Google Street View plan for India rejected by Home Ministry over security concerns

Google’s plan to collect images for its ‘Street View’ service in India has been rejected by the Defence Ministry on Friday, even though the government could yet approve it. It is a feature that can aid the tourism industry. The company applied several months ago to bring in the street-mapping feature showing 360-degree panoramic images of streets, monuments, mountains and rivers—a service it first introduced in the U.S. in 2007.

Street View is the search giant’s virtual mapping tool that lets users view 360-degree, panoramic and street-level images across more than 65 countries, and seven million miles.

Despite the fact that Google blurs faces, licence plates and other sensitive information, India’s security agencies and defence department reportedly objected.

Street View in India until now has only mapped major landmarks and tourist attractions such as the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Gateway of India in Mumbai, rather than the street-level detail seen in cities in the UK or the U.S.

Google’s proposal has been rejected but a final decision would likely be taken later in the year told an interior ministry spokesman to AFP.

“We have rejected the plan by Google to expand its maps feature,” the spokesman said.

“The final decision would come hopefully sometime this year,” he said without providing any further details.

Maps are a highly sensitive issue in India, which has long-running border disputes with several of its neighbours, most famously over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir. Also, security agencies had expressed concerns about allowing such image-capturing services that comes in the wake of terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 and more recently, on the Pathankot military airbase in January. Investigators believe the attackers were acquainted with the layout of the airbase from Google Maps.

“The main concern was security of sensitive defence installations. The defence ministry said it was not possible to monitor the service once it was launched and it would be detrimental to national security,” a senior government official was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper.

Google’s data collection has caused concern in numerous countries such as Europe, including the UK, Czech Republic and Germany, where privacy-minded citizens demanded photos of their homes be blurred as well.

In 2011, Google was stopped by the police in the southern city of Bangalore from collecting images for its service in the city on an experimental basis after police objections. Google’s camera-mounted cars were to roam the cities collecting images from roads and public locations for its free Street View service.

Google said it had received no official notifications of the ban from the Indian Home Ministry.