Microsoft has started taking photos for its rival to Google Street View – called Streetside – across Europe, starting with London.
Streetside is already available in 56 US towns and cities and Microsoft has begun taking photos across London. It will map other major cities across Europe next month.
The street-level mapping service will go live on Windows phones and will include images overlaid with metadata to offer contextual advertising and localised information.
According to the BBC, Microsoft wishes to avoid the privacy concerns that caused Google enormous amounts of trouble when gathering data for Street View.
During Google’s trek across the globe to take photos for Street View, its vehicles accidentally gathered unauthorised data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, including emails and passwords. This led to numerous investigations and fines about the issue.
As a result, Microsoft will only record urban centres to help people find major services.
Microsoft wishes to combine Streetside with location-based services, so it will have to resort to collecting Wi-Fi data, including a location of a hotspot and the signal strength.
The company said it would only collect the “bare minimum” of data. However, while Microsoft is currently taking photographs, it’s not gathering Wi-Fi data until it refines its strategy on how it should go about doing so.
It will also inform the public of when pictures are being taken and use advertisements with a helpline number and website to give people further information.
Microsoft said offering an opt-out option for the service was not high in its priorities. This issue affected Google Street View in Germany, where many citizens chose to have their houses blurred in the mapping service.