Google are making earth maps look even more beautiful.

From now the tech giant will improve the images that are used for both its Earth and Maps services. Starting this week, Google will be bringing users an even more beautiful and immersive experience with brand new imagery from Landsat 8 satellite, as well as a bunch of new image processing techniques to make images look sharper and even more realistic.

Chris Herwig, the Program Manager at Google Earth Engine, explains that some images often arrive that are cloudy. So the team has been looking through millions of images to find the clearest pixels so that they can “stitch” together lots of different images and create the best possible finished picture.

Enlisting the Landsat 8 images is also part of the plan to make Google Earth look even more breath-taking. According to Google, the satellite is capable of capturing images with “greater detail, truer colours, and at an unprecedented frequency”.

Why not see for your self and check out the new imagery and see if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be by opening up Google Earth, or alternatively you can simply turn on the satellite layer in Google Maps.

Have fun!

Google In The New Age Of Data Protection (update)

Following the ruling of the European Court of Justice (the Court) in relation to the right to be forgotten, Google has launched a procedure for European individuals to submit requests to have links to their personal data removed from the internet.

On 13 May 2014 the Court ruled that search engines were required, upon the request of an individual, to remove links to personal data of that individual where the data was no longer relevant for the purposes for which it was collected.

European individuals can now submit their requests to Google through a web page and are required to provide links to the material they would like to be removed, their country of origin, the reason for their request and valid photo identification. Removal of links should commence from mid-June although Google has decided to assess the quantity of requests, of which several thousand have already been received, before deciding how many employees will be dedicated to the task of assessing the deletion requests.

Google has confirmed that it already has systems in place to remove illegal links and therefore implementing such a procedure in relation to deletion requests should be a simple process. Nonetheless, as the task of considering the requests and related information will be carried out by humans rather than algorithms which are used throughout the Google Search systems it is already evident that the Court’s ruling will have a huge impact on Google’s systems, staffing requirements and finances.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, has expressed both his approval and concerns in relation to the Court’s decision. It would appear Google has an understanding of the way the average person’s privacy can be impeded by today’s tabloid and information-spreading culture and Google have high hopes for the public interest exception asserted by the Court. It will be interesting to see how this exception is applied in practice considering it is understood that 32% of the requests received by Google thus far have been from convicted criminals with a further 7% from Government and Police officials and celebrities.

Larry Page and his colleagues at Google have warned that the innovation we have seen over the past years through the internet could be at risk should stricter internet regulation come into play. Additionally there is concern that the “right to be forgotten” is undermining the right to know and the right to dissemination of information which are both facilitated by Google and similar search engines. Regardless of these matters, Google has re-asserted its aim to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

Practically, this new request procedure will apply only to countries within the European Union (but also to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Therefore any link which is deleted following a request will still be seen in a similar search outwith Europe, in America for example. Each page from which links have been deleted will be marked accordingly, perhaps worryingly similar to the previous practice in China where Google was subject to censorship requirement.

It remains to be seen whether fellow search engine providers will adopt a similar approach to Google in this regard. One thing is clear though, the law applies to all search engine providers in the same way and all are obliged to deal with individuals’ deletion requests in accordance with the Court’s ruling. Whether or not other search engine providers will have the resources and ability to devise a procedure for requests as Google has done so quickly is another matter.

Google must delete your data if you ask politely!

The European Union’s top court has ruled that data about individuals held by Google must be deleted on request.

Judges in the European Court of Justice ruled that Google cannot link to personal information about an individual, although the ruling only compels Google to remove the link rather than the removal of the information from the web itself. This means users of Facebook, Twitter and other social media can still share personal information about others so long as it remains online.

The European Court of Justice said an individual has the right “to be forgotten” when such personal data “appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purpose for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.”

The case underlines the battle between advocates of free expression and supporters of privacy rights, who say people should have the “right to be forgotten” meaning that they should be able to remove their digital traces from the Internet.

David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, however welcomed the ruling as a “sensible decision”.
“The European Court has ruled that Google must give individuals the right to control their own data, and ask the owners of search engines to remove results,” he said.

David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, however welcomed the ruling as a “sensible decision”.

“The European Court has ruled that Google must give individuals the right to control their own data, and ask the owners of search engines to remove results,” he said.

“There will be a presumption that companies like Google must remove links to such information unless there are particular public interest reasons justifying the public in having access to the information. This is a sensible decision but it is only the first step in people having property rights in their own information. The presumption by internet companies and others that they can use people’s personal information in any way they see fit is wrong, and can only happen because the legal framework in most states is still in the last century when it comes to property rights in personal information.”

Lobbyists the Open Rights Group said they too believe that today’s ruling by the ECJ could pose a threat to free speech online.

Javier Ruiz, the group’s Policy Director said “We need to take into account individuals’ right to privacy but if search engines are forced to remove links to legitimate content that is already in the public domain but not the content itself, it could lead to online censorship. This case has major implications for all kind of internet intermediaries, not just search engines.” He added that today’s ruling goes against the opinion given by Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen last June when he said that Google should not be responsible for content published by third parties.

The judges said “If, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results”.

The EU moved to make the right to be forgotten law early last year, but it had not been tested in court. Under the legislation, embarrassing, inaccurate or simply personal data will have to be deleted from the internet and company databases if consumers ask.

The move also means that social networks such as Facebook or Twitter could have to comply with users’ requests to delete everything they have ever published about themselves online. It will also mean that consumers will be able to force companies that hold data about them, such as for Tesco’s Clubcard, to remove it.

At the time EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding claimed her “proposals will help build trust in online services because people will be better informed about their rights and more in control of their information”.

Concerns about the costs of implementing the new laws were compounded by added fears about what Facebook would do, for instance, when a user asked to have a picture of themselves removed, even though it had been taken by somebody else who wished to keep it on their page.

Today’s ruling by the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) came after a Spanish man complained to the Spanish data protection agency that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy.

Mario Costeja Gonzalez was concerned that a Google search on him brought up two stories dating from 1998 from the website of La Vanguardia, the Spanish newspaper, concerning an auction of his real estate to repay social security debts.

The Spanish data protection agency rejected the claim against the newspaper which published the auction notice because the reports had been lawfully published, but it upheld the complaint against Google Inc and its Spanish subsidiary, saying the company should make it impossible to access the stories about Mr Gonzales through its search engine in the future.

Google appealed, and the case was referred to the European Court of Justice which has now upheld the original decision. It said allowing access to personal details through search engines indefinitely was incompatible with EU data protection directives.

The case is one of 180 similar cases in Spain whose complainants want Google to delete their personal information from the Web. The company says forcing it to remove such data amounts to censorship.

“An Internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties,” the court said.

Spain’s data regulator had previously said EU judges must consider if EU citizens have to go to US courts to exercise their privacy rights and whether Google “is responsible for the damage the diffusion of personal information can cause for citizens”.

Today’s ruling means anyone who wanted information about them removed from search results should be able to directly approach the operator, such as Google. If they fail to act, the individual should be able to go to a “supervisory” or judicial authority in their country, the judges added. Results may not have to be deleted if the individual is a public figure and there is a “preponderant interest” in the information remaining accessible.

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