Just a couple months after launching in Europe, Google StreetView is running into a roadblock in Germany. Via WebProNews, Spiegel Online reports that the small town of Molfsee in northwestern Germany plans to require Google to request a permit before being allowed to record video while driving through the town’s streets.
“And when they ask for a permit,” town councilman Reinhold Harwart says, “we will say no.” It seems the small town’s concerns have spread to higher levels of German government, as well:
Harwart’s worries are shared at the state and federal levels. “We find the project extremely alarming,” Marit Hansen, the state’s deputy officer in charge of privacy protection, told the same paper. “It gathers personal data and puts it on the Internet. That will not do.” Peter Schaar, Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he had major misgivings about Google’s plans.
A Google spokesperson in Europe deflected the German concerns. Kay Oberback told the Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeitung, “You can’t really see anything more than a person walking down the street would. But, whereas that person can look over the hedge, our cameras can’t.”
Google’s StreetView program has been the subject of regular criticism and complaints since it first launched in 2007. CNET recently reported about a StreetView driver ignoring two “no trespassing” signs while taking photos on a private road. When the same thing happened in a private Minnesota neighborhood, Google agreed to remove the images from StreetView. In a Pennsylvania court case, Google has argued that it has the right to take pictures of private property.
On the possibility of having to obtain permits to take photos in Molfsee, Germany, Google’s Oberback told German media: “We don’t need permits.”