SPECIALLY-equipped cars will soon start touring Slovakia taking digital images of national monuments as well as towns and cities as part of Google’s Street View internet service. The process began on April 11 and will produce panoramic shots of many parts of the country that will be available to anyone in the world with an internet connection. It took Google two years to adapt its procedures to Slovakia’s strict law on personal data protection.
“Slovakia is a country with a historical and cultural heritage as well as natural beauty so it should definitely be part of Street View,” Janka Zichová, Google’s Communication & Corporate Affairs Manager told The Slovak Spectator.
Google will take digital images of 19 Slovak cities, including the capital Bratislava, that will become part of the internet firm’s Street View service which offers panoramic views of important cultural and historical places as well as many cities across the world, the SITA newswire reported.
Several mayors and the Slovak Tourist Board (SACR) are pleased by the start of the project as they view it as a good marketing tool for the country.
“Street View is an innovative and strong marketing tool for improvement of tourist traffic and dissemination of information about Slovakia around the world,” said Peter Belinský, SACR’s general director, as quoted by SITA. “That is why I am glad that this service will be launched in Slovakia.”
Google had to overcome several obstacles to meet Slovakia’s law on personal data protection.
“Google has to comply with certain personal data processing principles,” Libuša Stanová, the spokesperson of the Office for Personal Data Protection, told The Slovak Spectator.
Google is required to appoint a representative with a permanent address in Slovakia and must adequately inform citizens about the nature of the project before starting it, Stanová said, adding that Google employees should be mindful of certain institutions such as schools and avoid them during the busiest hours, for instance at the beginning and the end of schooldays.
“Google should also avoid any image-gathering that can violate the personal privacy of affected persons, eventually to adequately provide for their blurring,” Stanová stated. “Usually it will be hospitals, churches and similar places that require higher demands from the point of view of personal security protection.”
She told The Slovak Spectator that negotiations with Google took considerable time because the company was looking for solutions that would comply with Slovakia’s law and that her office did not try to slow down the process.
“The Office for Personal Data Protection was not responsible for this time extension and did not have a reason or interest in delaying the launch of the Street View service in Slovakia,” Stanová stated.
She added that some complaints about violation of personal privacy might occur and her office will resolve them in a proper way. If a complaint is found to be valid the office will take action to correct the problem and in serious cases it can penalise Google. She noted that the office has the option to ask Google to delete things like a car or a building from its recordings.
“While Street View enables people to easily find, discover, and plan activities relevant to a location, we respect the fact that people may not want certain types of images featured in the service. We provide easily accessible tools for flagging inappropriate or sensitive imagery for review and removal,” said Zichová.
Several mayors said they are pleased by the new opportunity to advertise and show off their cities to people in foreign countries and to attract more tourists.
“Street View for sure will contribute to new tourists from around the world discovering our country”, said Milan Ftáčnik, the mayor of Bratislava, as quoted by the Sme daily.
Another mayor played down privacy concerns.
“Seeing that scanning was allowed by all competent authorities, I believe that they considered very thoroughly the personal data interference of citizens,” stated Richard Raši, the mayor of Košice.
Information about Google’s route of travel is available on the internet but the company has not specified exactly when its images of Slovakia will go online. Sme wrote that it will take several months to process the digital recordings as identifiable things such as individuals’ faces and car licence plates will need to be blurred.
16. Apr 2012 at 0:00 | Roman Cuprik