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Street View turbulence

September 23, 2010

The Czech data protection authority has said Google Street View must change its data collection methods. The authority claimed Google was taking photographs from too high up, intruding on residents' privacy.

A Google Street View camera in front of the Google logo
Google is disappointed in the setback but vows to forge onImage: picture alliance/dpa

The Czech data protection authority said Wednesday it had banned Internet giant Google from taking photographs for its Street View service due to privacy invasion.

"We have a problem with Google using cameras high up to collect their data," the office's director Igor Nemec said of the photographic mapping service.

Nemec said Google was using "a camera that is 2.7 meters (8.9 feet) off the ground - which is an invasion of the privacy of our citizens, several of whom have filed complaints to us."

Nemec added that Street View images were so detailed that one man had even complained the number of shoes outside his front door was clearly visible online, indicating how many people lived in his house. Others complained of the camera peeking over fences and hedges and into their living rooms.

"From our point of view it would be correct if the cameras were lower," Nemec said.

Google vows to forge on

The Czech data protection authority also took issue with Google's legal status in the country.

"Czech law says that any firm with its headquarters outside the European Union that collects data in the Czech Republic must establish a legal entity to represent the firm in the Czech Republic," Nemec said. "Google Incorporated has not done that."

a car equipped with a camera to take pictures for Street View
Authorities said they would reconsider if Google lowered the cameraImage: picture alliance/dpa

Google Czech Republic, which the data protection authority does not recognize as Google Inc.'s representative in the country, said in a statement it was disappointed in the outcome but would work to promote Street View's success in the Czech Republic.

"We'll continue to engage in constructive dialogue with the data protection authority to answer any other questions they have," they stated, adding, "Street View has proved a popular and useful tool for consumers and businesses around the world, and we look forward to finding a solution to bring additional imagery to people in Czech Republic."

Google also claimed that the height of the mast had been chosen to avoid photographing pedestrians' heads, which could block the buildings, street signs and other landmarks it was designed to capture.

Google has been under fire in a number of countries over privacy and data collection concerns - most recently in Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Igor Nemec said he and other EU data protection officials would meet with Google representatives in Brussels on October 12.

Author: Rob Cameron (dl)

Editor: Andreas Illmer