Google launches 'Street View' charm offensive

Mar 02, 2010
A stand builder fixes a logo at the Google stand at the CeBit 2010 exhibition in Hanover. US Internet giant Google launched a charm offensive for its controversial "Street View" navigation service, aiming to soothe the privacy doubts of a sceptical German public.

US Internet giant Google launched on Tuesday a charm offensive for its "Street View" navigation service, aiming to soothe the privacy doubts of a sceptical German public.

Attending the CeBIT high-tech fair, the world's biggest, for the first time, Google showcased three of their "Street View" cars -- sleek, black Opels with eight mounted cameras to take pictures of streets, buildings and cities.

The software, based on photographs which create 3-D imagery, allows surfers to "walk" through the streets of cities such as New York, Paris or Hong Kong.

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.

"We strongly believe that Google Street View is completely legal in Germany," Kay Oberbeck, a spokesman for the firm's local unit, told a packed news conference.

The "Street View" programme 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.

Michael Jones, the firm's "chief technology advocate", said the software should be viewed as an educational and fun tool.

"You see the world as you would see it if you were really there."

"Google is not an invader of countries. It's not some super spy camera. It's just a camera mounted on a car. It's not super high quality photography," added Jones.

Nevertheless, he stressed: "Now we've heard a bit about the concerns, we're going to change things.

"We don't think like we're in a battle with the privacy people. We don't agree with everything they say, but we're learning."

Lena Wagner, another Google spokeswoman, said that the firm had been slow to win people over.

"We should have communicated earlier on Google 'Street View', I admit. We started taking photos in Germany in 2008 and we should have explained things more clearly to people," she said.

"The idea of 'Street View' is not to take private pictures. We take photos like any other tourist would," added Wagner.

However, the service has already raised some concerns outside Germany.

Police in Raahe, northern Finland, last month began an investigation at the request of a man whose picture could been seen online on "Street View."

Explore further: UN moves to strengthen digital privacy (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google removes street images over privacy complaints

Mar 20, 2009

US software giant Google said Friday it had removed several images from its Street View software, which allows web surfers to view parts of 25 British cities, after users raised privacy concerns.

Google to reshoot street views of Japanese cities

May 14, 2009

(AP) -- Google said Wednesday it will reshoot all photos in Japan for its Street View service after residents complained the 360-degree panoramic images provided a view over the fences around their homes.

Greece bars Google's Street View pending details

May 11, 2009

Greece's data protection agency Monday barred Google from taking any more images on the nation's streets for its Street View feature, pending "additional information" from the US search engine service.

Recommended for you

UN moves to strengthen digital privacy (Update)

15 hours ago

The United Nations on Tuesday adopted a resolution on protecting digital privacy that for the first time urged governments to offer redress to citizens targeted by mass surveillance.

Spotify turns up volume as losses fall

15 hours ago

The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, announced Tuesday its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion.

Virtual money and user's identity

22 hours ago

Bitcoin is the new money: minted and exchanged on the Internet. Faster and cheaper than a bank, the service is attracting attention from all over the world. But a big question remains: are the transactions ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.