17th Oct 2021

Germans upset by Google Street View

Thousands of Germans have requested their homes be removed from Google Street View before the new service is launched in 20 German cities by November. Even the country's conservative minister for consumer affairs, Ilse Aigner, has requested to be excluded.

In a country long wary of surveillance, with memories of the Nazis' Gestapo and East Germany's Stasi secret police not forgotten, the response to Street View has been overwhelmingly negative compared to other European countries.

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An announcement from Google earlier this week that it would allow Germans to opt out of Street View seems to have failed to allay fears that privacy would be compromised.

The EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding stepped into the dispute on Thursday (12 August), telling German daily Bild: "Every citizen holds under EU law the right of appeal against Google Street View. I expect that Google respect European rules on data protection - anywhere in Europe. The best way is a citizen friendly and non-bureaucratic tool for appeals."

Ms Reding also said she found the period offered for appeals should be "at least six weeks long."

Under pressure, Google has conceded to allowing people in the 20 cities to opt out of the scheme, but this option will close on midnight on 15 September. Written letters with a request to be excluded from Street View will be accepted only if sent to Google before 21 September.

Peter Schaar, Germany's federal commissioner for data protection, also expressed concerns. In his blog, he wrote that up to 10,000 people have contacted Google so far objecting to parts of Street View.

Google hopes that once people know the service better they will understand how useful it is for themselves, for local businesses and for tourists.

The US-based company ran into serious trouble in Germany in May after authorities discovered Street View vehicles were collecting private data sent over wi-fi networks. Google said the incident was a mistake.

Street View is currently available in 10 EU member states: UK, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and the Czech Republic, as well in the non-EU European countries Norway and Switzerland. There is not yet a date for imagery to be available of the EU capital Brussels or Belgium.

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