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Microsoft promises not-quite-as-much Street View

Seriously?

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Microsoft has started collecting images for its version of Google Street View which will be included on Bing's maps in a service called 'Streetside'.

Four cars began prowling the streets of the capital this morning. The Johnny-come-lately snooping service will only cover major towns and cities and will make no attempt to cover the whole country - as Google's Street View aspires to do.

Nor, we guess, will it be "accidentally" collecting and storing information gleaned from your unencrypted Wi-Fi network, as Street View did.

Microsoft's fleet of snoop vehicles is provided by Navteq and will be scouring some streets of the UK until June. Spain, or rather Barcelona, suffers a similar indignity until August, while the streets of Paris will be unsafe until the end of June.

Dallas, Miami, New York, and San Francisco are all US targets.

Along with high resolution cameras the Navteq vehicles will also carry Lidar which scans and captures millions of 1.3 million 3D data points every second.

This scan creates 'point clouds' - essentially a 3D scan which together with GPS means Navteq can provide extremely accurate mapping, it claims.

We're reserving judgement till we see it; but offering a weaker, smaller version of Google's Street View seems like a strange strategy to us.

Images of faces, car number plates will be blurred a la Street View.

A Microsoft spokesman told us: "We're covering the major towns and cities in the UK and should start putting images up in the first or second week of May - depending on the weather."

Once the service goes live people can request removal of their houses or cars.

Microsoft has a page here with dates for Streetside car activities. The software giant will be hoping to avoid the privacy problems which plagued Street View in some countries.

Of course we welcome news from any reader who spots one of the cars and pictures would be even better - but they're going to have to be funnier than the thousands of Street View snaps we received.

We're assuming the Norwegian frogmen are already limbering up for an invasion of Blighty's top tourist spots. ®

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