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Google’s Street View cars begin to roam around streets of Austria to take images for Google Maps.  The car equipped with special cameras will visit Vienna, Linz, and Graz in Austria until November.

The project, launched in 2007, lets computer users view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps and take a virtual “walk” through cities.

Austria and Germany are the only two EU countries to remain largely absent from the popular online service showing 360-degree pictures of places around the world.

Some countries have been hesitant to provide Google access because of the sensitivity related to information gathering.

In 2010, Google had begun to roll out its service in Austria and neighboring Germany but was ordered to halt operations over alleged privacy breaches. Later on, the company admitted that vehicles had unintentionally recorded personal data from wireless networks.

Although Austria lifted its temporary ban a year later, Google’s street view decided not return to the alpine nation — until now.

The fresh start was timed to coincide with Street View’s 10-year anniversary, Google said in a statement.

Before being published on Google Maps, The images are processed in the US, where personal information such as registration plates, faces, and other identifiable objects are automatically blurred to assure personal privacy.

“The official launch of Street View in Austria is expected to happen in six to twelve months,” Google Austria spokesman Wolfgang Fasching-Kapfenberger told AFP.

Under Austrian law, Street View cars will only be allowed to capture photos but not videos.

The service still has a very low penetration rate in Germany, which has some of Europe’s strictest privacy laws due to the abuses under its Nazi and communist dictatorships.

As a special concession to privacy concerns, Germans can have their homes or businesses pixelated, as well as opt out of the service altogether.


credits: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

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