Google finally launches Street View in Germany… with added privacy features

04/11/2010

Google has launched the first pedestrian-eye view of Germany’s streets as part of Street View service, following months of wrangling over privacy. The first town to be mapped on the service is Oberstaufen, in Bavaria.

Germany is the first country to have negotiated with Google to allow citizens to opt out before the service goes live. Almost 250,000 Germans have requested that their properties be pixellated in the final imagery. But in a recent blog on the German roll-out the search giant warned that it would not be able to respond to all requests immediately.

04/11/2010

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"Given how complex the process is, there will be some houses that people asked us to blur that will be visible when we launch the imagery in a few weeks time.

We've worked very hard to keep the numbers as low as possible but int any system like this there will be mistakes," Andreas Turk, product manager for Street View in Germany said in his blog.

Street View is available in around 20 countries and allows users to walk through town and cities using photos taken by specially-equipped cars.

In Germany, the question of whether to allow the service sparked a nationwide debate.

During its assessment of the Street View service, the German data protection agency asked Google to audit the information being collected by the cars.

It was via this request that Google discovered that its Street View cars were collecting personal data from unsecured wi-fi networks, including whole e-mails, addresses and phone numbers.

The discovery, which Google has said was an accident, sparked investigations around the world. Google immediately grounded its Street View cars and alerted data commissioners in countries affected.

The German investigation of the circumstances under which Google collected the data is still ongoing.

Google plans to launch Street View in 20 German cities in the near future.

Alongside the images of the Bavarian town, Google also released a special preview tour of the country, with images of landmarks, including Bayern Munich's football stadium and the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

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