Will Google Street View have to say sayonara to Japan?

Following reports that Google’s Street View camera cars have been banned in Greece and chased out of a village in England it now appears that Japan has attacked the service.

According to the BBC cameras attached to the Street View car were “too high” for Japanese buildings, allowing them to see over walls into private areas.

Street View is an add-on to Google Maps and Google Earth that offers photographs of streets and cities and was launched in the UK in March. However the service has come in for much criticism after it was revealed a number of inappropriate images displaying police arrests and even a drunk man wearing antlers were available on the service.

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Google has had to promise to lower the cameras on its cars by 40cm.

Google said it would make “locally appropriate modifications to ensure a better user experience”. “We have lowered the height of the camera due to the unique characteristics of many Japanese roads; they tend to be narrow, without pavements and driveways, and houses are built close to the street,” the statement said.

“We think the new camera height allows us to get a high-quality image of the street while respecting the privacy of homeowners.”

In December 2008 Japanese rights campaigners demanded that Google remove photographs from the Street View function in Google Earth after it captured images of couples entering “love hotels”.

Much earlier that year, the European Union raised privacy concerns over Street View cameras as well.

Earlier this week, the BBC reported that Greece’s data protection agency banned Google from expanding its Street View service in the country, pending “additional information” from the firm.

Greek authorities want to know how long the images will be kept on Google’s database and what measures it will take to make people aware of privacy rights. Privacy groups also slammed Google’s ‘behavioral’ advertising plan and data retention policies. On numerous occasions the company had to bow to public pressure.

Google said that it had taken steps to protect people’s privacy. In 2007, the company gave its assurance that Street View will comply with privacy laws.

“Google takes privacy very seriously, and that’s why we have put in place a number of features, including the blurring of faces and licence plates, to ensure that Street View will respect local norms when it launches in Greece,” a statement read.

“We have already spoken with the Hellenic Data Protection Authority to ensure that they understand the importance we place on protecting user privacy.

“Street View has not been banned in Greece. We have received a request for further information and we are happy to continue discussing these issues with them. We will discuss with them whether it is appropriate for us to continue driving in the meantime.

“Although that dialogue is ongoing, we believe that launching in Greece will offer enormous benefits to both Greek users and the people elsewhere who are interested in taking a virtual tour of some of its many tourist attractions.”

Last month Milton Keynes residents tried to prevent the driver of a Google Street Car taking pictures for its Street View service.