Over the past few days, Big Brother Watch has received many enquiries from the press and members of the public regarding Microsoft's new StreetSide service. While Microsoft are taking a slightly different approach to the Google StreetView service, the two websites will appear virtually indistinguishable from one another to most users.
While services like Streetside and Google Street View can undoubtedly prove useful, they can also pose a significant threat to personal privacy. Our concerns about the nature of this technology were not helped by the discovery late last year that Google had captured passwords and credit card information from WiFi networks while establishing the Street View service.
It's very early days, but we are encouraged that Microsoft has taken concrete steps to engage with privacy groups such as our own and Privacy International to ensure that public concerns about the risk of the system being misused are fully taken into account. Microsoft must work diligently to ensure they don't repeat Google's mistakes. That means ensuring personal data cannot be captured by its recording devices and operating a transparent process through which people can remove images from the website if they so wish.
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Big Brother Watch... will be watching!