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Google Street View met with German opposition, magazine reports

Der Spiegel says that "several hundred thousand people" have opted out of Google Street View. The German government is holding a related meeting in Berlin today.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (right) is chairing a meeting today on Google Street View and other satellite and geo-imaging services

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (right) is chairing a meeting today on Google Street View and other satellite and geo-imaging services

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that "several hundred thousand people" have asked Google to blur the facade of their home on Google's launch of the Street View service in Germany.

The California company declined to confirm or deny this figure.

"As expected, due to the wide media coverage and our own information campaign the number of letters we have received has increased in recent weeks," Google spokesperson Lena Wagner wrote to Deutsche Welle in an e-mail.

"Some of these letters are general letters or relate to other products, and we also receive spam via e-mail. We’ve also found that some people have used a number of ways (letter, e-mail, online tools) to contact us with the same request. Our first priority therefore is to verify and process all the genuine applications. At this stage it is therefore not possible to give an accurate number of opt-outs."

This revelation comes at a time when Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is holding a high-level meeting in Berlin later today to discuss regulation of Google Street View, Google Maps and other geo- and satellite-related online services.

The online service provides detailed street-level photographs of people and buildings. It has come under fire for both privacy concerns arising from the photographs themselves and the fact that the company had mistakenly collected data from some open wireless networks while taking photographs for Street View.

Google has taken measures to placate the German government and public -- including a public advertising campaign in Germany -- which has had many questions and inquiries over the service.

Germany is the only country in the world where Google has allowed people to opt-out, and is doing so over sensitivity to the country's past privacy violations under the East German Stasi and the Nazi regime.

Germans have until October 15 to opt-out of Street View

Germans have until October 15 to opt-out of Street View

Other countries have questions, too

The service, which is already available in more than 20 countries, has been questioned in other European countries as well.

Last week, Czech data protection authorities said that they had rejected Google's second application to collect personal data through its Street View service. That brings any new efforts by Google to collect new images in the Czech Republic to a halt but does leave existing Czech Street View images in place.

Meanwhile, a Google representative has been summoned to appear before a Spanish judge in Madrid early next month.

Germans have until October 15 to submit their names and addresses to remove their homes from Street View.

Meanwhile, the company is continuing to expand the service in Europe and said last month that it was sending Street View cars to Latvia.

Google has said it will launch Street View in 20 cities across Germany before the end of the year.

Author: Cyrus Farivar (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Stuart Tiffen

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