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Microsoft's Streetside cameras roaming London for Bing Maps

Cars fitted with 360-degree panoramic cameras have hit the streets there, the BBC says, adding that next month Microsoft plans to map out images elsewhere in England and outside Britain.

April 14, 2011|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times
  • A screenshot of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles as depicted on Microsoft's Streetside view on Bing Maps.
A screenshot of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles as depicted… (Microsoft Corp. )

Microsoft Corp. is taking Streetside, it's rival to Google Inc.'s Street View, to the streets of Europe.

According to the BBC, cars fitted with 360-degree panoramic cameras have hit boulevards, roads and avenues in London, snapping photos to be used in Microsoft's Bing Maps, which competes with Google Maps.

Next month, Microsoft plans to map out images of roadways in other English cities and outside Britain too, the BBC said.

No date was offered as to when Streetside scenes would go live for Europe on Bing Maps, and Microsoft officials were not available for comment Wednesday. Streetside is already available in most major U.S. cities.

Microsoft's efforts come as Google's Street View has come under scrutiny for collecting private data from unsecured W-Fi networks while its photo-taking cars and bikes cruised around the U.S. and Europe over the last few years.

Last week a Swiss court ruled that Google must guarantee that faces and license plates are unrecognizable before publishing street scenes from Switzerland in its Street View maps, and last month Google was fined 100,000 euros by France for improperly gathering and storing data collected by its Street View cars and bicycles.

Google has apologized for wrongfully collecting Wi-Fi data with its Street View vehicles and promised to delete the data it has collected.

Microsoft said it wouldn't make the same errors when collecting Wi-Fi data, which will be less ambitious than on Google's Street View routes, for now.

Microsoft is collecting some Wi-Fi data, which will be used to pair Streetside with "location-based services," Dave Coplin, Microsoft's director of search, told the BBC.

Among the data being collected while snapping photos will be the "unique number that identifies the location of a hot spot," along with the hot spot's signal strength and what type of Wi-Fi signal is being used, the BBC said.

Although Microsoft has taken some Streetside photos, it has collected no Wi-Fi data, the report said.

"We took the decision to postpone Wi-Fi data collection," Coplin told the BBC. "We'd like to do it the right way."

nathan.olivarezgiles@latimes.com

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