Melbourne, May 13 : Google has come up with a new technology that blurs human faces in street pictures it has taken for its popular mapping service called Street View.
This blurring technology has been launched in a move to deal with privacy issues raised by the pictures taken on street by Google's fleet of camera-mounted vehicles for developing the mapping feature.
It was announced on an official Google blog that the company is planning to apply this technology to all existing Street View images and will make use of it in all future versions of the popular mapping feature. They will soon be previewing the technology in its Manhattan version.
Now one would see the pedestrians and drivers clicked by Google with blurred faces in Street View, which features on Google Maps and Google Earth and debuted a year ago. The images would give a bird's-eye and ground level view of about 40 US cities and their surrounding suburbs.
After US, Australia will become the first country to get the feature when it is added to local maps and launched sometime before September. In fact, many cars fitted with specially-mounted cameras capable of capturing the 360 degree images used in the process are already travelling the lengths and breadths of the nation since late last year.
"We'll be incorporating face-blurring technology in the Australian and New Zealand versions of Street View," Theage.com.au quoted Google Australia spokesman Rob Shilkin, as saying.
The Australian Street View maps will feature a substantial number of cities, regional centres and even smaller towns and country roads and the majority of these photographs are inoffensive.
They display street people doing their normal chores but in many pictures, people have been shown doing strange things or caught at an odd moment. In fact, many people have been caught through the windows of their homes by the camera.
To avert this, the Internet search and advertising company has taken measures to do away with any image found to offend or likely offend. They have already disposed off pictures of people relieving themselves by the side of the road, people being interviewed or arrested by police, people entering establishments such as strip clubs or adult bookstore and some images depicting people in various states of undress.
Google says that ever since it has launched the Google Maps Street View, it had to respond to only a handful of privacy complaints.
Not only the Australian Street View images will be blurring the faces, but will also be published in low resolution that will obscure details such as car licence plates.
"Google has certainly taken some steps in the right direction. But there is certainly more than can be done," said Dr Dan Svantesson, the chair of the APF's internet subcommittee and an assistant professor at Bond University's faculty of law.
He added that while image blurring would go a long way towards resolving a great majority of the potential privacy issues, there was room - for instance - to improve the complaints and take down process.