Google Street View, a feature within Google Maps, allows users to see images of city streets in up to 27 countries…and now Israel? According to the Chicago Tribune, Israeli officials are in talks with Google to bring Street View into Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. This would be Google Street View’s first appearance in a Middle Eastern country and could be up and running later this year. Security issues are a main concern in this region, yet when Dr. Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, spoke with Search Engine Land regarding the issue, he reported that the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem is ‘looking forward to working with Google Street View and that it would be good for tourism and Israel’s image’. However, according to The West Australian, Mordechai Kedar, a retired Lt. Col. with 25 years experience with Israeli Intelligence, disagrees by reminding us that Google Earth has already been used by Palestinian militants to help identify targets in terrorist attacks, and Google Street View could further facilitate terrorist plots in Israel. Also, the Center for Digital Democracy additionally warned that Google Street View could be used as a political tool used for government surveillance. However, Google Street View does have some security features listed on their site including:
1. Images are the same as one would see if walking on that street (Public access only)
2. The images are not in real time and can be delayed up to several months or years
3. There is technology in place that blurs faces and license plates
4. There are easy to use tools to allow users to request further blurring of homes, violence, etc.
Furthermore, it has been recommended by Dr. Oboler on Search Engine Land that ‘Google be required to store data in Israel to ensure that the government can hold Google accountable to whatever terms the two sides agree on’. However, an article on ogleearth.com pointed out that with Google using thousands of servers worldwide, it is unlikely that its products will work if limited to hosting in just one country. We will have to wait and see what Google and Israel work out in regards to Street View, as well as the consequences that come with introducing this technology to the Middle East.