Google street view approved in Israel

Following a long governmental discussion during the past few months, and after considering privacy and security concerns, the justice ministry, through the Law Technology and Information Authority (ILITA), released its conditional permit for Google to operate Street View in Israel.

Google's well known Street View service allows Google Maps users to view panoramic photographs of streets and other public spaces, throughout almost thirty countries, including the USA, some EU member states, Australia, South Africa and Japan.

Street View raised privacy concerns that caused other countries such as Greece, Switzerland and Canada to investigate the service or even order its suspension. Additional investigations against Street View due to unlawful collection of personal information ended up last year with severe fines imposed by the data protection authorities in France and Spain.

Google's announcement of its intentions to offer the service in Israel, caused much anticipation, but at the same time generated an intensive debate between privacy activists and Street View proponents.

In its recent news release, ILITA explained that Street View cameras collect personal information, such as images of persons, license plates and private residences. Therefore, the collection of the images amounts to a database as defined in the Protection of Privacy Act. It follows that rules of transparency, information security, use for limited purposes and registration requirements apply to that database.  

ILITA further stated that the permission to operate Street View is subject to certain conditions, aimed at maintaining the rights of the Israeli public. In essence, the terms include the following:
  1. Google Inc. submits to the jurisdiction of Israeli courts and appoints Google Israel as its authorized representative for receiving service of civil court proceedings.
  2. Google Inc. submits to the administrative and penal authority of ILITA.
  3. Google will offer Israeli users, through the Street View service, an efficient and reliable tool to blur images, license plates and home residences, after their publication, to overcome failure in performance of the regular Street View blurring mechanism.
  4. A pledge to transparency. Google will publish online and in newspapers guiding material and explanations about Street View, about the rights of persons to request the additional blurring of images and general information about the sites that will be photographed. Google will also add prominent marks to their photographing cars.  
  5. Google warrants that it will apply Privacy by Design principles and the strictest standards related to images collection and processing. 
ILITA's full statement is published here (in Hebrew). For further details contact Dan Or-Hof, CIPP, at Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer.