Spy-in-sky tech that peeps into your privacy


PTI

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You think technology has made life easier, safe and secure. Think again. For U.S. tech giants are using military-grade cameras so powerful that they can see into homes to produce aerial maps which can show up objects just four inches wide.

Google and Apple will use new hi-tech mapping planes that can film through skylights and windows, putting privacy at risk, the Daily Mail has reported.

The technology is similar to that used by intelligence agencies in identifying terrorist targets in Afghanistan, the report said.

In this photo provided courtesy of Google, Peter Birch, Google Earth Product Manager, presents the future of Google 3D Maps at the company’s offices in San Francisco, on June 6, 2012.

Google has admitted to having sent planes over cities, while Apple has acquired a firm using spy-in-the-sky technology that has been tested on at least 20 locations, including London.

The search engine giant will use its spy planes to help create 3D maps with much more detail than its satellite-derived Google Earth images.

Google expects by the end of the year to have 3D coverage of towns and cities with a combined population of 300 million. It has not revealed any locations so far.

Current 3D mapping technology relies on aerial images taken at a much lower resolution than the technology Apple is thought to be using. This means that when users ‘zoom in’, details tend to be lost because of the poor image quality.

Spy planes are able to photograph around 40 square miles every hour, suggesting they would be flying too quickly and at too great a height to access domestic wi-fi networks.

But experts say the technology is a sinister development that brings the surveillance society a step closer.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, warned that privacy risked being sacrificed in a commercial ‘race to the bottom’. “The next generation of maps is taking us over the garden fence,” he said. “You won’t be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead taking pictures,” he warned.

Apple has previously used Google for its mapping services but last year it emerged it had bought C3 Technologies, a 3D mapping company that uses technology developed by Saab AB, the aerospace and defence company.

At the time C3 had already mapped 20 cities and it is believed to have added more with Apple’s backing. Its photographs have been shot from 1,600ft and one C3 executive described it as ‘Google on steroids’.

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