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Explained: What is Google Street View and why has it launched in India now?

Though rolled out in 2007 elsewhere, Google Street View has started in India only now. What is it, and why wasn't it enabled in India? How will it help users? Does it have any limitations?

A Google Street View image of Chandni Chowk in Delhi.

Google Street View is finally available for ten cities in India and is expected to roll out in about 50 more cities by the end of the year. The 360-degree interactive panorama feature of Google Maps has been available in cities spread over 100 countries since 2007. In India, unlike in other markets, Google Street View is powered by images from third parties as per the National Geospatial Policy, 2021.

What is Google Street View?

Google Street View is an immersive 360-degree view of a location captured using special cameras mounted on vehicles or on backpacks by data collectors moving around the city streets. The images are then patched together to create a 360-degree view which users can swipe through to get a detailed view of the location. It is available to view on Android and iOS using the app, or as a web view.

Why was Street View not enabled in India?

In 2011, the Bangalore City Police stopped vehicles capturing images for Google Street View. Though there was no clarity on why exactly the policy stopped the capture of data, after that Google did not proceed with the product in India, even as local companies like Wonobo and MapMyIndia came up with their own versions of immersive visual maps of some Indian cities.

How has Street View now been launched in India?

The National Geospatial Policy, 2021 lets Indian companies collect map data and license it to others. After this, Google has tied up with Tech Mahindra and Mumbai-based Genesys International to enable Street View for 10 Indian cities initially. This is the first time Google is working with partner data to enable this feature. In India, the data will be collected and owned by these partners.

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Are there any limitations on Street View in India?

Street View in India is not allowed for restricted areas like government properties, defence establishments and military areas. This means in a place like Delhi, the cantonment area will be out of bounds for Street View.

How will Street View help users?

While Google Maps gives users the ability to plot a route and see the satellite view of the same, often this does not give a clear idea of the road conditions. With Street View, users will be able to see exactly how a new destination looks like, and even explore local businesses before going there.

What have been the issues with Street View?

Over the years a lot of privacy and other issues have been raised regarding Street View. A lot of these stem from people’s faces and other identifiable aspects, like car number plates and house numbers, being captured by the camera and being misused in different ways. There have also been security concerns about this kind of views being available, especially for sensitive locations.

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Along with India, Google has had issues with the local authorities in countries like Austria, Australia and Germany, though it has come back in most of these locations.

First published on: 28-07-2022 at 02:48:03 pm
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