Sightings of Google street photo car in Athlone

Will it soon be possible to see panoramic images of Sean Costello Street from Egypt, or sit at a desk in New York and examine the view around Athlone"s town bridge? Those were intriguing possibilities raised by local sightings last week of a car used by internet giant Google to collect photographs for a new feature on its website. The car - which is being used to gather panoramic photographs for the Google Maps Street View feature - was spotted in a variety locations in and around Athlone last week. When contacted by the Westmeath Independent, a spokesperson for Google Ireland said she couldn"t confirm whether the car was gathering photos of Athlone to be used as part of the street view feature, or was merely passing through the town en route to another location. 'Unfortunately we don"t have a definitive list of all the towns and places being photographed,' said the spokesperson. In March Google announced that the Street View feature, which is used in the Google Maps and Google Earth applications, would be expanded to include locations in Ireland. The feature allows users to virtually explore and navigate a neighbourhood through panoramic street-level images, and it presently covers cities and rural areas in the United States, New Zealand, Japan, France, Italy, Spain and Australia. The process began in Ireland with the photographing of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick. Some privacy concerns have been raised in relation to the project, but Google stated that that pedestrians" faces in photographs are blurred before they are published on the internet, as are vehicle registration plates. Useful information such as shopfronts, hotel names or bus numbers will not be obscured. Due to the possibility of weather-related delays in gathering suitable photographs for use in the project, no date has yet been announced for the launch of the Irish locations on the Google Maps Street View feature.