Privacy concerns linger over Google and Apple’s new 3-D map images

This Google satellite image shows people sunbathing on their rooftop in Lower Manhattan. New technology Google is testing would allow cameras to get much closer.

Hey Google, stop spying on New Yorkers!

That’s the message Sen. Charles Schumer gave Sunday to the technology giant, as well as to rival firm Apple, warning that the two companies could cause an “unprecedented invasion of privacy” with their new 3-D map applications.

The two companies are racing to each create more and more powerful map software, and the result has been camera technology that’s strong enough to see sunbathers in their backyards, said Schumer.

Both companies are reportedly using military-grade spy planes in order to create aerial maps that are much more detailed than those already out there, such as Google Earth.

The planes can even see through windows and record images of objects as small as four inches, according to  Schumer.

“Barbequing or sunbathing in your backyard shouldn’t be a public event,” Schumer said. “People should be free from the worry of some high-tech peeping Tom technology violating one’s privacy when in your own home.”

He conceded that the technology may have “functional and important uses,” but said that the privacy issues need to be addressed. “We need to hit the pause button here and figure out what is happening,” he said.

In a letter to Apple and Google, Schumer asked the competing companies to provide notification to communities being mapped, to allow property owners to opt out and to automatically blur photos of individuals.

Schumer also said that sensitive infrastructure details like power lines and reservoir access points should be omitted so as not to inadvertently assist criminals and terrorists.

Google has plans to have its new 3-D maps available by the end of 2012.

“We appreciate the Senator’s concerns and we look forward to meeting with him to demonstrate how the imagery used to develop our 3-D models is similar to what’s already publicly available in 2-D mapping products,” said a Google spokeswoman in a statement. “We currently don’t blur aerial imagery because the resolution isn’t sharp enough for it to be a concern.”


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