Apple's venture into mapping raises privacy concerns

Apple is expected to announce its new Maps venture later today, which will see it go head to head with Google, while attracting criticism from privacy campaigners.

Apple: expected to announce map service
Apple: expected to announce map service

The tech giant is reportedly due to launch Apple Maps at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco today.

The service will enable iPhone and iPad users to view 3D maps on their device via an app, in direct competition to Google Maps.

Apple has enlisted a private air force with military-grade cameras to take high definition pictures for the service, attracting criticism from privacy groups.

Apple has reportedly tested the technology in 20 cities across the world including London following its acquisition of C3 Technologies, a Swedish 3D mapping business, last year.

Just last week, Google announced a number of updates to its own Maps service, which will see it produce 3D maps for metropolitan areas for mobile users, as part of its "never-ending quest for the perfect map".

Google has also been under fire in recent years, when it emerged that its Street View cars, which gathered ground-level images for Google Maps, harvested data from unsecured household Wi-Fi networks.

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said the mapping initiatives were putting privacy at risk for "pure commercial gain".

He said: "The next generation of maps is taking us over the garden fence. You won't be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead taking pictures."

He said household owners should be asked for consent before images of their homes go online.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.

Follow Sarah Shearman on Twitter @Shearmans