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Google boss tries to allay German privacy fears

The Local · 9 Sep 2010, 10:52

Published: 09 Sep 2010 10:52 GMT+02:00

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"I can understand the worries very well," Schmidt told mass circulation daily Bild. "But we firmly believe that Germans will love Street View and will be

convinced after they have used it."

Privacy campaigners in Germany cried foul after Google announced the introduction of Street View, which allows users to view online panoramic still photos at street level taken using specially equipped vehicles.

Germany is especially sensitive to privacy issues owing to grievous abuses by the Nazis and East German communists in the past, and it has some of the world's toughest laws on data protection.

But in interviews in Bild, Germany's most-read paper, and the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schmidt sought to assuage the fears.

"I visited East and West Berlin before the Wall fell. I know what many Germans had to go through and I have the greatest respect for the fact that your privacy is so important because of your historical experiences."

Google aims to roll out Street View for the 20 biggest German cities by the end of the year, meaning Germany will join the list of 23 countries featured on the service.

Uniquely for Germany, the US internet giant launched a campaign giving citizens concerned about safety or privacy four weeks to tell the company to have pictures of their homes or businesses pixelated before they are published.

Story continues below…

But after critics complained that the deadline was too short, the company offered to double the reply period to eight weeks, running out on October 15.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:13 September 9, 2010 by Actuality
Only in Germany.

Look guys, SV is great. I can wander around the streets of London and Cornwall, taking a trip down memory lane and seeing the places I used to live.

I can, for example, explore Barcelona before a city break, and take a first-person look at where I could go.

The photos are not in any way dynamic. They are taken once, then that's it.

If burglars wanted to rob you, they could just drive around your place taking photos one day.

A country that has ID cards, body scanners, mobile phones and CCTV is concerned about prvacy problems from Streetview?

11:53 September 9, 2010 by Bushdiver
Germans are paranoid not just of SV but practically anything new.
13:20 September 9, 2010 by moistvelvet
German fears about privacy, what a load of rubbish. In a country where the chimney sweep has a right to enter your house, when the GEZ employ private firms to search online accounts and emails to find peole, when I can't hire an 18 certificate film without giving details of DOB address and passport, when the law requires that a book be kept in the Standesamt containing all of your details and that of your family, I find the whole privacy fear argument pretty weak and more likely to do with Google/Street View not being German, Germans are far too nationalistic and afraid to embrace things foreign unless it suits them, so far they haven't had the opportunity try Street View to change their closed minds.
13:42 September 9, 2010 by freechoice
Be very afraid!!

Google is Big Brother!! LOL!
15:01 September 9, 2010 by Alan20012000
I am 100% agreed with moistvelvet and I like to add to her/his list the fact that people have to put their names on the doorbells in this country and your telephone number is on the telephone books, it seems the privacy only matters when it gets to the foreign companies not to the German ones. Germans are just paranoid of every thing which is Not German.
19:33 September 9, 2010 by catjones
Wait til the germans see this:

X-Ray Vans Allow Drive By Snooping On America's Streets

05:33 September 10, 2010 by d-geek
The Germans are the only ones with any sense. Go Germany! Google is Evil, wake up people.
09:09 September 10, 2010 by moistvelvet
"The Germans are the only ones with any sense."

But Germans wear socks with sandals!!
15:14 September 10, 2010 by Struwel
But Germans wear socks with sandals!!" I never did that, as well don't like it, really! :)

"... chimney sweep has a right to enter your house..." No sure if he has the right, but how shall he do is job without to enter the house?

As for Google, perhaps things would look different if people could be sure that Google does not collect any information without that people know it. Also Google's future plans, what sounds like - "that most people do not want that Google answers their questions. They want Google to tell them what to do next. For example, someone walks down a street. Given the information that Google has about this person, we know who you are, what motivates you and who your friends. And we know exactly where you are staying in the moment. If you need milk, and there is a shop that sells milk near you, we will remember you that you need milk." - like Google boss told in an interview, it's not my thing. While I can't avoid to give away information, I want to know who and what kind of information they collect about me.

I understand that Street View can be nice for "taking a trip down memory lane" but otherwise, I don't know. The picture Google took today from the place I want to take vacation may look completeley different the next week. However, whatever they do, they just shall tell me what else than the picture they will collect too.

Hope everybody has a nice Friday. :)
21:16 September 10, 2010 by onemark
Given their history and the way the state invades peoples' lives currently, it is entirely understandable that Germans are very antsy, not to say paranoid, about their privacy.

Example: try sitting in your car on the side of the road wearing a pair of sunglasses. Hold a hair dryer (unconnected) out the windown in the direction of the oncoming traffic and then see how long it takes before the local law arrives. I guarantee it won't be long! (Just make sure you've got some form of ID on you or you'll be detained for up to 24 hours.)

PS: Struwel:

The problem with the chimney sweep issue is that you are required by law (or municipal by-law or something) to let them in even if you don't have a central heating system that needs maintenance or checking by them. Apparently, it's all about compulsory maintenance. And then you have to pay for it.
00:48 September 11, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Struwel --

If you want to avoid giving away personal information, stay off the internet entirely. You leave a trail every time you click on anything. And don't buy anything on credit or debit cards, or use a cell phone. Don't have a bank account or file tax returns. Don't go to a hospital or visit a doctor. Don't apply for a passport, driver's license, health insurance or social security. Don't apply for a job or attend a school. By all means don't apply for a marriage license. Only then will you have any chance to safeguard whatever privacy you might still have left.
03:24 September 11, 2010 by Struwel
Comment: Onemark - Since we not yet plan to change our heating system I did not try to get more information so I can be wrong but, as far as I know, if you use a geothermal heat pump (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_heat_pump) you don't need a chimney sweep and don't have to pay that money then.

Prufrock2010 - Like I wrote I am aware that "I can't avoid to give away information". I can't say something to buying anything on credit or debit cards and I use an old pre-paid cell phone but it seems to me that thinking of nearly everything else you mentioned - I know that (hopefully also what kind of information) I give them personal information about me. You are right that, although I try to be careful, I leave a trail when I use the internet. Also I don't really know what kind of personal information is collected then and I can't say that I like that, just like I would not like Google collecting personal information (while they take pictures for Street View) about me without that I know that. Perhaps that sounds odd but I don't care. And since I now already told too much about me, I better stop here.

Have a nice weekend everybody.
10:18 September 12, 2010 by September Fist
Eine neue fuhrer?
10:11 September 20, 2010 by moistvelvet
Google might use this information to remind me I need milk? Oh dear, this is armageddon, my life shall be ruined... never again will I have that sinking feeling when I pour a bowl of cornflakes only to find no milk in the fridge.

As for chimney sweep, it doesn't matter if you have a fancy geothermal heat pump, the chimney sweep will still demand access to your property to check that you don't need a chimney sweep, it happened to us only 3 weeks ago and yes we have to pay for the priviledge of his visit to check nothing.
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