Street View arrives in Germany

After months of debate and wrangling over privacy, the first images via Google’s Street View service in Germany are now live, the first town to be mapped being Oberstaufen, in Bavaria.

Germany is the first country to have negotiated with Google to allow citizens to opt out before the service goes live and around 250,000 Germans have requested that their properties be pixellated in the final imagery.

However, Google has warned that when the service rolls out in full, it would not be able to respond to all requests immediately and there will be some houses that people asked to be blurred that will be visible when the imagery is launched in full in a few weeks time.

Google say they have worked very hard to keep the numbers as low as possible but in any system, particularly a complex system such as Street View, there are bound to be mistakes.

During the assessment of the Street View service, the German data protection agency asked Google to audit the information being collected by the cars and it was then that Google discovered that its Street View cars were collecting personal data from unsecured wi-fi networks, including e-mails, addresses and phone numbers.

This discovery, which Google claims was an accident, led to investigations around the world and Google immediately withdrew its Street View cars and alerted data commissioners in affected countries.

Germany is the first country in which people have been able to opt out before the service begins, although this is expected to be the exception rather than the rule.

In the UK, people are allowed to opt out but only after the images have already appeared live to the world.

Google Street View is now available in 20 countries but the service has raised concerns about privacy, particularly in the way data is collected.

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