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Google Launches Street View for the UK, Netherlands

Google has brought its street-level imagery to the U.K. and the Netherlands, bringing the total number of countries covered to nine.

Street View, launched in 2007 in the U.S., offers a 360-degree ground-level view of the streets. Google began gathering imagery for the U.K. last summer, and keen observers spotted cars equipped with large cameras.

That touched off privacy concerns over Street View, but Google has been given the all-clear by the Information Commissioner's Office, the U.K.'s data protection agency, said Ed Parsons, a Google geospatial technologist at a press event Thursday. Google also cleared the project with Scotland Yard, headquarters for British law enforcement.

Poor weather, however, held up the project in the U.K. more than anything else. Imagery can't be collected when it rains, Parsons said.

Buckingham Palace isn't on Street View yet, but that was due to a technical issue rather than a security concern, Parsons said. Downing Street, home of U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is not on Street View since it's not a public street.

As is being done in the U.S. and other countries with Street View, Google is using an automated software program to blur people's faces as well as vehicle license plates, Parsons said. The software is up to 99 percent accurate at blurring those features in photos, he said.

Google also has a reporting system where people can register their concern about an image. Google's policy is to remove images of people if they complain as well as black out people's homes when requested as soon as possible, Parsons said.

Cities covered in the U.K. are London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Bradford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Swansea, York, Newcastle, Dundee, Southampton, Norwich and Scunthorpe. Not all cities have complete coverage just yet, but Google will continue to add more streets, Parsons said.

Other countries that have Street View are the U.S., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain and Italy.

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