Following long discussions over the past few months and after considering privacy and security concerns, the Justice Ministry - through the Law Technology and Information Authority - has released its conditional permit for Google to operate Street View in Israel.

Google's Street View service allows Google Maps' users to view panoramic photographs of streets and other public spaces throughout almost 30 countries, including the United States, some EU member states, Australia, South Africa and Japan.

Street View has raised privacy concerns that have caused other countries (eg, 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 last year resulted in severe fines being 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. The Israeli government launched a website dedicated to receiving public feedback on Google's request to introduce the service to Israel. Over 4,500 votes were counted and over 1,400 comments were received before the authority's decision to approve the service.

The authority explained that Street View cameras collect personal information (eg, images of persons, licence plates and private residences). Therefore, the collection of the images amounts to a 'database' as defined in the Protection of Privacy Act. It thus follows that rules of transparency, information security, use for limited purposes and registration requirements must apply to that database.

The authority further stated that 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:

  • Google Inc must submit to the jurisdiction of Israeli courts and appoint Google Israel as its authorised representative for receiving service of civil court proceedings.
  • Google must submit to the administrative and penal authority of the authority.
  • Google must offer Israeli users, through the Street View service, an efficient and reliable tool to blur images, licence plates and home residences after their publication, to overcome any failure in performance of the regular Street View blurring mechanism.
  • Google must 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, as part of a pledge to transparency. Google must also add prominent marks to its photographing cars.
  • Google must warrant that it will apply 'privacy by design' principles and the strictest standards related to images collection and processing.

For further information on this topic please contact Haim Ravia or Dan Or-Hof at Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer by telephone (+972 9 972 8000), fax (+972 9 972 8001) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).