The Ministry of Justice today allowed Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) to operate its Google Street View map service in Israel. Street View offers a panoramic picture of streets and public spaces created by vehicles equipped panoramic cameras, which take pictures during travel. The pictures are accessed through Google Maps. The project has been at the center of a public and legal debate.
The fact that people, vehicles, and buildings can be photographed by Google as it documents the streets raised invasion of privacy issues, which the Ministry of Justice's Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority discussed. 70% of 5,000 people voted in favor of the service on the government's services and information portal.
The Ministry of Justice said today that Google Street View affects the privacy of residents in the area of the pictures. "The panoramic photographs of public spaces randomly capture people and other objects that can identify a person, such as motor vehicles' license plates and residences." It added, however, that Google has been operating technology that automatically blurs these and other details for a long time."
The Law, Information and Technology Authority set a number of conditions for operating Google Street View in Israel, in view of the privacy issues and general sensitivity of sites and streets. The first condition states that even though the service operator is based in the US, the state will be allowed to initiate civil legal proceedings against Google in Israel with regard to the operation of Google Street View, even though the service's database will be kept outside the country.
Google also undertakes not to challenge the Law, Information and Technology Authority's authority to initiate criminal or administrative proceedings for violation of the law for the operation of Street View in Israel, even though the service is not based in Israel.
Third, and most important, Google Street View will provide the Israeli public with an effective and reliable online mechanism to request additional blurring of images, license plates, and residences after they are published in cases of flaws or inadequate blurring by Google before the images are published online.
The fourth condition requires Google to notify the public via newspapers and the internet about the significance service, the public's rights to request additional blurring, and to provide general knowledge about planned photograph routes. The Ministry of Justice also requires the photographing vehicles to be clearly marked so that the public can identify them.
Law, Information and Technology Authority director Yoram Hacohen said, "The registration terms we approved enables the operation of this high-value service without damaging the Israeli public's right to privacy. I am pleased that Google honored our requests, which are normal in countries with the strictest information privacy protection laws."
Google did not say when it will begin operating Street Views in Israel.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 21, 2011
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