We can watch you but you can't watch us says Google
THEY have come under fire amid claims they are invading privacy by photographing everything in sight.
But it seems those behind the Google Streetmap project are less than keen on being pictured themselves, apparently fearing reprisals from angry locals.
Several cars were spotted by the Evening News preparing to hit the streets of the Capital at a disused garage site in Drum Brae South yesterday.
When our photographer began to capture the teams setting up the roof-mounted cameras, he was threatened with legal action.
Photographer Ian Georgeson said: "I was standing on public ground taking photos of the cars when one of the drivers came over and said that they didn't want us to print their faces.
"He said if I used any shots of him they would sue us, because they were concerned about reprisals.
"He admitted they were a bit concerned about the way people would react to the cameras, but said they would be in Edinburgh for a couple of months at least trying to map the city."
The Google cameras take 360-degree views of streets to be used in Street View – an innovative online mapping system offering virtual city tours.
The cars have been spotted travelling around the city's streets, taking pictures of everything from shopfronts and monuments to shoppers out on the street and residents in their gardens.
The mapping has continued despite the concerns of human rights groups about the possible invasion of privacy, with Google saying only that it would blur the faces of any individuals captured on camera.
The five cars, and an associated technical support van, were spotted yesterday morning having the specialist cameras fitted to the roof. It is understood a team of technicians had been flown in from America to fit and maintain the specialist equipment.
Edinburgh is expected to be one of the first cities in the UK to be featured on Street View, with Google planning to launch the service in the UK later this year.
Privacy International complained to the UK Information Commissioner regarding the new service's alleged potential to breach UK data protection laws after American citizens complained.
UK civil liberties group No2ID spokesman Guy Herbert said: "That is an extraordinary situation, but it does seem to be the case that while large organisations, traditionally the police or councils, are happy to photograph the public, they are less keen on being photographed themselves.
"It would be interesting to see just what legal grounds they think they have to stop their picture being used that wouldn't also apply to the pictures they are taking, and I think they would be on pretty treacherous ground."
A spokeswoman for Google said it had no problem with the cars being photographed, but admitted it did not want staff to be hindered in any way.
She said: "We are happy for people to take pictures of the cars – they are clearly identified as working for Google. We would not want our staff to be in any way stopped from doing their job, however."
The spokeswoman added that she was unaware of any complaints from Edinburgh residents about the cars.
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