MANILA, Philippines – If you see a Google car driving past, make sure to wave.
The tech giant announced Tuesday, January 28, the launch of Google Street View in the Philippines. The feature, available on its Google Maps and Google Earth applications, allows users to switch from the normal birds-eye view down to street level view.
Aside from being able to explore new neighborhoods, the feature is helpful when trying to get directions to a place – you can scope out what the area looks like before you even get there.
Google Street View has been around since 2007. Starting with the USA it has since rolled out to more than 50 countries around the world. The launch of the Philippine initiative is done in partnership with the Philippine Department of Tourism.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said the initiative is about bringing an experience to potential tourists before they arrive in the country. He said the partnership “will allow (Filipinos) to create a digital experience of our landscapes, which we hope will entice more people around the world to learn about our diverse offerings and visit our country.”
To capture street-level 360-imagery Google is deploying Street View cars around Metro Metro. The colorful cars are equipped with special cameras that can capture panoramic images in one go. The first Google cars were deployed Tuesday afternoon. Google Country Marketing Manager Ryan Morales says these images will be available on Street View at a “later date.”
WATCH: STREET VIEW DEMO IN INTRAMUROS
For now you can enjoy Street View panoramas of 4 Intramuros sites including San Agustin Church, Baluarte de San Diego, Plaza San Luis Complex and Fort Santiago. These images were captured by Street View Trekkers, volunteers with cameras mounted on their backpacks. Google plans to use trekkers to map off road sites around the country.
To use the service, search for Intramuros on Google Maps, click on the yellow man at the bottom right hand side of the page, and click on any of the areas highlighted with blue lines.
Google’s Street View project hasn’t been free from privacy-related concerns. Critics argue that images captured by Street View are an invasion of people’s privacy. Mashable has compiled a list of embarrassing sightings captured on Street View, including a couple having sex in public, a naked man in a car trunk, and a man picking his nose.
While searching through Google’s archive of images from Intramuros we found at least one possibly incriminating photo of a couple dating, although the couple had their backs turned to the camera.
Google Philippines stressed that it goes to great lengths to safeguard privacy on Google Maps including using technology that effectively blurs human faces and license plates of vehicles from Street View images.
In 2013 the company also agreed to pay $7M as part of a settlement to several US states after it admitted that its Street View cars also collected passwords and e-mails from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as they drove by neighborhoods.
STREET VIEW OFFICIAL LAUNCH VIDEO: