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With Google’s Photo Sphere, users contribute photos of remote spots

Posted September 5, 2013

Mounted on cars, bikes and even snowmobiles, Google Street View cameras have been scouring the globe taking panoramic pictures of roads, alleys and buildings.

The images have redefined the way people navigate, turning two-dimensional maps into a virtual tour guide.

But Google is seeing even more possibilities for one of the most popular Web tools. The search giant wants to turn your smartphone into a Street View camera and help it take 360-degree, interactive pictures of every nook and cranny on Earth.

Eventually, Google wants its users to be able to view not only landmarks and buildings but also remote hiking trails, insides of theme park attractions, and beach hideaways – wherever a smartphone can go.

“We want to go everywhere. The idea with this project is to show you the world as it is, to bring you good imagery anywhere you might be interested in looking,” said Luc Vincent, Google Maps engineering director. “At a city level, at a street level, indoor, outdoor, on a trail, in Antarctica, in Africa, in the U.S. – everywhere.”

But although many travelers are lauding the Photo Sphere initiative, it is raising concerns among privacy advocates and watchdog groups.

Parker Higgins, a spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that although Google is not breaking any laws, some people already were bothered by Street View simply because they weren’t used to the fact that anyone can type in their street address and see their house.

“In other parts of the world, people are very uncomfortable with the idea of Google coming through and photographing everything, and you can imagine that they’d be even more uncomfortable with individuals doing this and collectively uploading to Google,” he said.


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