Tuesday, 03 November 2009 11:24

Google boosting quality of Street View images [update]

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Google's Street View is getting a makeover, with new, higher-quality images being collected in major Australian cities.

Information gets stale - 'today's news is tomorrow's fish-and-chips wrapping' is the way one saying puts it. And a set of photos of a road are of historical interest rather than being immediately useful if they're not refreshed.

So Google has begun an update of its Street View coverage of Australia.

Beginning this month, the Google Street View cars are back on Australian roads, taking fresh pictures in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and parts of Tasmania.

Product manager Andrew Foster said "we'll be doing our best to cover as many of Australia's public roads as we can during this summer."

Not only will the images be newer, they will also be of higher quality. Foster pointed out that this will have the side effect of making Google's automatic face and numberplate blurring more accurate as those objects will be more easily recognised.

The timetable for displaying the new images on Street View is vague: "sometime within the next year," said Foster.

Will we see a fresh round of privacy complaints? Please read on.


"All pre-existing take-down requests will be honoured when we do the new imagery," Google's ANZ public relations manager Annie Baxter told iTWire.

Street View has been controversial since its inception. Google responded by adding automatic face blurring, but concerns continued to be expressed in the UK, Greece and Switzerland, among other places.

A privacy infringement case involving the Street View cars entering private land reached a US court, and there was evidence of similar events occurring in Australia.

Last month, the company announced that it would not keep any unblurred images - even for internal use - for longer than one year after they are first published on Street View (or after October 7, 2010, whichever is the later).

Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleisher said that priority would be given to permanently blurring images that people had specifically asked to be removed from Street View.

Other places where Google is currently collecting or refreshing Street View images include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom.

Google recently revealed that it had created a human-powered vehicle to collect 'off-street view' images in areas such as pedestrian malls, parks, and sports venues.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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