As Google continues to grow its burgeoning empire across an increasing number of fields, news emerged this week that Google’s controversial Street View project got official approval to begin operating in Israel in the near future.
Street View is a dynamic addition to Google Maps and Google Earth that allows people to take a 360 degree panoramic view of an area on the map. To get the view, Google sends cars through designated areas with cameras recording as they drive by. Faces and license plates of cars are reportedly blurred.
However, a pilot project in Germany caused a significant stir earlier this year, with many German residents complaining that their privacy was being compromised. Google responded by giving people the right to request that their homes be blurred out of the pictures. More than 200,000 Germans made the request.
With Israel, however, the issue of privacy takes on a deeper significance. Anything that helps Israel’s enemies get better intelligence on potential targets to attack has to be seen with a level of suspicion.
At the same time, Street View provides an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Israel as it really is, and not the way it is often portrayed in the media. And Google Maps may well be the most important mapping service in the world today.
We’ll have to trust the authorities to ensure that the service serves Israel’s interests without compromising the privacy or safety of its citizens. It could well do more for Israel’s efforts to rebrand itself than anything we’ve seen to date.