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Westerwelle stresses privacy concerns to Google founder Page

AFP · 20 May 2010, 16:19

Published: 20 May 2010 16:19 GMT+02:00

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The talk came after prosecutors in the northern city of Hamburg, where Google's German unit is based, opened a preliminary probe against the company after it admitted to mistakenly gathering personal data with its Street View mapping program.

In an unusual half-hour, closed-doors meeting at the Foreign Ministry with a foreign business executive, Westerwelle also took up the issue of censorship in China and other countries which have posed challenges to the US-based internet giant.

"Minister Westerwelle underlined the importance of freedom of expression on the Internet and he heard about the experiences of the company in China and other countries," his office said in a statement.

"In the context of the current debate about Google's Street View, Minister Westerwelle stressed the importance of data protection in Germany. Anyone who believes in the rights of citizens to their freedoms should recognise the importance of data protection."

Google said last week that it was halting the collection of WiFi network information for Street View because it had inadvertently collected personal data sent via unsecured systems. It has since apologised.

German authorities have been among Google's chief critics over Street View, which began in 2006 and allows users to view panoramic street scenes on Google Maps.

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A Foreign Ministry spokesman told news agency AFP that the meeting with Page had been scheduled weeks ago and said it was common for Westerwelle, chairman of the pro-business Free Democrats, to meet with "entrepreneurs."

"There was the interest on both sides to have a conversation," the spokesman said.

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Your comments about this article

16:48 May 20, 2010 by William Thirteen
wonder if they met ""for a fabulous tea outside of a press conference and then speak only English""?
20:37 May 20, 2010 by gtappend
So a high-level German politican had a chance to meet the top boss from Google and talk about all the things that have been going on in Germany in the past months. eg. Street View and WiFi logging, and although the meeting only lasted 30 minutes he found time to talk about the "issue of censorship in China".

Not much time spent on local topics then?
17:34 May 21, 2010 by martinjohn
Foreign Minister talking to Google man. To me this does not pass the smell test. We know what they do in Germany, and everywhere else. Tell them to stay away, no 'if's', no 'buts'!
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