As of now, the Centre has denied permission to Google to cover India through its street view application citing security considerations, officials said on Thursday.
Most of the images for the street view application are captured by cameras mounted on cars but some are also taken from tricycles, boats, snowmobiles and camels or by trekkers and underwater apparatus.
The online images are accessible to all. According to sources, Google will have to wait for a year or two before it can capture street-level images of the country’s cities as the government wants the pending Geospatial Information Regulation Bill to be enacted before considering the internet giant’s application afresh.
“All such issues will be sorted out after the bill comes into being,” said Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home affairs. The geospatial bill is being brought to regulate data and high-resolution images collected from the skies and shared through applications such as Google Earth or Map.
According to Google, street view application is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States and now covers a large part of the world.
Once the bill is enacted, disseminating, publishing or displaying information that is likely to affect “security, sovereignty or integrity” of the country will become a punishable crime.
Sources said the security agencies and defence ministry had analysed security implications of allowing capturing of this kind of imagery and threats posed by it. Security sources say some of targets for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks were shown to the attackers by their handlers using similar applications.
“Google’s plan was rejected only after that. The government had allowed Google to capture street-level imagery of some tourist spots like the Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Red Fort on an experimental basis. But the matter didn’t go further than that,” said a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sources said once the geospatial data bill is enacted, India can make a legally binding case for service providers to exclude sensitive security installations like forward airbases, nuclear plants or the prime minister’s residence from coverage under the applications.