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Hamburg considers Google Street View ban

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Hamburg considers Google Street View ban
Photo: DPA
17:55 CEST+02:00
Hamburg's data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar has given Google an ultimatum: the company must provide a written guarantee that its online Street View project will follow German privacy laws by Wednesday at 10 am.

Caspar sent the notice to Google Germany GmbH as well as Google Inc. in the United States, stating that a failure to make the guarantee will exclude the company from featuring a Hamburg section of Google Street View.

The Google Maps addition provides panorama online images visible from street level in cities around the world and will be available in Germany soon, Google announced in April. The service is meant to allow people to see and explore a city in detail without actually ever physically visiting.

But privacy advocates have been critical of the feature, saying that the cameras used to collect the images would also record details of residents' lives. Google's special Street View data collection cars, with mounted roof-top cameras, caused an uproar last summer as they trolled the streets of Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt to take pictures for the service.

Caspar wants to insure that details like the faces of bypassers and personal data are made unrecognisable.

“There have still not been agreements with Google on these and other questions,” he said.

In April most of Germany's data protection concerns seemed to be appeased by Google's willingness to compromise and accept complaints after meetings with privacy advocates.

Google's data protection expert Peter Fleischer told German weekly news magazine Focus the company would develop special "data protection tools" for the computer program, saying that faces and car licence plates photographed by chance will be blurred. Meanwhile users can fill out an online request to have images blocked – a system already available in countries like the United States where Street View is up and running.

But some entire German cities, like Molfsee in the state of Schleswig Holstein, are unwilling to be included in the map feature at all. In fall 2008, the city said it would forbid Google photographing its streets. Other cities have approached data protection agencies to do the same.

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