In most locations, Google sends its Street View cars out on a repeated basis “to make sure the information is accurate and kept up to date,” as the Street View website explains.
But that’s not happening in Germany.
Despite the recent German court ruling that declared photography from streets legal in Germany, Google has stopped Street View photography there and says it has “no plans to launch new imagery on Street View in Germany.” A Google spokesperson says the company’s priorities have changed:
Our business priority is to use our Google cars to collect data such as street names and road signs to improve our basic maps for our users in a similar way that other mapping companies do.
Google will continue to show its existing Street View photos for the 20 German cities that are online now, but there won’t be any updates to those photos. It’s unclear if this decision is final, or if the company might change its plans in the future.
Aside from the mention of new priorities, the company isn’t saying why it’s stopped Street View photography in Germany. It’s easy to assume that the service’s difficult birth has factored into the decision. German officials raised objections almost as soon as Google announced plans to launch Street View there. After lengthy negotiations, Google eventually agreed to let German residents opt-out of having their buildings appear online, and nearly 250,000 German households and businesses took Google up on that offer. I’m not a programmer, but I can’t help wonder if the presence of so many blurred buildings — and the potential challenge of updating Street View while maintaining their privacy — is a factor in Google’s decision.
Microsoft just announced its own plans to launch Streetside — its street photography service — in Germany, and faced government objections a couple days later.