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Google's, Apple's eyes in the sky draw scrutiny

SAN FRANCISCO--Google Inc. and Apple Inc. are attracting renewed scrutiny of their practices due to privacy concerns — this time for flying “military-grade spy planes” over major U.S. cities as they race to shore up their rival 3D mapping services.

Staffers for Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, met with Google officials on Monday to discuss privacy issues related to the camera-equipped planes. They plan to meet with Apple on Friday.

The senator's office also plans to reach out to Microsoft and other companies that may be developing similar technologies.

Schumer told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday that he wanted Apple and Google to clarify their plans and ensure “they understand the significance of our concerns over the potential publication of images captured in people's backyards and other private settings.”

Fear of Flyovers

On Monday, Schumer wrote to the two rival Silicon Valley corporations, accusing them of “an unprecedented invasion of privacy” by using filming technology capable of imaging objects as small as 4 inches.

In his letter, Schumer raised concerns over Apple's and Google's reported “digital mapping plans that use military-grade spy planes with enough precision to see through windows, catch detailed images of private backyard activities, and record images as small as 4 inches.”

3D Mapping Race

Google and Apple each unveiled new 3D mapping services this month at separate events. The maps let users navigate around an aerial view of a city that appears much more realistic than flat, top-down satellite-based images currently available in mapping products.

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