Acting on privacy complaints, Google has started to blur the faces of people photographed as part of its street photos program that feeds images to Google's internet map programme.
Google's Street View programme augments online maps with photos, providing a 'street view' of the searched or mapped location, and provides almost unparalleled detail and breadth of images. The service launched last year, and has generated privacy concerns amongst a number of people.
How it works is that specially equipped Google vehicles cruise city streets capturing 360–degree panoramic images of homes and businesses, However, images captured reflected the reality of everyday life, showing people going through their daily routine, including things they would not want viewed by others.
Blurring the images of people, it is said, would satisfy some privacy advocates, who say it would still allow Street View's objective of allowing people to familiarise themselves with the look and feel of a location prior to travelling there.
Google now says that it has started deploying a facial-recognition algorithm, which scans photos for people's faces to blur out. Starting with New York, it will slowly move to 40 other cities Street View has captured, even as Google spokesman Larry Yu said the company is still tweaking the system.
Right now, the system blurs things which it interprets as faces, but that necessarily may not be. Yu says that is erring on the side of caution, as ''that is better than leaving too many faces unblurred,''
Google says the move to blur faces is also a step to prevent legal or cultural objections ahead of Street View's expansion into other countries.