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Deadline for Germans to hide from Street View

In or out? One month to decide

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Germany privacy watchdogs have carped at Google’s plan to give property owners in the country a four-week deadline to prevent the web kingpin’s Street View mapping tool from displaying their homes online.

The company said yesterday that it would send in its spy mobiles to 20 German cities, including Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, by the end of 2010.

In the meantime it has imposed a month-long deadline, starting next week, for German property owners to sign up and use a web-based tool that will allow them to make their buildings invisible on Street View.

Hamburg’s data protection official Johannes Caspar said in a statement on the city’s website yesterday that he was “very surprised” by Google’s fast-track deadline for property owners. He noted that many people could be caught out by Mountain View’s appeal as some were currently taking their summer holidays.

Google’s plan created “doubts” about the company’s “interests in a simple and user-friendly implementation,” Caspar said.

Regulators in Germany have already begun probing Google’s Street View proposals, after the ad broker admitted that its cars had intercepted pay-loads by slurping up data via open Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries across the globe.

In May, German prosecutors launched their investigation and demanded that the company provided them with the data. However, Google decided to delay handing over some of the original hard drives that contained the pay-load data to the DPA (data protection authority) in Hamburg because it was worried that such a move could lead to a hefty fine.

Despite all that, Google at least is convinced that Germans will welcome the arrival of its Street View fleet of snooping cars.

“New statistics published by Google Inc. following the announcement make it clear that many German users already use Street View to pursue their passion for travel,” it said in a statement yesterday. ®

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