Street View goes live in Germany with blurred images

The launch of Google's street-level imagery follows months of debate over privacy issues in Germany

Google gingerly launched a select set of Street View images for Germany on Tuesday, a country where it has faced some of the most fierce opposition to the imagery application.

Google released images of famous landmarks in Munich, Stuttgart, Dresden, Oberstaufen, Berlin as well as Hamburg, which is located in the same state where data protection officials and prosecution continue to investigate the Street View program. The company plans to release full imagery by the end of the year for 14 other German cities.

A Google spokeswoman said no complaint had been received by the company on Tuesday.

The company chose Oberstaufen since its mayor and local tourist board asked Google to release the imagery, according to the company. Google also published an image of a cake with lettering that read "Street View Willkommen in Oberstaufen."

Google has been keen to play down opposition to Street View in Germany. To tame privacy concerns, the company allowed people to request that their properties be blurred from Street View prior to the service going live -- the only country where Google allowed that to happen.

In mid-October, Google said it received close to 250,000 opt-outs, which represented roughly three per cent of the households in the areas where Street View will launch. About two-thirds of those opt-outs came via an online tool Google opened up in August to receive the requests, with others coming from letters and e-mail requests.

Despite the warm welcome from Oberstaufen officials, some properties in the city are blurred, reflecting that some requests were made by citizens to Google to not participate.

Also, progressing down one street eventually showed a black screen with the message "This image is under review and will be available soon."

Meanwhile, Hamburg's Data Protection Agency and the city's prosecutor's office continue to investigate Google's Street View vehicles, which had been collecting data traffic from unencrypted Wi-Fi routers at the same time those vehicles were collecting images. Neither agency could be immediately reached on Tuesday afternoon.

The company halted the program. Other countries, including Spain and South Korea, area also examining whether the program violated data protection laws.

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Jeremy Kirk

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