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Google Street View Cars Return Next Week

There will be no more WiFi data collection, but watch out for the lasers.
Google on Friday said that it has removed all WiFi scanning equipment from its Street View image collection cars and that its cars will resume their image acquisition mission in Ireland, Norway, South Africa, and Sweden.

In May, Google acknowledged that it had unintentionally included experimental code that collected unprotected WiFi network traffic in the software it used to capture images for its Street View service.

The revelation prompted multiple lawsuits, Congressional scrutiny in the U.S., and indignation and inquiries in other affected countries.

In the U.S., Street View cars remain grounded, except for limited test runs in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Google's headquarters.

Google's executives have repeatedly apologized, but they're not done yet.

In response to an inquiry by Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis, Google on Friday issued an apology to Australians for its inadvertent data collection and promised to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment about future Street View data collection in the country.

At the same time, Google wants people to know that it's not the only company sending vehicles into neighborhoods to take pictures and collect data.

In a blog post announcing the removal of the WiFi equipment, Google engineering VP Brian McClendon notes that NavTeq, which works with Microsoft's Bing search engine, and TeleAtlas are also taking pictures and collecting 3D geometry data to make street level maps.

Google's Street View cars collect 3D geometry data using low-powered lasers, which McClendon likens to retail price scanners.

Google uses this data to calculate the distance a user wants to move when he or she clicks on a Street View image; the company also uses it to accurately overlay Street View images on 3D Google Earth models.

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