Microsoft tries to allay Streetside privacy fears

Google-chasing Microsoft has been outlining its plans for its Street View like service called Streetside which it plans to bring to Europe in 2011.

Speaking in Germany, which proved to be more outraged than most that Google cars were trawling around the streets snapping photos of homes and passersby seemingly without any regard for privacy or security, Microsoft has been trying to head objectors off at the pass, reassuring Volk that its own interpretation of maps with pictures will be benign.

According to Die Welt, a Microsoft spokesman told reporters that the software outfit will be collecting "far less data than its competitor".

This shouldn't be hard. Google was snaffling all the data its Street View cars could point their antennas at, even private communications, passwords and bank account details, in what it claimed was simply a giant cock up. It collected and stored millions of bytes of data it says it didn't know it had, got caught and is still pleading innocence.

Microsoft's jab at Google is an attempt to allay fears that it too may be up to go good in its copy-cat drive around the globe taking pictures of people who may not want their pictures taken and places that some would prefer weren't seen on the web.

Germans at least will given a month's notice that Microsoft's snooping vehicles will be prowling the streets giving them the opportunity to stay inside, get their hair done, or camouflage their houses as they see fit, according the Die Zeit's report of reports it says appeared in heise.de and vdi-nachrichten.com. The web site rather unhelpfully failed to link to the originals and we haven't been able to find them yet. We've unhelpfully not linked to Die Zeit on purpose.

According to Microsoft Germany's chief data protection officer, Severin Löffler, Streetside should kick off in Europe in 2011 even though the company hasn't yet started taking its snaps.

Wary of the privacy kerfuffle Google landed itself in, Microsoft claims to have developed "industry-leading image processing software that automatically blurs faces and vehicle number plates".

In addition, anyone may flag any image they feel is inappropriate or sensitive for review and possible removal, Microsoft says, adding that its "specialists" review every request and "act "quickly to remove objectionable imagery".