The Bangalore police have made it clear that there shall be no collection of images by Google Inc for its street view services. Home Minister of Karnataka, R Ashok too has dashed off a letter to the Union Government now requesting it not to permit Google to go ahead with this service.
Google has the street view service in 27 countries. However this service which allows a user to explore a neighbourhood through street level images is not available in India as yet. While Google faces this problem in Bangalore, the issue may be similar for this company across the country too. The reports by the Intelligence Bureau are not in favour of this service since they believe that it will only help terrorists access crucial information with more ease.
Post 26/11 a lot changed in terms of India’s security structure. The men who scouted targets had relied heavily on google maps to locate their targets. The IB says that although such services are not the only thing that terrorists rely upon, it still gives them a fair idea of what targets should be attacked. The routes are picked up with the help of these services based on which they sent their men to scout targets for further details.
Although Google has said that it would address the concerns the road ahead looks tough. Not only has Karnataka now said no to this service, but the Union Home Ministry too does not seem optimistic about this service at the moment. We want to minimise every luxury that terrorists may have, said a source in that department and unless we are sure that this service will not pose any security risk, permission cannot be granted, they also added.
However the Bangalore police has made it clear that this service will only spell disaster. The police also sent out a detailed report to the state Home Minister stating that permission should be granted for this service.
The problem began last week when Google with its fleet of vehicles began shooting pictures of streets in Bangalore. The police came into the picture and questioned them about the same. According to the Bangalore police, they were told that they had permission from the Commissioner to do so. However when the matter was brought before the commissioner, he said that they had only applied for permission and it had not been granted as yet. The police say that there is a difference between getting permission and seeking it. The vehicle were then seized.
The matter was then taken before the Home Minister, R Ashok who immediately sought a report from the police regarding the same. The police in its report has made it clear that Bangalore is very high on the terror target. Moreover it is home to several important installations such as the DRDO, IISC, ISRO among others. The fact that terrorists will look to target an IT city can also not be ruled out, the police also said in their report. Hence it is important that the Home Minister does not accord permission to Google, the report further stated.
To make matters worse for Google, some members of the Bharatiya Janata Party too submitted a memorandum to the Home Minister. They too cited the same reasons in their memorandum. Further they have said that such mapping has only facilitated terrorists to unleash their evil designs and it would be suicidal to allow such a service especially in Bangalore which is high on the terror radar.
The Home Minister has taken into account these reports and has written to the Union Government not to accord permission for such services.
Sources say that this battle between the Indian Government and Google is not expected to get over soon. First the issue of privacy was raised by the Indian officials. This included filming of car registrations numbers etc. However google has assured that it would blur out these images and hence the issue of privacy would not crop up.
However the bigger point that India has been raising is that of a security risk. The major installations across the country will be available on the finger tips of the terrorist groups and this can create a problem. The access to any target is one of the crucial aspects to any terror strike and since this service will provide details about key installations too, it becomes important to be watchful while granting permission, sources in the IB say.
India is no stranger to terror strikes. In fact it is one of the worst affected in the world. The 26/11 attack only showed all of us the sophistication with which the attack was carried out and how the terrorists had made use of technology to their advantage. The handlers of these terrorists especially David Headley had picked out targets from the maps on the internet and provided the required information. This reduces the job of a person considerably since these maps after being studied by him gives him a sense of familiarity when he embarks upon his mission collecting further information, sources also added.
Google’s Street View services shows a user everything right from a small hotel to a building and viewing angle is 360 degree. The cameras that are mounted on the vehicle take photographs continously and they are stitched together for a 360 degree view.
At the launch product head of Google India had said that if you were going to book an hotel room and it claims to be near the beach you can check out the hotel and check whether it’s actually true.
On the security concerns he had said that they were taking images which are publicly available.We are not doing is going into a specific installation and taking private pictures and we are working with the authorities so if there are certain locations they don’t want us to be there we won’t go there. We blur out everyone’s faces, and also the license plate data, he had also said.
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone