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Minister: Google faces 50,000 lawsuits

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Photo: DPA
12:00 CEST+02:00
German consumer protection minister Ilse Aigner says that internet giant Google could face "more than 50,000" lawsuits in Germany because of its controversial virtual photo service Street View.

Aigner told news magazine Focus that there is a rising tide of lawsuits confronting Google in the country. "If the wave of legal objections continues, we expect that it could be more than 50,000 by the end of the year," she said, adding that not only property owners, but also tenants, could raise complaints.

"Google has agreed to offer an un-bureaucratic solution to collective objections in local communities," Aigner said. She estimated that Street View had already photographed and digitalized more than 90 percent of residential areas in Germany.

Aigner also criticized the amount of time Google was taking to clear up a mistake it had reportedly made while collecting Street View data. The corporation recently admitted that it had acquired internet addresses and fragments of emails while collecting Street View data, but claimed this had been accidental. "The delay in delivering the hard drive to the appropriate authorities is unacceptable, and opens speculation about what is really on there," the minister said.

Aigner said she feared that the data had already been delivered to the US. "People have a right to a full explanation of what happened to those email fragments," she said.

Aigner is simultaneously waging a campaign against the social networking site Facebook. Ahead of a meeting with Facebook managers about its new data protection policies, Aigner said, "The highest security level has to be the default setting. Internet users should not be forced to click laboriously through several windows in order to protect their profiles."

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The minister warned Google and Facebook that their public images could face serious damage if they don't change their data protection policies. "It will threaten their business models if the user's trust disappears," she said.

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