Google Street View goes live


Internet users can now virtually explore Ireland’s cities, towns and countryside through street-level imagery with the roll-out of Google’s Street View project.

More than 80,000km of road were mapped by the company to collect panoramic and 360 degree imagery for the project.

Images for the Irish version of the service have been gathered since 2009 when Google began deploying its Street View cameras, mounted on specially adapted vehicles in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

Speaking at the launch today, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin said Street View "is an example of a practical innovation which makes life easier for people using the Internet to locate and research Ireland’s cities, towns and streets”.

Its applications are many but one of the real benefits for Ireland is from a tourism perspective, she said.

“Street View will showcase the real beauty of Ireland’s towns and countryside to millions of internet users around the world and has the potential to deliver a welcome boost to visitor numbers to Ireland."

Ireland is the 25th country to launch Street View and the initiative is supported by tourism interests such as Fáilte Ireland, the Arts Council, property website and Chambers Ireland, which represents 60 chambers of commerce around the State.

John O'Herlihy, head of Google in Ireland, said Street View would be the best form of free advertising that the country could ever enjoy. Fáilte Ireland plans to have Street View available on touch screens in all its tourist offices around the State so that tourists can see hotels before booking them or find their way around an area.

The Street View project has also caused its fair share of controversy most recently in Germany, where hundreds of thousands of people have requested that their homes be excluded from the service.

The German government is critical of the service and said it will scrutinise Google’s promise to respect privacy requests by letting people stay out of the project. Germans have until October 15th to apply for an opt-out.

The service’s launch in the UK was also met with fears that the service would prove an invitation for burglars as well as complaints from people who were pictured as the service gathered images for the service.

Ms Hanafin said she understood people's concerns about their privacy being breached. "I know other countries have raised issues about privacy and it's something Google always have to be very conscious of, by obviously ensuring that people can't be identified, car numbers can't be identified. I mean, there are ways of protecting privacy and obviously I know that that's to the forefront in the pictures they are putting up."

Mr Herlihy said users can flag images for removal if they consider them inappropriate, adding that the service features technology that automatically blurs both faces and number-plates. “Our technology is very effective though it may occasionally miss a face or number plate here and there. If users spot something our technology has missed just press ‘report a problem’ and we’ll get it fixed quickly."

Deputy data protection commissioner Gary Davis said his office worked closely with Google to ensure that any privacy concerns were addressed before the launch date. "Inevitably some images of people were captured as the camera-cars were driven on Irish streets," he said. "Google has undertaken to blur the faces of such people, as well as car number-plates."