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Science and Technology

Google responds to Street View criticism in Germany

In an e-mail interview with DW, a Google Germany spokesperson, Lena Wagner, says that the company takes privacy "very seriously," and that it plans on expanding the service.

Google isn't saying how many Germans opted-out

Google isn't saying how many Germans opted-out

Google has said that it will launch Street View in Germany's 20 biggest cities - including Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg and Bonn - before the end of the year. Due to privacy concerns and German law, Google is allowing residents to opt-out before October 15 by submitting a form online. That will blur the facade of individual homes once the site becomes public. A spokesperson for Google Germany, Lena Wagner, responded to Deutsche Welle's questions about Street View by e-mail.

Deutsche Welle: How many people have opted out of Street View in Germany?

Lena Wagner: We're not able to give you an exact figure for the number of letters we have received because that isn't yet clear. For example, some of the letters are duplicates, others relate to other products and some are spam. We encourage those who don't want their houses to appear on Street View to use the tool, and once we know what the total figure is we'll publish it.

Is Google worried about setting a precedent here in Germany for other countries to follow - that is, to let them opt-out of the service?

We agreed to pre-publication opt-out in Germany due to the unique position in German law and we have no plans to do this in other countries at this time.

Is Google at all concerned about what signal it sends when one opts-out?

We take privacy very seriously. While the Street View feature enables people to easily find, discover, and plan activities relevant to a location, we respect the fact that people may not want certain types of images featured on the service. That's why we provide easily accessible tools for flagging imagery for review and removal and to pre-publication opt-out their property.

Has Google had any requests from other countries or citizens to allow them to have the same deal as in Germany?

As we've said before, we're not offering this elsewhere. We have practical, easy to use proven privacy controls built into Street View which work really well around the world.

Google Street View currently is available in 13 European countries

Google Street View currently is available in 13 European countries

What will Google do with the names/addresses data that people submit to be used for opting out in Germany?

The data is necessary to identify the house which was requested to be blurred. We will only use it in order to process the request. We will delete the data within a period which has been agreed upon with the [data protection authority] after the requests have been processed.

Does Google think that Germans' fears of Street View are rational?

Many fears are based on misinformation such as Street View imagery is real-time - in fact it is anywhere between a few months to up to two years old at the time a given area is introduced. We take privacy protections very seriously and that's why we have developed state of the art operational and technological controls for Street View, [for example] including the automatic blurring of faces and licence plates.

Does Google recognize that there are different cultural standards of privacy in different countries?

No two countries are ever the same and we work with the authorities in every country to address concerns they may have about Street View. All images in our Street View product abide by the local laws and cultural norms of the country they are taken in and Street View only features imagery taken on public property. It's also worth putting this in context - this imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street themselves. Imagery of this kind is available in a wide variety of formats for cities all around the world and on various sites on the Web.

Have there been many examples of people/cities contacting Google to say that they support Street View?

The city Oberstaufen is a great example of cities which would like to have Street View imagery of their streets. The citizens even made a movie to encourage us to come to their city so that they can show its beauty worldwide.

What are the plans for further expansion of Street View in Germany and the rest of Europe?

We've already launched Street View in 13 European countries and will add the 20 biggest cities in Germany within this year. We hope to add further locations in time.

Author: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Stuart Tiffen

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