Don’t put Google in a corner

Google has been taking a lot of heat recently for their mapping technology, Google Maps, including privacy issues with ‘Street View’ and most recently, concerns over an announcement that they will be updating their maps using a “fleet of planes [that] will fly above U.S. cities to provide map imagery in three dimensions.”  So how has Google responded to all this criticism?

The issue doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller in scale, or like it will go away any time soon, so what has Google’s response been so far?  Since an announcement earlier this month about increasing the coverage and reach of Google Maps, using new technology called the ‘Street View Trekker’ that fits into a backpack.

Today, we’re taking another step forward with our Street View Trekker. You’ve seen our cars, trikes, snowmobiles and trolleys—but wheels only get you so far. There’s a whole wilderness out there that is only accessible by foot. Trekker solves that problem by enabling us to photograph beautiful places such as the Grand Canyon so anyone can explore them. All the equipment fits in this one backpack, and we’ve already taken it out on the slopes.

There has also been a surge of government requests for Google to remove information they deem to be sensitive.  Google considers this a risk to free expresion and has recently responded to these requests with a statement on the Google Blog:

About two years ago, we launched our interactive Transparency Report. We startedby disclosing data about government requests. Since then, we’ve been steadilyadding new features, like graphs showing traffic patterns and disruptions to Google services from different countries. And just a couple weeks ago, we launched a new section showing the requests we get from copyright holders to remove search results.

The traffic and copyright sections of the Transparency Report are refreshed in near-real-time, but government request data is updated in six-month increments because it’s a people-driven, manual process. Today we’re releasing data showing government requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user informationmade from July to December 2011.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not…

Read the rest here.

 

They link to a Google Map, ironically enough, which displays visually the removal and user-information requests Google has received most recently (from July to December 2011).

Is Google invading people’s privacy too much with Google Maps, or do you agree with their stance on ‘free expression’ and believe they should be allowed to continue the way they are?  Sound off in the comments…

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