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Germans resist Street View invasion of privacy

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Google's all-seeing Street View is attempting to convince German authorities that it should be allowed to retain "partially censored images" which Hamburg and 15 other states want purged from the search monolith's databases.

Google has been negotiating over Germany's privacy laws which "generally restrict photographs of people and property except in very public situations, such as a sporting event, without a person's consent", as IDG News Service puts it.

The company had until yesterday to agree to 12 privacy assurances, but one point remained sticky: "Partially censored images where Google has blurred items such as license plates or peoples' faces". German data protection authorities confirmed 300 compaints from citizens on the receiving end of the Orwellian black Opels, presumably without the benefit of Street View's ID-protecting algorithm.

Google claimed its blurring tech is "99 per cent accurate" - an assertion it has previously conceded is "a figure of speech" - but suggested it needed to keep the offending images on its databases "since the blurring technology is self-learning and needs more data to improve".

The authorities are unconvinced and want the images ditched.

The bottom line is that if an agreement can't be reached, Google could be fined. Johannes Caspar, head of the Hamburg area data protection agency, warned: "We should not give them the option to take these pictures if they are not willing to follow German laws."

Google said in a statement: "After positive discussions with the German Data Protection Authorities we have made good progress towards finding solutions to their concerns about Street View."

Google's claim that keeping the offending images on its servers will ultimately benefit individual privacy is a nice touch, but somewhat short of the sheer audacity displayed by Larry Page who earlier this week doomwatched that if the company isn't allowed to retain search data for more than six months, then an avian SARS pig plague ebola pandemic apocalypse will destroy all life on Earth. ®

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