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City gets 3D treatment on new Google Maps

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Winnipeg is being billed as one of the first Canadian cities to get the 3D treatment in Google's latest view for its Maps service.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Manitoba legislature and Portage and Main show up with an aerial clarity that puts Google's Streetview to virtual shame on the new view.

Media blogger Daniel Bader gave the 'Peg a place of prominence in his blog last week, saying the city was among the first in Canada to get its cityscape captured in 3D.

Images from the app show The Forks next to the leaning Tower of Pisa as if Bader's intent is to punctuate the point.

Google hasn't said why the city got the special treatment ahead of other cities. Coverage this summer when it was first launched focused on Google beating rival Apple's new mobile mapping app.

But there's a downside of all this attention, one critic noted Tuesday.

Google's expanding cyber-reach raises privacy problems, such as the kind critics raised against Google's Streetview when it was launched.

"The privacy issues around Google and the Internet have really taken off since they started using Streetview. They've gotten some embarrassing shots, like the scantily clad cheerleaders and the guy who claimed he was a non-smoker smoking outside his house," said University of Manitoba philosophy Prof. Neil McArthur.

This time, people might want to check out their backyards.

On Streetview, photos of homes were taken from city streets. On the new 3D view, these shots are paired with satellite images that zoom down into clear three-dimensional aerial images you can rotate to see all the way around a private property or a public landmark.

It's more like the aerial shots Winnipeg's finest gets from its helicopter.

And the visual reach is not grainy, so while you may not be able to peer through bedroom windows, you can clearly see what's hidden behind your neighbour's two-metre-high privacy fence.

McArthur said an aerial view of his backyard shows toys and kids' play structures; stuff he doesn't want in the public domain as a protective parent.

He said it's true, too, that while privacy laws are outdated, there are also benefits 3D maps offer that would have to be weighed against the intrusions.

And then there's the unintended consequence of drawing publicity when you want to avoid it.

That's a lesson American singer Barbra Streisand learned the hard way when she sued over aerial shots of her Malibu mansion, McArthur said.

Streisand's suit eventually backfired when her lawsuit attracted publicity to the house instead.

"The other thing is, this technology is just getting better and better. Fifty years from now, who knows what you're going to be able to zoom in on, and once you've let the genie out of the bottle, it's too late to put it back in," McArthur said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca


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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2012 A6

History

Updated on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM CDT: Tweaks description of new service; removes reference to it being limited to Apple devices.

12:54 PM: Adds map.

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