Google Street View Found to Be Legal in Germany by Court

By on March 22nd, 2011 13:40 GMT

Google's Street View was deemed legal in Germany after a court found that the service did not violate privacy or property rights. The court argued that since the photos were taken from the street, even if they were higher up, they were not in violation of any laws. The ruling can't be appealed any further.

The lawsuit started when a woman sued Google claiming that Street View was invading her privacy, or rather, 'could' invade her privacy. This was based on the fact that the cameras are mounted at about three meters above the ground on top of poles on Street View cars.

The height is enough to go over most fences and even to peek through first story windows in certain old buildings. The same issue arose in Japan where Google had to reshoot several cities at a lower height.

However, the Berlin State Supreme Court (Kammergericht) determined that this was not enough to be a violation, since the photos were taken from the street not from the sidewalks.

What's more, Google employs a technology which automatically blurs faces and car number plates in all published photos.

As a special measure, German citizens were also allowed to request that their home be removed from Street View before it launched in the country.

This was the first and only time Google has enabled this. Some 244,000 people opted to have their homes blurred, under 3 percent of all houses photographed for Street View in Germany.

All of these measures were enough to get Google off the hook, the court said. Since this was the highest level court, the decision is final. The ruling creates a solid base for Google and other similar services in Germany when it comes to property rights.

But the matter of data protection is a different one. Since it only launched a few months ago in the country, the problem of the WiFi payload data collection didn't come up in Germany. Elsewhere though Google is still feeling the fallout like a €100,000 fine in France.

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Camera sit on top of high poles on Street View cars
   Camera sit on top of high poles on Street View cars