Irish version of Google's Street View to go live today


THE IRISH version of Google’s Street View project is due to go live today, allowing internet users to view Irish cities on their home computer screens.

The service is to be launched by Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin later today at Google’s European headquarters based in Barrow Street in Dublin.

Street View is a feature in Google Maps which allows web users to view panoramic street level images, meaning they can navigate through cities around the world from the comfort of their swivel chairs.

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.

Originally launched in the US in 2007, Street View has grown to include cities worldwide allowing internet users to take virtual walks and view famous landmarks and business premises.

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.

The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK later rejected complaints about Street View, stating that Google’s actions did not constitute a breach of privacy, especially if the company pixelates car-licence plates, faces and removes individual images on the request of individuals and home owners. A judge in Pennsylvania also rejected claims that Street View was an invasion of privacy, given that people’s homes are already on public view.

Others have been less welcoming. In 2009 Switzerland demanded that Google remove any image of the country from its Street View maps, claiming it breaks privacy laws while Greece’s data protection authority rejected the company’s bid to use its Street View cameras to collect images.

The internet feature has also stirred up controversy here in Ireland.

In May the internet giant was directed by the Data Protection Commissioner to delete data which it gathered over wireless networks in Ireland when it was revealed that its cars had collected data sent over wireless networks in homes and businesses in the areas the cars were mapping.

The company claimed that the data, which was also gathered in countries including the US, Germany, France, Brazil and Hong Kong, had been gathered inadvertently, had not been used by the company and was subsequently destroyed.