Google, Apple's Next Generation of 3D Maps Raise Privacy Concerns


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If the latest trend among big technology companies is any indication, using satellites to capture imagery for mapping services is a pretty passé way of going about business these days. Google revealed last week that it's been using its own planes to collect photos to be used in the new 3D imagery for Google Maps and the Daily Mail reminds us that Apple, which is expected to deploy its very own brand of mapping services later today at its World Wide Developers Conference, has been doing the same.

After Apple acquired 3D image-making company C3 Technologies in October of last year, the company has been using "military-grade cameras" so strong that they are said to be able to zoom through skylights and windows to capture images of the insides of buildings. Like, your house. Or office.

In other words, Apple's camera-equipped aircraft all but have X-ray vision, prompting a pro-privacy, anti-surveillance group in the UK to voice concern over how invasive Apple and Google's new mapping technologies might be for unsuspecting Earth-dwellers who happen to be out toiling in the garden or washing the car whenever one of the companies' planes soar by overhead. Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, thinks the new generation of mapping imagery may be so detailed and potentially invasive that technology companies should have to acquire content from homeowners before their houses can be included in the mapping services.

‘The next generation of maps is taking us over the garden fence,’ he warned. ‘You won’t be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead taking pictures.’

Even if Google and Apple were ordered to acquire consent from homeowners in order to use the images of homes in mapping services, that doesn't necessarily curtail any risk that people in public spaces or buildings might be at whenever a plane swoops by and snaps some pictures.

While the 3D imagery Apple is said to be revealing at WWDC, we'll all just have to wait and see exactly how defined those images are and whether we should start considering tech companies' planes the next time we decline to close the bathroom window's blinds before jumping into the shower.