Google has been denied permission to bring Street View to India, again. The government first cracked down on the service in May 2011 when the search giant first started recording 360-degree images of the southern city, Bangalore. The government gave its permission for a relaunch, and even tied up with Google, by allowing it to cover many monuments including the Qutub Minar and the Taj Mahal.
However, there is a bit of hypocrisy behind how the government has handled Google Street View. While the service now covers most of the world, it has been stalled in India over “security concerns”. That is perfectly fine and should be the prerogative of the government.
The problem, however, is a service called WoNoBo. Launched in October 2013, this Mumbai-based service does the same thing as Street View and with permission from the government. When it was launched in New Delhi one of the attendees was then Tourism Secretary Parvez Dewan who said the service “will add immense value to the Incredible India campaign”.
WoNoBo is still live on apps and show 360-degree videos of many cities, including strategic locations like government buildings, which are all searchable. Everything from faces to number plates of cars are visible on WoNoBo, available only on its apps now.
The company site says the web service will be back soon. Unless if there is a clear understanding that data from Indian companies won’t be misused, it is hard to understand why the government has double standards in this case.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju has said the issues will be sorted out once the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, comes into force. However, it seems the government doesn’t quite remember about WoNoBo.
Google hasn’t really had an easy drive with Google Street View, shot primarily using a car equipped with a 360-degree camera, but the concerns governments have raised have primarily been over privacy. The camera captures everything in its path and there have been concerns of how it shows children playing in front of their homes etc.