Australia is one of the first countries outside North America to get Google's amazing street-view photography. But this time, Google promises your privacy is safe...
Under the previous Government, if you spotted strange folks taking photographs of most of the important parts of the country, you were encouraged to dob them in, so that they could be safely imprisoned and shipped off for some off-shore questioning by our happy American allies. Remember, you got a fridge magnet and everything. Presumably everyone has forgotten this, or somebody at Google got a special dispensation, as the company has announced that it has enough photographic evidence of Australia to launch a localised version of its Street View
application for Google Maps.
Australia, home to the engineers who originally built Google Maps, becomes one of the first places outside the US to get Street View. Well, as long as you don't count the route for the Tour De France as being in a country, that is. And really, who does?
In any case, Street View is an add-on to Google Maps that allows you to select a street level, photographic view of wherever it is you're looking at or searching for. Photos can be rotated through a complete 360 degrees, and for most shots, you should be able to virtually "walk" along the photographed route. We say should, as at the time of writing, the Australian site is yet to go live, and everything we know about Street View has been gained through Google's existing help pages for the product, including a so-bad-it's-just-bad-and-not-in-fact-good training video, which you can waste 1:44 of your life on here
. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Google's release was, and this shouldn't be a shock, rather hyperbolic on the launch of Australian Street View, with Andrew Foster, the product manager at Google Australia, quoted in the release as saying that "Street View provides an added experience by enabling users to see street-level panoramas of Australia's public roads, including dusty outback highways, tropical northern beach roads and major city arteries"
. Which is all well and good, but Google then remained suspiciously quiet when APC's Dan Warne queried them as to exactly how much of those self-same roads were in fact photographed, only to be told that they don't have an official figure on that. If only they could look it up on Google.
In any case, if the US model is any gauge, any map that has areas highlighted in blue should have an accompanying street view available to skim through. Just as you can with the US site, there's a selection of famous Australian landmarks -- these have been selected by Tourism Australia -- which can be quickly browsed directly from the Google Street View Home Page. As part of the launch, a still video "flip book" of the Sydney City 2 Surf route will also be made available.
The technology behind Street View is undeniably kind of cool, but it's not been without criticism, primarily from privacy advocates overseas. Google's response to that is to point out that any faces that happened to be captured by its camera team are deliberately blurred to the point of being unidentifiable. While the press pictures that Google gave out certainly don't identify people, we're not sure if this extends to things like licence plates, which could be interesting if you're in the business of keeping several mistresses, and like parking outside your love nest of an afternoon. Ahem. If that does describe you, you're also able to flag pictures of concern, and Google claims it will remove pictures that users flag this way.