Ministers mull Google Maps Street View for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
Concern is that photos of sensitive sites could aid in planning terror attacks.
A ministerial task force has been appointed to decide whether to allow Google to photograph streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as part of its Street View service.
The panel, which will start work next week, will decide where to permit the service in view of the security issues it raises. The concern is that terrorist organizations could use Street View to help them plan attacks against Israeli leaders or public figures.
After photographing streets in major cities elsewhere, Google wants to photograph Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well, allowing surfers round the world to "tour" the Israeli cities virtually. The company's staffers have been photographing streets from cars driving through major European, American, Japanese, South African and Australian cities since the middle of 2007. The result is a street map that affords a three-dimensional view of each street and building in these cities from a passerby's viewpoint.
In September 2010, Google bought the Israeli company Quiksee, possibly to enable it to look into buildings, which the company has also started scanning.
The ministerial task force will be headed by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor. Its other members are ministers Moshe Kahlon, Yossi Peled, Michael Eitan, Stas Misezhnikov and Limor Livnat.
Starting on Monday, it will discuss which streets, cities and buildings Google can be allowed to photograph in Israel without infringing on security. It will also consider privacy issues.
Google is likely to ask to scan only Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and possibly Haifa as well. But for security reasons, Israel does not allow certain areas of these cities to be photographed.
The ministers are expected to discuss whether to allow Google to photograph the streets where the prime minister's and president's residences, the government compound and foreign embassies are located, among other sites.
Google said Street View was a popular service in 27 countries, and the company aims to make it accessible to as many surfers as possible worldwide.