Google Maps goes behind closed doors in Paris

PARIS -- Google's Street View is taking online shopping to another level by canvassing the interiors of boutiques in Paris and other cities, but how far will it go?

PARIS – Soon shopping along the chic Avenue de la Montaigne or rue de la Paix in Paris could be available to everyone from the comfort of their own home.  Google launched a new feature for its Street View that will allow you to go inside certain boutiques, restaurants and hotels.  For the moment, the service is limited to larger cities in the US, Japan, Australia and soon to London and Paris in Europe.

Google’s innovative free mapping services were launched in 2005 with the classic Street View debuting in 2007 to allow web users to virtually walk along streets in almost any location globally.  Already visitors can visit the palace of Versailles with the click of a mouse, but the initiative has had some critics.  The new feature could stir up some controversy in Germany and other countries where the Street View concept has already butted heads with strict national privacy laws.

Much like the traditional Street View, photos inside shops and restaurants will not show customers’ faces, instead blurring them out of recognition.  Still, as one of the first cities to be targeted by Google, Paris could be a difficult sell as many small boutiques are oftentimes finicky about photos.

Participation in the new service is voluntary, according to Google.  Many shops, like famed macaron baker Ladurée and their competitor Pierre Hermé are notorious for yelling at customers, usually tourists, who dare take photos of the picturesque pastries.  The inside of these boutiques is something of a sacred ground, off limits to amateur and professional photographers without special permission.  Will Google be an exception?

While only in the earliest stages of development, it remains to be seen how far into Paris’ interior Google can reach.  While some shops are sure to put up a fight, others welcome the new Google Maps feature, even if just for the free publicity.  Workers at popular chocolate shop Jadis et Gourmande in the Marais district see no reason to prevent Google from photographing their shop.  “We are proud to expose our products,” one employee said, “as long as it’s not for commercial use.”

Photo: Google Maps

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