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Google 'Street View' car sabotaged in suspected privacy protest

AFP · 30 Mar 2010, 12:04

Published: 30 Mar 2010 12:04 GMT+02:00

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A Google employee left his specially-modified black Opel with eight mounted cameras parked overnight in the northern city of Oldenburg, but returned to find the tyres let down and the camera cables slashed, police told the news agency AFP.

"The employee found a note under the windscreen saying: 'Please do not drive away, you have a puncture'," police spokesman Sven Warnken said, adding the saboteurs seemed concerned no harm should come to the driver of the vehicle.

Google's "Street View" service allows users to "walk" through the streets of certain cities by joining together thousands of photos taken by the cars to create a 3D image.

Launched in the United States in 2007, it is already available in several European countries, including France and Britain, but it has come under attack from privacy campaigners, concerned about being snapped without their consent.

Germany, where Google intends to launch the technology this year, is especially sensitive to the issue after abuses of privacy by the Nazis and the Stasi secret police of the old East German communist regime.

Story continues below…

The "Street View" program already automatically blurs faces and car registration plates. However, as a concession to privacy concerns in Germany, the company will also allow unhappy users to delete a disputed photo.

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Your comments about this article

12:33 March 30, 2010 by Kayak
Perhaps, Google should also allay German fears about the sickness that comes from the draft (wind).

If Google = NSDAP = STASI then it follows that being German = being stupid! Oh, good grief!
13:39 March 30, 2010 by dcgi
The sooner google gets street view released in Germany the better.

To the anti-street-view nutters: seriously, get over yourselves, the street view technology is great and doesn't infringe on people's privacy, besides the one's who do stupid things in public. Stop being such luddites and get with the 21st century.
14:17 March 30, 2010 by Dlocal
what are you talking doci...are we really in 21C? when did that happen.. it will take us another century to adopt to this techy.....since we do a lot of private things in public...he he

god bless these protests....some body tell them that "guys you have better things to DO and TO CONTROL" like in chruch and the schools....ór old homes. let go the streets....let that be google´s POBLEM
14:17 March 30, 2010 by hkypuck
Yeah - Google Street View is awesome! It's pretty cool to "virtually travel" to different places. And it's really helpful when planning a trip. If you're going to, say London, and you're thinking about a hotel, you can check to see if it's in a bad neighborhood, or shops are close by or...?

I understand the privacy concerns, but just don't stand naked with drapes wide open and you'll be fine.

15:05 March 30, 2010 by martell
Google breaks local law.

If German citizens want their privacy, it is their right to demand this, and no American company is permitted to break German privacy laws and do this illegal job on German territory.
15:20 March 30, 2010 by Kayak
If Google break the law in Germany (or any country for that matter), then they should be penalised. Simple, no argument. But when Google act within the law and folk still want them punished then you have to ask what's wrong with the thinking of these folk. Simple, no argument.
15:42 March 30, 2010 by LancashireLad

If Google really is breaking local law (which ones exactly?) then the proper thing to do would be to protest it in the courts against Google. Should only take about 20 years knowing German beaurocracy.

Actually if Google really *is* breaking the law then either the government or the relevant law authorities would *already* have made this known would they not? so why do you think they haven't yet?
15:55 March 30, 2010 by Heinrich der Zweite
You could make all Germans happy by employing Street View for observing priests who don't behave themselves.
16:07 March 30, 2010 by dcgi
People who rant about their privacy often don't understand what the hell they're talking about.. Google blur signage, licence plates and faces, if you don't want your home on streetview, go onto streetview and request removal of the image(s), simple as that.

Why should these tinfoil hat nutters ruin such an awesome piece of technology being put to good use.. if you don't believe me look at Garmin/TomTom's stock that dropped the day they showed that Android 2.0 had satellite imagery on the phone that could be used as an in-car gps.

I think it's more a case that the people who protest this kind of thing just don't like how amazing a company like google is.. or should I say somehow they're afraid when one company has so much going for it.

Google won't be stopped by pricks slashing tyres and camera cables; what this act does show is the desperation of some anarchist hippy wannabies, probably the same kind of people who think they're changing the world by smashing up a Mc D's on 1st May or parading the aiport naked, fools.
16:13 March 30, 2010 by beeker
If Google Street view is deemed illegal, will i be arrested next time i'm in Munich taking photos of Oktoberfest and emailing them to all my friends, or how about a few pictures of a timber frame house under construction including workers? Maybe the State Prosecutor could make a release form available the could be copied and used to get multiple releases when crowd photos are taken in public places. It shouldn't take more than a couple of pallets of forms whenever ARD pans a crowd shot at a football game.
16:23 March 30, 2010 by freechoice
i think it's fun to be photographed and included in Google Street Views...

how do I get involved without violating German's laws?
17:47 March 30, 2010 by berlinski
Well, I hope it is a lot better than google maps. I cannot keep count of the amount of times I have got lost when using a google map printout. With google street view, that probably means they are infringing on privacy laws which in my mind are more important than the convenience Google street view will bring. The trade off is most likely not worth it.
19:09 March 30, 2010 by Dlocal
may be one could Leave google street.....how about installing

google CHRUCH, Google-School, Google-KinderPorno-catcher..

Privacy infringing...nonsense...

"If German citizens want their privacy, it is their right to demand this"

sure this is correct as long as IT IS A MATTER OF PRIVACY.....but outside home is called PUBLIC not PRIVAT....so as long as google does not enter their windows (via installing google-fenster) to peep in and as long as it is public....how is the privacy invaded??? Please explain
20:31 March 30, 2010 by peschvogel
Germans should learn a lesson from the US and be much more open minded. Therefore you could release the skeletons in the closet and learn to show all your cards when being "honest". Unlike Deustche Bahn, O2, T-Mobile, Deustche Bank, Lidl, and most other German companies who still spy. Perhaps its the past stasi agenda that installs the fear in these people.
21:47 March 30, 2010 by ovbg
@martell, sorry, you are completely wrong. I guess you should study the basics of law before you quote it. If this was against the law then the police would be arresting the drivers and knocking on the doors of Google. But it isn't.

If you don't like your picture being taken, which is fair enough, maybe you should also try to shut down every online photo website on the planet, as they contain much higher resolution photos of city streets up and down Germany. Just search for "Frankfurt" or "Berlin" in Flickr or any other such site.

But please don't claim to know the law when clearly you don't.

As for streetview, I am very much looking forward to when it comes out in Germany. Been strolling around Britain this last month, exploring places, towns, villages and country scenes I never knew existed. Been a lot of fun and can't wait until I can explore Germany in the same way.
22:10 March 30, 2010 by wood artist
Exactly how does this program infringe on personal rights?

If I walk down a public street and take a picture, I am doing nothing illegal. If you happen to be walking down the street when I take the picture, you end up in the picture, but still I have done nothing wrong.

Courts have ruled many times that someone doing something "in public" has no reasonable expectation of privacy. On the other hand, if Google was taking pictures of the inside of your home, it would be much different, for there you do have a "reasonable expectation of privacy."

What exactly are people afraid of here? While doing research for books I frequently rely on GoogeEarth to allow me a view of some place I've never seen, or maybe someplace I have seen and need a reminder about somthing. Is there a tree right there? What is the nearest cross street?

With the enhancement of Street View, I can now confirm a building or maybe get a sense of what a driver might see. I don't see much of a problem there. i can't read license plates, and faces are far too indistinct to identify.

23:41 March 30, 2010 by peschvogel
It goes back to teh stasi. When "anyone" "appears" to infringe on "privacy laws" in Germany, the anarchists come out to play. This is just one of the reasons why Germany is not a safe place to do business.Nobody can distinguish the difference between commerce and "ich". Playing the "victim" is the backbone of Germany's business model. e.g. Betriebstrat
23:50 March 30, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, the wonderful thing about technology is that it often improves the quality of life. And if somehow Google can make the world a safer place to live, then shouldn't we all be for such a thing?

Everything comes with a price. And being fearful of the past doesn't help anyone. If you are honest and law abiding, then this really won't effect you.
00:20 March 31, 2010 by trident3b
this is a tricky subject. I'm not sure what the law in other countries is but for those saying it is no different to taking pictures in a city and capturing people at the same time I believe they are in fact breaking the law of privacy in as much as they should be asking everyone if they may their picture (strictly speaking). But this never happens, but I think every citizen in Germany has the right to say he/she does not want their picture taken. My understanding further is that what is illegal is the publishing of those pictures, which google does, but they fade out the faces... so i suppose that makes it legal again. I have to say that I really don't know how I stand on this one. What I will say is that contrary to peschvogel's comment I cannot see any lessons being learned from a place like the US. That to me is the very last country of reference regarding almost anything.
01:19 March 31, 2010 by vonSchwerin
A German has taken the law into his own hands and undertakes acts of vigilante justice against a corporation, business, or capitalist entity?! A car was vandalised? I'm shocked! I would have never suspect that such a thing could happen in a law-abiding country.

Somehow, I suspect that this is another act by a self-righteous leftist. I have never understood why German bourgeois society puts up with this sort of nonsense. If Google were breaking the law, the police would stop it. And if the law is the problem, how about getting the Bundestag to change the law? Considering the whole obsessive Datenschutz complex in Germany, this one might get changed. But who gave this nut the right to destroy Google's property because he doesn't like photos of buildings being taken? (And the same is true of all the jerks who burn BMWs and Audis in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Just because you can't afford one or don't even have a proper job is no reason to torch someone else's auto.)
10:26 March 31, 2010 by ovbg
@trident3b, actually it's not as tricky as it sounds. Do you ever go on holiday? If so, do you ever take holiday photos? And if so, do you ask permission from every person on the street before hand? I would say no. I just done a flickr search of the Zeil in Frankfurt. Should the photographer have asked permission from each and every person in this shot before he/she took the photo?


Since Streetview will blur out the faces, then it has even less privacy issues than holiday snapshots on Flickr.

What about a photo taken in a stadium where there maybe 40,000+ people?

So no. When a German is in a public place they don't have the right to stop photos taken of them. At one end of the debate this would mean it is illegal to take holiday photos, at the other, it would mean no news coverage? Can you imagine the newspapers with no photos because they never got a model release form for every single person that strayed into the shot.
10:44 March 31, 2010 by The-ex-pat
Just because we have the ability and the technology, does it mean we act on this. In short, just because we can, must we?
11:10 March 31, 2010 by design
Before I go on vacation i use this feature to walk around the blcok of the hotel I am staying at or i walk from the subway to the hotel it is a valuable outlet for finding your way.

It will just mekae me spend my money elsewhere
11:58 March 31, 2010 by dbert4
Why are you all assuming this had anything to do with Google Streetview?

There's enough anti-social activity in Berlin to speculate that it was random. Or a Chinese tourist upset at Google about their departure from China. Or a German or America "Tea Partier" angry about everything. Or simply some drunk students wanting to see what "streetview" looks like when photographed by a vehicle being driven with flat tyres!

Could be any of those reasons, or even more that I hadn't though of.
12:37 March 31, 2010 by trident3b
I have given this some more thought, and find that there is a powerful paradox here though. When the odd German does something like cut those cables on the GE car he/she doesn't realize that in fact GE street view is totally harmless by comparison to what the authorities already know about the people thereby having an extreme invasion of privacy already, long before GE takes a few pics of streets and houses. But Germans are brought up like robots making indoctrination much easier than most other places (except perhaps North Korea) - (I have lived here most of my life and also see how my daughter is taught in a German school). You have to register where you live ("Polizeilich"), and if you wish to rent a place even the person owning the house/flat wants to know where you work, what you earn(!!!) etc. and that is recorded. Just some bloke insists on knowing your earnings and what you do. Everyone has an ID card which is inspected once in a while (and that act serves no purpose what so ever other than your privacy is invaded again). Even the German government will and is paying millions and millions of Euro to registered criminals in massive denunciation campaigns to get taxes out of people. So the pictures in GE with faded faces and number plates does in fact strike me as harmless by comparison to what is already data based about the public in Germany already. But like robots they have been indoctrinated that this is all OK. "Es is halt so, was willste machen".
18:47 March 31, 2010 by vonSchwerin
If you're walking down the street and a tourist (or Google) takes a photo of a building just as you are walking by, isn't it just a case of "Beiwerk" and you have no legal grievance?

Is there a Jurist out there who can address this issue?
20:59 March 31, 2010 by dbert4
@trident3b - You feel that ones privacy is invaded in GERMANY? What about the 1.5 million video cameras in London alone (may not be so many but it does feel as if) any cause for concern on your part?

Have you ever ANYWHERE been able to rent anything, especially a house or apartment without having your identity checked and providing basic information, I doubt it.

I don't have a problem with streetview personally but, it can possibly catch one coming from home, work, pub or the local puff. And display it to a world-wide audience.
10:31 April 1, 2010 by DrKnow
It's not vandalism. It's resistance against an enemy attacker. Google has more spy capacity than the majority of nations on eart. I hope more people get the same idea.
11:45 April 1, 2010 by michael4096
Nobody has commented on the fact that the photo accompanying the article shows a street, buildings, vehicles and, yes, a partial number plate which would be illegal for Google.

I'm not criticising The Local in any way. The photo is perfectly appropriate. It's the fact that so many think this is normal when presented this way but somehow suspicious when Google does it.
12:24 April 1, 2010 by trident3b
@dbert4: It depends on what you define as invading privacy. The masses of cameras in the UK are true, but all they do is capture images of movement. There are no personal data logged on databases which can later be retrieved and some sort of wild story concocted as a result. And this happens in Germany. You don't have the "Meldepflicht" and many other data based mandatory pieces of info logged about you in most other countries. I have a MUCH bigger problem having to expose myself and be logged in various ways in databases (as is the case in Germany) than still snap shots in street view. Apart from that street view is not a web cam; they are still pics from one particular day. The cameras in UK have helped catch vandals and terrorists in record time where the Germans are just driving around asking to see "Ausweise" all the time. Germany is utterly anal about data logging as much as they can about anyone and this was proved again in a massive style after the war with the Stasi in the east. That is by far worse than cameras littered all over the place. After all the cameras are also in public places, not in your bathroom or bedroom... Germany was in extreme hot water TWICE for this very attitude (and unacceptable attempt at invading privacy to a massive extent) back in the 70s and again in the 80s when they tried to run an almost inhumane census. They started to threaten people if they didn't provide the most private of information. It was a scandal and subsequently a failure. I was attached to the British forces at the time and instructed by the forces authorities NOT to reveal any information. We had special letters to that effect to show any German person trying to obtain this information. It was disgusting. Street view is clearly totally harmless by comparison to what is already data logged in Germany about anyone who lives there.
20:21 April 1, 2010 by ovbg
@michael4096 (#27), good point though this is what is known as "Editorial" photography. Generally for news, but that can cover a very broad ground including gosip magazines. Basically an editorial photo can be used in a commercial or non commercial situation without permission from the subject. Without this law, the press would not have any rights to take photos, and that is something which we in the free world believe is an important right.

Other forms of commercial photography come in a variety of license models. The most common two are Royalty Free and Managed Rights. Royalty Free can not have any faces, private property or corporate logos but can be sold without permission unless model release forms are signed. Managed Rights is what you see on postcards, other books etc which don't need model release forms but before the images are sold they are scrutinized to ensure that they do not have any serious ramafications for their use. i.e. a photo of someone taken on the street was used in an advertisement to sell sex toys.

Google Streetview technically fits in the editorial slot. However, due to some people feeling that it was a breach of privacy, it has extra restraints attached such as face bluring. I personally think these people are being irrational as they don't seem to have a problem with Flickr which posts far higher resolution photos onto the web and there is no restrictions.
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