Article 29: Reduce the storing period of Google Street View's images

By EDRi · March 10, 2010

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Deutsch: [Artikel 29: Reduziert die Lagerzeit der Google Street View-Aufnahmen |]

Alex Turk, the head of EU Article 29 Working Party (WP) sent a letter on 11
February 2010 asking Google company to warn people about the arrival of its
Street View vehicles and to reduce the retention period of unblurred
material from one year to six months.

Google has met a series of problems during the last period with its Street
View system in Europe being under fire from several EU member states such as
Germany, Finland, France as well as non-member states such as Switzerland.

According to a Dow Jones report, the letter sent by WP Article 29 asked
Google to notify cities and towns about the arrival of its Street View cars
and tricycles by “appropriate announcements in the national, regional and or
local press,” while Google said it already does this by posting the details
on its web site.

Regarding the data storage period, Michael Jones, Google’s chief technology
advocate and founder of Google Earth, stated the company had negotiated with
EU authorities and agreed to one year storage of images from the day they
were published on Street View. Therefore, the company believed “the
retention of the unblurred images is legitimate and justified”.

The company tried to explain why it needed to keep unblurred images
(including elements such as faces, licence plates etc.) for a year. “The
need to retain the unblurred images is legitimate and justified – to ensure
the quality and accuracy of our maps, to improve our ability to rectify
mistakes in blurring, as well as to use the data we have collected to build
better maps products for our users,” said Peter Fleischer, the Google lawyer
in charge of privacy issues.

In the meantime, in Germany, Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner had
threatened to take legal action in order to prevent Google Street View from
offering photos on German cities and streets. But Chancellor Angela Merkel
announced that Street View application would not be hampered despite the
privacy concerns raised by the consumer affairs minister. “Those that
consider (Street View) to be an invasion of their private sphere can make
use of the right to object,” she said in her weekly podcast on 27 February.

In order to address privacy concerns, the German version of Street View will
offer residents the possibility to remove pictures before they are published
and it will include a tool allowing the quick removal once the images are
published. Lena Wagner, a Google Deutschland spokeswoman also stated that
the company would announce when its cars would be driving by to take

Yet, although in February the company stated it would not drop Street View
in Europe, in an interview at CeBIT Technology Fair in Hanover that took
place between 2-6 March 2010, Jones stated: “I think we would consider
whether we want to drive through Europe again, because it would make the
expense so draining”, which sounded rather like a threat.

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