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Google Maps boss to Germans: 'We don't want to invade you'

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The man behind Google Street View assured Germany the firm didn't want to invade as it sought to allay the country's privacy concerns today.

While Google has been driving its Street View cars around Germany for a couple of years, the service has yet to launch in the country, due to a particularly touchy Teutonic attitude to privacy.

The company brought in its chief technology advocate, Michael Jones, one of the driving forces behind Google Earth, to help soften the snoopware's image at Cebit yesterday.

The search'n'ads giant is hoping it may be able to launch this year, after adding some extra bells and whistles for the good Burghers of Berlin, Bremen and Braunschweig.

Google will offer Germans the benefits of face and license plate blurring, which are already available in other countries.

However, it is also giving people the chance to send in their addresses so that they can have their houses excluded from the service at launch, and have their dwellings deleted from the raw data. It is developing a software tool to automate the process.

The changes, which the firm has discussed with the German data protection authorities, were presented at a German language press conference today.

What appeared to be a somewhat frosty reception might have been down to the weather or The Reg's grasp of German not being what it used to be. But we didn't notice anyone applauding either, as is often the case at press gigs here.

Jones sought to allay concerns by walking the German hacks through the service. Germans can of course access Street View footage of other countries - just not their own.

Jones then assured them that "Google is not an invader of countries. We're a country."

Jones insisted that most other countries were "not worried" about possible privacy issues around Street View, but accepted that "In Germany, it's a serious issue". And in Switzerland too, he added.

He pointed out that at Google, "We're not all Germans" and the company didn't realise it would have to be so sensitive about the privacy implications of Street View

Jones said the firm was not engaged in a battle with "the privacy people".

Rather, he said, "We feel like we're in a classroom with the privacy people." He didn't say, though, who was instructing whom. ®

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