Google says new mapping won't show sensitive details

Google says it will not need to blur images in its new 3D mapping because the pictures taken from planes will not be clear enough to show sensitive detail.

News of the tech giant's planned new mapping has drawn skepticism from civil liberties groups amid accusations it would be too intrusive.

Google today watered down any fears, telling APNZ there would be no improvement in the quality of images already available on its maps.

"The 45-degree aerial imagery used to develop these 3D models is no different in quality or resolution from what is already publicly available in a variety of products including Google Maps," a spokesman for the company said.

"These are not close-ups. We don't believe it is necessary to blur imagery or provide an opt-out.

"Aerial imagery is a long way away from requiring blurring. The resolution is just not there."

The Privacy Commissioner will closely monitor the roll-out of new mapping by Google and Apple and expect a full brief before it is launched in New Zealand.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans yesterday said Google had committed to regularly consulting with the commission about collecting personal information.

The agreement came after an inquiry into the collection of wireless data by Google when it first launched its sometimes controversial Street View mapping.

Britain's privacy watchdog has reopened its investigation into Google after new evidence showed its Street View cars were deliberately designed to harvest the personal information of millions of people in the UK.

Apple launched its new mapping application on Monday night and Google is preparing to release its new technology later this year.

Critics have described the move as using "spy planes" with Apple's military-grade cameras reportedly powerful enough to potentially see into homes through skylights and windows.

Auckland civil liberties lawyer Tim McBride believes more people should be concerned about the technology encroaching on personal privacy.

However, Mr McBride said many New Zealanders were becoming desensitised to the intrusion on their lives.

"I think people have got so used to ever-increasing privacy invasion that they've almost become desensitised. They think: what can we do?"

Ms Evans said the Privacy Commissioner would monitor the roll-out of the new mapping in the United States and Europe.

"The scope of the mapping technology and how it will be employed by Google and Apple is still to be teased out. We are in regular contact with Google and would expect this to be a topic of discussion in the near future."

Google has not revealed which cities and towns will be covered by 3D imagery.

Tech Liberty NZ spokesman Thomas Beagle said he didn't believe there would be much advancement from the satellite imagery already used.

"There's quite a lot of information out there already," he said.

"I don't think people should be overly concerned. It's going to be important that they have taken the same approach they've taken with the Street View and I would expect them to make the same effort."

- APNZ

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