Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"German angst alone cannot stop Google "(Street View)"

More about the controversies of Street View in Germany from today's The Local:

Google Street View is still harmless, says German consumer protection expert Falk Lüke, but that doesn’t mean the current discussion surrounding it is unnecessary. Instead, we should be focused on creating international rules for online privacy.


Amid all the classic German angst, good arguments against Street View have been mixed with downright silly ones. The pro-Google camp gleefully quotes its opponent's most absurd comments and stands by the under-fire web company. But that doesn’t change that Google really has done a lot wrong.

The company sent out cars to film the streets from a height of 2.9 metres. This is high – ask someone to sit on your shoulders and this is about the view they would have. Then ask them to tell you whether they can see over walls and hedges.

In many parts of Germany, such barriers are restricted to a height of two metres – often lower. Is there a clearer sign that you would prefer that people didn't see into your property than by building a wall as tall as allowed by the law? I don't believe there is.

Of course, Germany is not the only country that has a problem with Street View. The project was criticised in Switzerland and Greece, among other places, and in 2009 Google was forced to re-photography 20 Japanese towns from a lower angle.

Politicians want Google to obscure car licence plates and people. But what do they mean by obscuring people? So far, Google has only suggested obscuring faces. You don't have to be a criminologist to know that people can be recognised by many other features than their face. If you've seen how poorly Google has tried to make people unrecognisable in other countries you'll know that their standard is unacceptable.

Read the whole story:

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