Google puts New Zealand on the World Wide Maps

By Martha McKenzie-Minifie

Internet giant Google is filming streets in New Zealand towns - and raising privacy concerns.

Google plans this year to place New Zealand streetscapes in its "Street View", a feature that created a public uproar in the United States.

Images of partially clothed sunbathing women, a man entering an adult bookshop and another a strip club, and one being arrested, sparked debate over what should be public and what should stay private.

"When out on our daily business we don't expect a camera-wielding car to capture hundreds of pictures of us and publish them on the net with city and address attached," wrote one internet user.

"Maybe if their 'photo car' was bright yellow and had a man on a blow horn yelling, 'I'm going to publish your photo on the internet', I could understand."

Some feared criminals could use images to select sites to commit crime.

However, the Street View feature has also been credited as a learning opportunity for students and for providing exposure to businesses.

Rob Shilkin, corporate communications chief for Google Australia and New Zealand, said the company had a fleet of labelled cars fitted with high-tech equipment in several major New Zealand towns.

More details about the locations will be given - a Dunedin resident told the Herald he saw a camera-topped car in central-city High St.

Mr Shilkin said Google was mindful of privacy issues and Street View carried only images that anyone would be able to see walking down a public street.

"We're complying with principles and requirements of New Zealand law," he said.

The company was giving considerable thought to how to best safeguard New Zealanders' privacy and would consult experts and community groups here.

"[We] are focusing on finding ways to ensure that individuals' faces and licence plates are not identifiable in pictures taken in New Zealand."

People would also be able to flag images for removal, Mr Shilkin said.

Herald IT columnist Peter Griffin said the addition of New Zealand streetscapes showed Google was interested in this country and believed there were advertising opportunities.

He said it could benefit tourism, with potential visitors able to check out destinations before booking travel.

"Anyone in the world will be able to access that information."

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