Google brings Street View back to India following 2016 ban

This time local companies provide the images and there's no mention of national security worries


Google has brought its Street View service – which offers photographs of most locations on Google Maps – back to India, six years after the nation rejected it as an invasion of privacy and a threat to national security.

India blocked Street View in 2016 due to national security authorities feeling that freely available photography could assist terrorists. This is believed to have happened during planning for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

Google's efforts to collect Street View imagery ran into trouble before the ban, with a dispute about permission for photo-harvesting in 2011 and possible disclosure of military bases in 2013 among the incidents Google tried to smooth over.

The advertising giant now thinks it knows what it will take to make Street View accepted: having locals generate the images the service requires.

"Our India launch marks the first time in the world that Street View data collection is being brought to life completely by local partners," Google said on Wednesday.

Those partners are Genesys International and Tech Mahindra, which have licensed images covering 150,000km of streets across 10 cities to Google.

Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Nashik, Vadodara, Ahmednagar, and Amritsar are covered today, and Google plans "more than 50 cities by the end of 2022."

The Register had a quick look around. Much of Delhi is not covered – including some of the city's infamous garbage dumps. But the site of the Taj Mahal, in the city of Agra, is covered despite not being named on Google's list.

Google's announcement states that partnering with Genesys and Tech Mahindra is the way it does things in India and has been for 15 years.

The company's previous problems with Street View suggest that's not always been the case, although the only-for-India smartphone and Android variant created with local carrier Jio shows how far Google will sometimes go to do business on the sub-continent.

Google has also tweaked Google Maps for Indian users, adding info like speed limits and air quality information to the service. The latter data is useful as in recent years Delhi's air has become so polluted that authorities have recommended remaining indoors.

In India's de facto tech capital, Bengaluru, Google thinks it might have found a way to address such incidents by working with local police to gather traffic data and then tweak traffic light timings after AI analysis.

"The pilot resulted in almost a 20 percent reduction in congestion across all the intersections. We will be scaling this to all of Bengaluru, and extending this pilot to Kolkata and Hyderabad as well in the coming months," Google declared. ®

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