This CBC.ca video gives a brief on how 2d and 3d street view data are collected. In this case it is the city of Toronto and the data collector is Tele Atlas. The things cartographers do to make maps! Tele Atlas seems to be selling georeferenced landmarks, street networks, and a variety of other data it collects simply by driving the streets with cameras and GPS mounted on the roof of cars. At 500 km a day and terrabytes of data, these folks are collecting and selling tons of geo-information that we like to play with on google earth, help find places in mapquest, and allow city planners or police forces to prepare evacuation plans, understand the characteristics of the route planned for a protest or know the point address in a 911 call.
The video also briefly discusses privacy issues, seems like the street is public space and if you happen to be naughty going into some taudry establishment and your act happens to be caught on film, well, so be it, either behave or accept the digital consequences of your private acts in public space, or so the video suggests!
Regarding access to these data, well, my guess is a big price tag. It is a private company after all!
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