Germans remain wary over Google Street View
By Reuters and Stewart Mitchell
Posted on 12 Aug 2010 at 09:16
The German government has said it is ready to intervene if Google's promise to let people opt out of its Street View mapping system doesn't do enough to protect privacy.
The warning comes after the German government took action against Google for collecting private data over Wi-Fi using its Street View photo cars. Now, it is letting citizens ask Google not to include them in the street-level photo mapping system.
The Stasi would be green with envy if they could have collected this kind of data
"We'll take a very close look at how effectively this works in practice and we'll see from there," said a spokeswoman for Consumer Minister Ilse Aigner.
Chief among the concerns expressed over Google's plan to let consumers register their objection is the 15 September deadline, only weeks after the consultation was announced.
"This four-week deadline is not right," said Ulrich Ropertz, spokesman for the DMB German association of tenants. "It's like you're stuck forever if you don't object right away."
More than 10,000 Germans have already formally requested their homes be deleted from Street View. Criticism from civil rights watchdogs could push that figure higher, especially given the hard-line stance being taken by more conservative newspapers.
"The Stasi would be green with envy if they could have collected this kind of data," wrote the conservative newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung . "What in the past was called 'state snooping' is now called 'Google View'."
Google plans to add Germany's 20 largest cities to Street View by the end of 2010, joining 23 countries already included.
The search giant said human faces and license plates would be blurred, but the assurances have done little to assuage criticism of its opt-out plans, with German officials suggesting Google is being half-hearted in its approach.
"I've got my doubts whether Google is really interested in a simple and user-friendly way for people to register their objections," Johannes Caspar, data protection commissioner in Hamburg, told Die Welt. "They're not, for instance, going to set up a telephone hotline for questions."
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