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Google eyes Canada rollout of discreet Street View

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Google Inc is considering a Canadian launch of its Street View map feature, which offers street-level close-ups of city centers, but would blur people’s faces and vehicle license plates to respect tougher Canadian privacy laws, the Web search firm said on Monday.

Canada’s privacy commissioner told Google in August that the feature -- which offers a series of panoramic, 360-degree images of nine U.S. cities -- could violate Canadian laws if it were introduced without alterations.

Some of the pictures feature people who can clearly be identified, which contravenes Canadian legislation on privacy.

“We are thinking about launching it outside the United States, including Canada, and we’re looking at how it would have to be different in Canada compared to its U.S. version,” said Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel.

“We would launch Street View in Canada in keeping with the principles and requirements of Canadian law ... that means we know we’ll have to focus on finding ways to make sure that individual’s faces are not identifiable in pictures taken in Canada and that license plate numbers are not identifiable in Canada,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Google had been approached by a number of Canadian cities seeking to be featured, he said.

“(They) have said ‘Please come and start taking this imagery of our city. It’s good for our tourist industry and we’ll even pay you or reimburse your expenses to do so’,” he said.

Canada’s privacy commissioner has yet to hear from Google, a spokesman said.

“If that’s how they’re planning to roll out their service by putting in place technological means ... to block out faces and license plates and other essential personal information, then that’s a great first step,” said Colin McKay.

The images of U.S. cities were produced in partnership with Canadian firm Immersive Media Corp, which says it has taken similar street level pictures of major Canadian cities.

Fleischer said he did not know if the firm would be involved in any Canadian launch.