The site’s co-founder Oliver Thiel told German news magazine Der Spiegel that Stayfriends was pursuing plans to photograph some 20,000 schools around Germany, saying the company would request authorization of the images from school administrators later on.
Such photographs are permitted under current privacy laws in Germany, as long as individuals at the schools are not photographed and the pictures are not taken from school property.
Google Street View, a service that involves panoramic still photos taken at street level, has already sparked a heated privacy debate in Germany, with politicians demanding a review of data protection regulations.
Despite the technical legality of the company’s plans, Stayfriends has also drawn criticism from school circles.
“If you want to be reputable and co-operate with the schools, then this approach is questionable,” said Ulf Rödde, spokesman for the Education and Science Workers’ Union (GEW).
Stayfriends also acknowledged a recent incident, in which a teacher at a Münster school was allegedly threatened for writing down the license plate number of a car belonging to a Stayfriends photographer. The company said it regretted the “misconduct.”
Earlier this year, German consumer watchdog Stiftung Warentest criticised the website’s approach to privacy issues.
A subsidiary of US company Classmates Online, Stayfriends has nearly 11 million registered members.