Google Street View Sparks Privacy Concerns in Germany
Google is bringing Street View to 20 German cities in 2010, offering users the opportunity to have images of their homes removed from its database before they are published to the Web. Germany's privacy head is not happy.Google is bringing its Street View technology to Germany this year, but not without some serious concerns by the country's top privacy regulator. Google's Street View is a Google Maps feature that offers live, ground-level photos to give users the lay of the land they're searching.
While the feature is offered in dozens of countries around the world, Germany, South Korea and others fear the technology will display too much information about people.
However, Johannes Caspar, who heads the Hamburg office for data protection, was surprised and unhappy with the way Google is going about this launch. In a statement, Caspar expressed concern that Google is providing German citizens with such a narrow window of time to ask that their homes be shielded from Street View online. He also expressed concern that Google is choosing to offer the tool during the summer, when most people are away on vacation and may not have the time or opportunity to make their image removal requests. He also wants a telephone hotline to answer questions from concerned citizens about Street View. "A process for which a deadline is set in motion, must be carefully prepared, coordinated and announced," Caspar said, adding that Google missed an opportunity to instill confidence in its plans. Germany isn't the only area Street View is causing consternation. On August 10, police stormed Google's South Korean offices to see whether Google illegally collected private information as it prepared for the launch of its Street View mapping service there.