(Newsroom America) -- Tech giants Apple and Google are using, or plan to use, planes equipped with military-grade "spy cameras" to gather high resolution 3D images of cities, creating new concerns over privacy.
The cameras can photograph sunbathers in their back yards and are able to produce aerial maps with such precision they can show objects only four inches wide, London's Daily Mail reported.
Google says it has already begun to map some cities, while Apple officials say the company has hired a firm that uses "spy-in-the-sky" technology which has been tested in 20 locations already, including London.
The technology being used by the tech giants is reportedly similar to surveillance capabilities the military uses to identify terror targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
More worrisome to privacy advocates are fears the surveillance technology is so good it could potentially see into homes through windows and skylights, the paper said.
Google plans to use its spy planes to gather 3D images of cities and other regions that show much more detail than its Google Earth satellite images.
Nick Pickles, head of Big Brother Watch, said privacy was being sacrificed in a commercial "race to the bottom."
"The next generation of maps is taking us over the garden fence," Pickles told the Daily Mail. "You won’t be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead taking pictures."
He added that homeowners should be contacted and give their permission before images of their homes go online.
Apple was expected to unveil its new mapping app for its iPhone and other devices on Sunday, along with safeguards for privacy, the paper said.
Google officials said they expect the company to have 3D images of cities and towns covering a collective population of about 300 million by year's end, though the company did not say which cities would be included.
Google has already landed in hot water for its Google Street View images, in which the company harvested personal information from household wifi devices, said the paper.
© 2012 Newsroom America.