Jerusalem: Google has for years fought allegations that its mapping and photography services infringed on privacy. Now the Internet giant is facing concerns from Israel that the technology could be used for terrorism.
Israel announced today it is considering ways for Google Street View to photograph Israeli cities, despite concerns that the popular service could be used by terrorists to plot attacks against sensitive locations or political figures.
A team of Israeli Cabinet ministers led by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor instructed experts today to work with Google Inc. to find a safe way to implement the feature "as soon as possible," according to an official statement.
The team is considering benefits, such as increased visibility for tourist sites keeping in mind public safety and personal privacy.
Street View allows users to virtually tour locations on a map. It is already available in 27 countries. Google uses special vehicles with panoramic cameras to take ground-level, 3-D images. The feature has sparked intense debate regarding invasion of privacy in the US, Germany and other countries.
Critics argue the images could reveal people in places they don't want to be seen or doing things that might be embarrassing. Google, however last year said that its vehicles had inadvertently collected computer data from Wi-Fi networks.
Israel, which has been plagued by attacks by Palestinian militants, has raised concerns against the Google feature. The officials are concerned about putting unprecedented information about potential targets on
the Internet. During wartime, the military often bans reporters to reveal locations that have been hit by rockets to prevent the usage of coordinates for future attacks.
Street View is not the first Google service to spark a debate among Israel’s security establishment. "We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities," said retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar, who served for 25 years in Israeli intelligence. He added that Street View functionality may facilitate terrorists.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have said they used Google Earth help identify targets in rocket attacks.