One man is seen picking his nose at a street corner, a couple are caught sunbathing in bikinis and another man is captured entering an adult book store.

These are not scenes from a hidden camera television show, but images available to anyone using the latest internet innovation launched by Google.

The new feature of the search engine's online maps is called Street View and was designed to provide high-resolution photos, enabling people to take street-level tours of locations.

Google Earth, which allows people to view satellite images of much the world's surface, is hugely successful. However, the latest innovation is raising questions about whether Google has gone too far in its latest attempt to make the world a more accessible place.

Street View was introduced on Google maps for the San Francisco Bay area, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami last week.

All the photos were taken from vehicles driving along public streets during the past year. The photos will be updated periodically, but the company has not specified a timetable.

As well as the nose picker in San Francisco and the sunbathers at Stanford University, other images available on the site show a group of protesters carrying signs outside an abortion clinic in Miami and men leaving a strip club.

The California-based company is already planning to expand the service to other US cities and other countries, including the UK, which already has the largest number of CCTV cameras per capita of any country in the world.

Privacy experts believe as technology makes it increasingly easy to share pictures and video on the internet, the rights of free expression are being pitted against the rights to personal privacy.

Kevin Bankston, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group devoted to protecting people's rights on the internet, said: "Everyone expects a certain level of anonymity as they move about their daily lives."

Megan Quinn, a spokeswoman for Google, said: "This imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street. Imagery of this kind is available in a wide variety of formats for cities all around the world."