Google's Street View fleet to hit the streets

Privacy group calls on Google to take more care with the images it snaps

Australian residents can look forward to a visit from one of Google’s snap-happy vehicles, as the search giant has recently announced an update to its Street View offering. But one privacy group is cautioning Google needs to take more care with its photography.

In a blog post, Google product manager Andrew Foster announced the update, along with changes to the company’s policy on sharing its images.

Foster said unwanted images will be kept for one year by Google for internal use to enable technological improvements.

Despite being a popular feature, Street View has endured much criticism and has run into problems with privacy advocates worldwide, after it was revealed a number of inappropriate images were made available.

While Google maintains users can still easily report an image of themselves and have it removed, the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has urged the company to take more care with what it photographs.

“At the moment it’s all or nothing, if you happen to be on a public street that’s being captured, you have no choice and can’t say ‘don’t include me’,” APF board member Jan Whitaker said.

“There are terrific functionalities associated with Street View, but when it comes to living areas, neighbourhoods and sensitive places, I think there needs to be some further care taken with it.

“Until Google can refine the service into something that’s more sensitive to individual circumstances and put a little bit more care into what it’s taking photographs of, then we get into such difficulties,” she said.

Street View is an add-on to Google Maps that offers photographs of streets and cities and was launched in Australia in August last year.

From next year, the updated images of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and parts of Tasmania, will be available.

The Google fleet is currently touring Australia, and residents can find out from the website in what areas the cars are in.

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