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Google ´spy-car´ spotted in Vienna

A Google camera-car that may be taking photos of city streets has been sighted in Vienna on several occasions over the past few days.

There have been several reports of sightings of a red Opel with a Google sticker and a camera mounted on its roof near Vienna General Hospital and on the Ringstraße. There were also several sightings of a Google camera-car in Vienna last year.

The camera-car may be part of preparations for a Vienna entry in the firm’s "Google Street View" feature, which enables computer users to take so-called "virtual" tours of a city’s streets.

Google reportedly has enough photos of US cities and so has turned to Europe. Panorama photos of cities in France, Italy and Spain were available online in 2008, and such photos of cities in the UK and the Netherlands have become available this year.

The project is somewhat controversial, however, since some Austrians consider it to be a violation of their right to privacy and others fear that it could be of assistance to criminals who want to burglarise households and offices.

The Austrian Society for Data Protection (ARGE) considers Google’s measures to protect privacy to be "inadequate." ARGE claims Google’s operation is "illegal" in Austria.

Google Street View is a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth that provides
360° horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic views of many streets in the world from a row of positions along them (every 10 or 20 metres or so) and from a height of about two metres.

It was launched on May 25, 2007, and has gradually been expanded to include more cities, and, in those cities, more streets, and also some rural areas.

Pedestrian areas, narrow streets and park alleys that cannot be accessed by car are not always covered. Sometimes, however, Google Bikes are used to cover them.

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