Microsoft drives Streetside mapping into the UK

The Bing Maps rival to Google Street View has arrived in London, where Navteq cars have started collecting street-level photos as well as location and landmark data

Microsoft has started taking photos in London for Streetside, its Bing Maps photo feature that will go up against Google Street View in the UK.

The Streetside feature will display street-level images collected using a 360-degree camera, the company said on Tuesday. Mapping specialist Navteq — which is wholly owned by Nokia — has partnered with Microsoft and is providing the cars to take the 360-degree photos. As well as collecting images, Navteq will gather point-of-interest data such as where landmarks or pubs are located and other road and location information.

Microsoft Streetside Navteq

Microsoft Streetside will display street-level, 360-degree images, using Navteq's cars, seen here at Nokia World. Photo credit: Ben Woods

The Streetside cars have begun driving round densely populated urban areas such as London and will move on to other towns and cities across the UK, Microsoft said.

"Users should begin seeing [UK] images on Bing Maps from around the first or second week of May, depending on the weather and other factors," a spokesman for the company told ZDNet UK.

In order to respect individuals' privacy, Streetside will blur faces and vehicle number plates. Users can also flag any images they think are inappropriate for removal.

"We accept requests to blur or remove images of faces or persons, homes, cars, acts of violence, nudity and unlawful material," Microsoft said in a statement. "Depending on the content of the pictures we may remove it entirely, blur a portion of it or take no action if no identifying features remain visible."

Google has run into privacy-related problems in Germany over gathering images for Street View, and it has come under fire from privacy authorities worldwide over the collection of private Wi-Fi data by Street View cars. In November, the Information Commissioner's Office found Google was in "significant breach" of data laws when it harvested emails and passwords from unsecured networks.

Microsoft will begin collecting Streetside data in France, Germany and Spain, "soon after" the UK, the company said. Streetside launched for Bing Maps in the US at the end of 2009, and the feature currently covers 56 cities there.

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