Google blurs faces to protect privacy in Australian Street View

Google Maps gets a lot more personal.

Google Australia has gone the way of its UK counterparts and chosen to blur the faces of people caught on camera in the local version of its Street View service, launched today.

Street View is an enhancement to Google Maps, allowing users to navigate through a continuous panoramic street-level photograph of a location.

In the US, Street View offers near-complete coverage of the streets of a number of cities. It raised privacy concerns when it launched there last year, as people who never expected to be photographed found their movements displayed to a worldwide audience.

"Google has gone to great lengths to safeguard privacy while allowing all Australians to benefit from this feature," read statement issued by the company today "Street View only contains imagery that is already visible from public roads. In Australia, Street View features technology that blurs identifiable faces." In addition, it said any user can easily flag for removal images they consider inappropriate by clicking on Street View Help.

"Google Maps has its origins as an Australian invention so we're thrilled to bring Street View here as one of the first countries in the world," said Andrew Foster, product manager for Google Australia. "A lot of remote and regional Australia is now available to explore virtually. Street View will allow people to visit places in Australia they may not have had a chance to experience before."

Only a handful of countries have Street View enabled. The US version went live to 50 state sin May 2007, the UK is soon to go live and the French edition, launched in early July, covered only a small -- but very special -- subset of French streets: the route of the famous Tour de France cycle race.

Peter Sayer contributed to this report.

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