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Street view

May 1, 2010

The German government says Web giant Google has agreed to delay the German launch of its Street View navigation service, which maps the country's streets at ground level, after Berlin raised privacy objections.

A person standing in front of a large-scale projection of a Google Street View image
Germany has fiercely criticized Google's Street ViewImage: picture alliance / dpa

Google "has agreed to start its new Street View service only when all the objections raised by citizens have been fully taken into account," said Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner in a statement after talks.

Street View allows users to look at photos of individual streets at ground level all over the world, with images taken from specially equipped vehicles. The panoramic views of cities in the US, Japan, Australia and parts of Europe are already available online. The product is a supplement to Google's maps.

The German government complained that this software could encroach on the privacy of its citizens. Aigner argued that thieves could use the pictures of houses to gauge people's wealth and prepare burglaries, and that people's pictures might be published online without their consent.

Aigner's aides said the minister told Google that "what is private has to stay private."

Opting out

Google now says it will wait until later this year to launch its German images to give people the chance to file complaints. Anyone who wishes can have the image of their house blocked out, and Google has promised to obscure any faces present in the pictures.

The company has offered this same service to people around the world, but retroactively, removing the images only after publishing them. For Germany, it is agreeing to do its editing beforehand where possible.

Privacy concerns are a particularly contentious issue in Germany, due to the abuses by Hitler's Nazi government and the Communist rulers of the former East Germany in the past.

Editor: Toma Tasovac