Google’s Street View service is headed to the Middle East. As expected, the Israeli government has given Google a green light to begin driving through the country and placing panoramic images online.
The Ministry of Justice’s decision comes after months of discussion with Google about how to allow Street View in the country while still protecting concerns related to individual privacy and the bigger issue of violence/terrorism. The government offered an online poll about Street View, and 70% of respondents voted in favor of allowing Street View to launch in Israel.
As Globes.co.il reports, Google has agreed to four conditions:
1. Israel will be able to initiate any civil legal challenges against Google inside Israel, even though the Street View data will be hosted outside the country.
2. Google won’t challenge the authority of Israel’s Law, Information and Technology Authority to initiate criminal or administrative challenges if Google violates state law.
3. Google will give the public a way to request additional blurring of images (beyond Google’s normal level of blurring) after the images are published online.
4. Google must use online and offline channels to inform the public about the Street View service, the right to ask for additional blurring and its planned driving routes. Google’s Street View cars must also be clearly marked so the public can identify them.
What’s not mentioned in any of the articles I’ve seen so far is whether Google has been restricted from driving/photographing certain sensitive areas. When we wrote about Street View’s likely arrival in Israel back in March, government officials were talking about refusing to allow Street View to photograph “security installations” and other similar locations.
Mordechai Kedar, a retired Lt. Col. who served 25 years in Israeli intelligence, has been critical of the country’s interest in bringing Street View there. He tells the AP that military locations should be barred from Street View: “God forbid a country should need to reveal its secret facilities just because Google invented something. The lives of people are more important, and the security of countries is more important.”
Also not mentioned is where (and when) Street View will begin driving in Israel. In our first article, we mentioned that some reports had suggested only three cities would be included at first: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Google has typically been reluctant to give specifics about its Street View plans in other countries, and that’s also true where Israel is concerned. Contacted this morning with the above questions, a Google spokesperson provided this statement:
“We’re pleased that the DPA has approved the operation of the Street View service, and hope to update on our plans soon.”
Postscript, August 24: According to an article on Ynetnews.com, Google will begin driving in Israel in a month-and-a-half, and the first city will be Jerusalem. This has not been confirmed by Google.