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October 21, 2010

Three Percent of Germans Say 'Nein' to Google Street View

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor


Europeans sure like their privacy, Google (News - Alert) is discovering as of late. The company revealed that more than 244,000 Germans have asked that their homes be made unrecognizable in Google's Street View application, which is scheduled to launch in Germany next month.

The requests amount to about three percent of the total number of households in Germany's 20 largest cities, images of which are to go online as part of the company's popular mapping program that uses special car-mounted cameras that take photos of city streets to help users with navigation. Google has said it would comply with citizen requests not to have their homes pictures in Street View, a stipulation mandated by German government officials.

“The high number of objections to Google Street View shows that citizens want to decide which data about themselves is published on the Internet,” said Peter Schaar, head of Germany's data protection watchdog.

Google's Street View is currently available in 23 countries. Germany, thus far, is the only one in which residents are able to request that their homes be removed. Germany isn't the only country that has expressed concern about the privacy ramifications of the service. South Korea has also voiced fears that people — filmed without their consent — could be seen on the footage doing things they didn't want to be seen doing or in places where they didn't want to be seen.

Authorities in Spain revealed today that Google faces two probes in that country over its Street View service, after the country's data protection agency said it had found evidence that the company may have committed five offenses by capturing and storing data from users connected to WiFi (News - Alert) networks while it collected material for its mapping feature, and transferred this data to the United States. Google has already admitted to similar actions in Germany and since apologized for it.

If found guilty, Google could be fined up to 3.33 million in Spain.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf



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