S'pore: First Street View in Southeast Asia

update Singapore is likely to be first in the region to have Google's Street View panoramic photo feature enabled for the search giant's online digital map services.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

update Singapore is likely to be the first Southeast Asian country to have Google's Street View service, following confirmation from the search giant that it has begun taking pictures across the island-state.

Street View is a feature in Google Maps and Google Earth--the company's Web-based mapping services, offering 360 degree panoramic pictures at street level that complement satellite pictures provided for the digital maps.

First launched in the United States mid-2007, Street View provides pictures taken of public roads from vehicles with roof-mounted cameras, to create the panoramas.

One such vehicle was spotted Friday in Singapore by a reader of ZDNet Asia sister site, CNET Asia.

Google on Wednesday confirmed its ownership of the cars operating in Singapore. While the company could not say whether Singapore would eventually be the first Southeast Asian country to have Street View enabled, a spokesperson told ZDNet Asia the island-state is the first in the region in which the camera-mounted Google vehicles have been trawling.

It declined to reveal when the vehicles started operation, but said the cars will be snapping pictures over the next "several months".

After the required images have been taken, they will be processed over several months and prepped for Street View. Part of the processing involves privacy measures, such as blurring out individuals' faces and license plate numbers captured in the pictures, said Google.

Its spokesperson could not say where the processing would be done, or if the relevant local authorities would have a hand in the censoring process. However, Google said it had secured clearance from Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) before deploying the vehicles.

Google said it initially approached the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), and was redirected to other government agencies for approval.

An IDA spokesperson confirmed it was initially approached by Google, but declined to say to which agencies it redirected the search giant. A spokesperson from the Singapore Police told ZDNet Asia: "Police are already in contact with Google to better understand the project, in particular, on the legal requirements and security considerations."

The LTA could not respond at press time.

Street View is currently available for Google's U.S., Australia, Japan and France maps.

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