

    "We are happy that the Law, Information and Technology Authority has given clearance for the operation of Street View in Israel, and we hope to update our information in the near future," Google said.

    AP reported Retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar, who served in Israeli intelligence for 25 years, as saying he was not briefed on the security arrangements but that he assumes Google will be prohibited from photographing army bases.

    "God forbid a country should need to reveal its secret facilities just because Google invented something," Kedar said. "The lives of people are more important, and the security of countries is more important."

    Google Street View has been a controversial service in other countries like Germany where, after the cars were caught picking up data from Wi-Fi, it is no longer in the country. It's also faced scrutiny in Switzerland, where the court ruled Google was invasive to citizens' right to privacy and that Google should take greater measures to blur faces and license plates. France has already fined Google because of the car's invasive actions, and Belgium is considering a fine as well.

    [H/T Paid Content]

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