OTTAWA Google Inc (GOOG.O) is considering a
Canadian launch of its Street View map feature, which offers
street-level close-ups of city centers, but would blur people's
faces and vehicle license plates to respect tougher Canadian
privacy laws, the Web search firm said on Monday.
Canada's privacy commissioner told Google in August that
the feature -- which offers a series of panoramic, 360-degree
images of nine U.S. cities -- could violate Canadian laws if it
were introduced without alterations.
Some of the pictures feature people who can clearly be
identified, which contravenes Canadian legislation on privacy.
"We are thinking about launching it outside the United
States, including Canada, and we're looking at how it would
have to be different in Canada compared to its U.S. version,"
said Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel.
"We would launch Street View in Canada in keeping with the
principles and requirements of Canadian law ... that means we
know we'll have to focus on finding ways to make sure that
individual's faces are not identifiable in pictures taken in
Canada and that license plate numbers are not identifiable in
Canada," he told Reuters in an interview.
Google had been approached by a number of Canadian cities
seeking to be featured, he said.
"(They) have said 'Please come and start taking this
imagery of our city. It's good for our tourist industry and
we'll even pay you or reimburse your expenses to do so'," he
Canada's privacy commissioner has yet to hear from Google,
a spokesman said.
"If that's how they're planning to roll out their service
by putting in place technological means ... to block out faces
and license plates and other essential personal information,
then that's a great first step," said Colin McKay.
The images of U.S. cities were produced in partnership with
Canadian firm Immersive Media Corp IMC.V, which says it has
taken similar street level pictures of major Canadian cities.
Fleischer said he did not know if the firm would be
involved in any Canadian launch.