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Indian Government rejects Google Street View service citing security reasons

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Google’s plea to cover India through its Street View service have been rejected by the Indian Government citing security reasons. The service has been active on an experimental basis at few tourist spots in India.

Google had applied for the service to map the streets of India last year. Reportedly, a technical committee comprising of officials from Indian Air Force, Military Intelligence, Navy, Army and Intelligence Bureau agreed unanimously about the detrimental effects of such a service on the security of India.

Moreover, the Mumbai blasts of 2008 and attack on army base in Pathankot earlier this year, were also reportedly carried out with the help of Google Maps to identify the target areas.

A senior official of the government said,

The main concern was security of sensitive defence installations. The Defence Ministry said it was not possible to monitor the service once it was launched and it would be detrimental to national security.

Through Google Street View, users can get an online 360° panoramic view of local streets, hills, tourist spots, rivers etc., at a particular location.  The company usually collects images through its Street view cars, trucks, bikes fitted with cameras. The service was first launched in 2007 in the US and later expanded to other locations globally.

Street View now covers more than 65 countries with locations on all seven continents. The latest city mapped by Google Street View is Rio de Janeiro where next Olympic games are scheduled for this year.

Naturally, a service of such nature has its security concerns which have been raised time and again by various countries. While some of them, particularly small countries and cities, have been satisfied with the privacy policy of Google for Street View.

As per the privacy policy, Google blurs the license plates of vehicles and faces of people it captures through its camera. Additionally, people also have the option to ask Google to blur the images of their homes from Street View. This, however, makes the location permanently blurred and users do not have any option to go back.

However, these considerations are not enough for a big country like India. The detailed nature of imagery provided by Google Street View,particularly in sensitive areas, could indeed be a big security loophole.

In India, Google had first started Street View in Bengaluru in 2011 but was forced to stop by Commissioner of Police who raised similar security concerns for the mapping service.

Last year, Google partnered with Archeological Survey of India and other institutions to cover prominent tourist spots and heritage sites such as Taj Mahal, Safdarjung Tomb, and the Ellora Caves under Street View. A total of 31 Indian archaeological sites and monuments were then approved for Street View on an experimental basis.

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