Thursday, November 18, 2010

Google Street view in Germany

Google finally made street view in Germany available. However with some limitations.
First of all there are only 20 cities with Street view available (München, Köln, Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart and few others). Second Google went in Germany through a big debate of privacy and had to allow Germans to opt out their house from street view. Over 250,000 home owners did sign the opt out.
As a result there are buildings blur on street view.

If the building is a skyscraper or an department complex and only one party does not want to have their property shown on street view then the whole building is blur. If the building is not clear defined then the whole street is unsharp.
The original opt out phase is over, however home owners can anytime ask to get their house blurred. It is an easy process by using google maps. You just need to type your street address, switch to street view and click on the link "Ein Problem melden" (Submit an issue). The user marks the building and fills out a form. It will take between 4 to 12 weeks till the building is blurred by Google.

Google had to hire 200 more people to manual blur the images. Their software could not do it automatically. Unfortunately they manual blur process has disadvantages, it takes long and not all photos of the same building are blurred. Depending on viewing angle or zoom the building might be still viewable.

Germans are much more concerned on privacy than Americans. Which is funny. Germans like to be naked in the English Garden (Park in Munich), but don't want to have their house in the Internet. Americans can't even breast feed their baby in front of friends but love to show their house, car and boat.

I think the big difference is, that Germans like to decide when and who sees what. And Google is taking this freedom away.

Because Google had to stop their image capturing and restart it after some data collection issues, you will see some buildings in a summer light and then the next building in the same street with snow on it. If google accidentally did capture people, they have ( I believe) to blur the faces too, because in Germany we are not allowed to show photos from people in the press without their permit. For me google is a kind of press.

Some pictures are over two years old, therefore you can see in Cologne still the City Archive which collapsed last year.

(the grey building on the left)

But when you turn the view to the construction you will see that the archive is collapsed (the small image in grey box)

Google is not blurring the original photos in case Germany does change its mind.
Google official statement is that they keep a copy in case they made a mistake with blurring. I am not sure if this a breach of the privacy rules.

Overall it is nice for me to see again some of my old homes and cities.

Street view is not working on the iPad, I will test a little more tomorrow on my notebook.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.
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