Despite security concerns, Israel approves Google Street View

As if missiles were raining down on the south of the country, and as if Israel’s social protesters hadn’t just amped the ante by taking over an abandoned municipally-owned building in central Tel Aviv, and as if the police hadn’t come in to evict the squatters at dawn, causing an uproar, this week the Law, Information and Technology Authority at Israel’s Justice Ministry finally sanctioned Google’s request to operate its “Street View” here.

Razi Barkai, Israel Army Radio’s grand old man of morning radio news, presented this development from the sputtering point of view of a crotchety codger: “Why? Why would anyone even want to do this? Who cares? Who wants to look at this? What — like I want to see my favorite Dizengoff Street shoe store on Google instead of than just walking over? Or some guy riding his bike? Who has time for this?”

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The last question can be debated, but the younger, hipper media correspondent on air with Barkai was left to weakly respond “It’s actually a very popular feature, you know, pretty much everywhere.”

In Israel it took longer than everywhere else to grant this permission, in part because of a longstanding national aversion to anything that might reveal security installations to a prurient and not necessarily well-meaning world.

Dalia Dorner, the former Supreme Court justice who is president of Israel’s Press Council, a watchdog group, while coming on in favor of freedom of expression, pointed out concerns involving personal privacy. For example, someone could be photographed in the company of a woman other than his wife, or while emerging from an AIDS clinic.

Chen Lipsky, 40, of Ramat Gan, a high-tech executive and avid biker who might be captured by the big Google cameras on a sweaty Saturday morning, says “Oh, come on, I have no problem with it at all. So we’re like everybody else now. Everything is recorded and photographed anyway. Who cares? So now our streets will be on Google maps, like the rest of the world.”

On the other hand Jerusalemite Gila Weiss, 40, also a passionate cyclist, objected, saying “I think it’s insane. On the one hand, I understand the concept of freedom of information. But on the other hand, given the security situation here, do we really want to give access to exact locations, complete with pictures of every site in Israel, government agencies, secure locations, to everybody on the planet? Why make it easier for them?”

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