Google Street View comes to Israel but won’t reveal its plans for the occupied territories

Last week, the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s Law, Information and Technology Authority (ILITA) announced that Google can operate Street View vehicles in Israel and add these images to Google Maps. ZDNet, Associated Press and AFP all describe vague official concerns that “terrorists” could use the product, which merely serves to portray an obviousness about Israel’s security needs. However, Google has made many adjustments for security in every country where it operates Street View, so Israel is not very special in this case.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is concerned about privacy, and Israeli citizens will be allowed to sue Google, even though the images and data are not in Israeli jurisdiction. These arrangements are becoming more common as Google has operated Street View in EU countries, so Israel is not unique for imposing these requirements either.

The unique problem for Google Street View in Israel is where is Israel? According to the JTA, “Google reportedly plans to photograph only Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa”. Whether this includes parts of Jerusalem occupied by Israel in 1967 is not clear. In other reports, representatives of Google Israel refused to say where they intend to operate. From AFP:

“We are pleased that the State of Israel has approved the operation of the Street View service and we hope to give an update on our plans soon,” Google Israel spokesman Paul Solomon told AFP.

The process of photographing streets across Israel is expected to start within a matter of weeks, with Street View using both cars and tricycle-mounted cameras in a bid to reach areas inaccessible by vehicle.

Asked whether Street View would be photographing streets in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Solomon refused to comment. Nor would he say whether Street View was planning to launch the service in the Palestinian territories.

If Google intends to operate Street View in occupied territory, it may face strong resistance from activists. Already activists are planning to organize demonstrations along the routes of the Google Street View vehicles, which must be published in advance according to Google’s agreement with the Ministry of Justice.




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