US politican concerned about Google's mapping drones

US politicans are getting a little concerned over online mapping techniques as Google and Apple flying “military-grade spy planes” over major US cities to build 3D mapping services.

Reuters quotes Senator Charles Schumer who met with Google officials to discuss privacy issues related to the camera-equipped planes. He has a similar plan to chat with Apple later this week and Microsoft later on.

Schumer wants Apple and Google to clarify their plans and ensure “they understand the significance of our concerns over the potential publication of images captured in people’s backyards and other private settings”.

He claims that snapping people’s backyards using filming technology capable of imaging objects as small as four inches is an invasion of privacy, quite unlike domestic drones.

Schumer thinks that the use of military-grade spy planes with enough precision to see through windows and catch detailed images of private backyard activities is over the top.

We guess the planes also might snap politicians canoodling with expensive escorts in cocaine fuelled backyard orgies which might be a bit difficult to explain.

Both Google and Apple have unveiled 3D mapping services this month. The maps let users navigate around an aerial view of a city that appears much more realistic than flat, top-down satellite-based images currently available in mapping products. Although to be fair you can see into a lot of people’s backyards.

Google does not currently blur aerial imagery taken by the camera-equipped planes because the resolution of the images isn’t sharp enough “for it to be a concern”.

Apple said it does not display personally identifiable details such as faces or license plates. It takes multiple shots and removes moving objects like cars and people where possible.

By the end of the year, Google said it expects to have 3D map coverage for metropolitan areas with a combined population of 300 million people, Reuters reports.

Google said its planes, equipped with custom-designed cameras, fly in “a very tightly controlled pattern” over cities. They take pictures from 45-degree angles. The photographs are then used to build 3D computer-generated models of the buildings.