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Google Street View Entering Israel, Despite Security Concerns

Some fear that terrorists could use information in the mapping service to carry out attacks, while others believe it could enhance the nation's tourism industry.

Google has long-battled concerns that its Street View offering infringes on individual privacy, but the mapping service's expansion into Israel is sparking concerns that terrorists could use the detailed information to carry out attacks, endangering the public and government officials.

On Monday, a government team chaired by minister Dan Meridor heard testimony from experts who discussed the implications of privacy concerns and public security, tourism, and country image, according to a government release. After directing these experts to continue working to "protect vital public interests regarding this innovative project," Israel's government decided to continue cooperating with Google in order to operate the Street View service within the nation "as soon as possible," the government said.

The country hopes Street View can help promote the country's tourism industry by showcasing attractions.

"Street View could be very useful in public spaces, parks, museums, hotels, and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. It could significantly help tourism. A Street View of the old city in particular could prove very popular," wrote Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Not all regions should appear, cautioned some government officials. In particular, Israel is concerned about photographing sensitive locations, such as areas near the homes of the president and prime minister, retired lieutenant colonel Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press.

"We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities," said Kedar, who spent 25 years with Israeli intelligence, noting that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks within the nation.

Like some counterparts in Europe and the United States, individual Israelis also may be concerned. Israel has privacy laws in place, and Google must comply, Yoram Hacohen, an attorney who heads the Israeli law, information, and technology authority at Israel's Justice Ministry, told iBlogAuto.

"The law mandates that the public be informed by anyone collecting information for a database. If it wants to operate the service, it must advertise in newspapers that it plans to photograph particular areas. Anyone who doesn't want to be photographed must approach Google ahead of time and ask not to be," he said. "It's clear that the public must be informed about these activities. If someone discovers himself on Street View and wants to have the image removed, there is a way to do this in the system. A person can erase himself. We will ask that the erasure and application processes be in Hebrew and not English."

To collect data for Street View, Google sends out specially equipped cars to film all streets and buildings. In the process, the autos sometimes capture individuals, and the cars' equipment also has grabbed users' unencrypted wireless network data. Currently, Google offers the three-dimensional tour service in 27 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France.

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