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Dubai to be the first Arab city to be available on Google Street View

Dubai: Internet users around the world will soon be able to cruise down the streets of Dubai on their laptops and tablets.

Google announced on Wednesday that Dubai will be the first Arab city to be available on the Street View, a feature that offers “360-degree, panoramic, and street-level imagery” of a selected street. It is available in the company’s Google Maps and Google Earth app, Currently, images from 48 countries are available.

However, Peter Barron, the Director of communications and Public Affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa, (EMEA) declined to give an exact date of launching the services in the city.

The images are captured by special cars equipted with camera that record their surroundings as they drive down the street.

“We have driven 3000 cities around the world, and driven 6 million miles. So you can see it is working progress, and it is great we are going to bring it to Dubai soon,” he told Gulf News in an interview. Barron was in Dubai to participate in the two-day Government summit, which concluded on Wednesday.

Google said it may also offers Street View inside malls in Dubai.

“In Dubai, I was at the mall last night, the necessity of mapping them is point number one,” he said with a smile. “ Priority and the opportunity for the businesses within the mall is probably very huge,” Barron added in reference to the scores of stores in different malls across the city.

Some residents have noticed Google’s street view cars around town. A working version of Street View is already available for the Burj Khalifa. The car was on display at the UAG Government Summit’s showcase innovation and technology, Google officials said.

“We are proud to display the Google Street View car for the first time ever in MENA at the UAE Government Summit. We brought it to showcase technology and innovation at its best. This car captures 360 panoramic images of streets around the world and the imagery is shared online with more than a billion monthly active users who use Google Maps,” said Maha Abouelenein, head of communications in Middle East and North Africa region in Google.

UAE is among the top countries in the region with internet penetration with nearly 6 million of the 9.2 million populations are using the internet.

“The opportunities for growth in UAE are extraordinary, the internets of the consumers is extraordinary high, in terms of mobile, and in terms of YouTube, some of is one of the highest adoptions anywhere in the world. This is really encouraging,” said Barron.

Google maps has caused controversary in other areas of the world where it was launched due to privacy concerns, often be people caught on Google’s camera’s. Licence plates numbers and faces will be blurred in the UAE.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, California and operate the world’s largest internet search engine, orginally launched the Street View service in the US in 2007.

Fact Box

Peter Barron, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa, stressed that Google will make everything possible to safeguard the privacy of its users and assured them that the company is “handing their data correctly”.

The company was recently involved in a scandal with the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) scandal several months ago, in which personal information was taken from Google user accounts.

“Our (Google) responsibility is to be sensitive to privacy concerns ….. And we have to make sure they continue to trust our services.”

“Luckily we find our users trust our services,” he said.

Barron said the NSA controversy was “clearly a shock to Google and other technology companies.”

Barron said the company has taken steps to prevent such intrusions in the future.

“We have very very clear throughout the process that we are , first of all, very concerned of what is happening, taking accelerant steps in terms of inscription of what to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and crucially what we have done is that we called for international form of government surveillance,” he concluded.