Germans flood Google with Street View opt-out requests

Google has received an increased number of requests from Germans who want to omit their properties from its Street View imagery program.

The German publication Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the requests number several hundred thousand, but Google is not releasing an official figure.

"As expected, due to the wide media coverage and our own information campaign the number of letters we have received has increased in recent weeks," according to a company statement. "Our first priority is to verify and process all the genuine applications. At this stage it is therefore not possible to give an accurate number of opt-outs."

In August Google launched a special program for Germans that allowed people in certain cities to request that their properties be blocked from appearing on Street View, due to go live in 20 cities later this year. People can use an online tool or write an e-mail or letter to make the request. Google extended the program from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

People in other countries can request that their properties be blocked from Street View, but that action is taken after the images have publicly appeared in Street View.

The increased attention to Street View comes as Google and other online companies are attending a high-level summit in Berlin on Monday concerning privacy issues such as geo-location services, online mapping and data protection issues.

Google said that any future legislation concerning Web services "must make sure that in addition to the requirements of data protection, the development of innovative business opportunities and modern technology are allowed to flourish."

"We're happy to contribute to these constructive conversations around the design of any such frameworks," according to a statement.

Street View remains under examination by Hamburg's Data Protection Authority. The agency was responsible for bringing to light Google's collection of information related to unencrypted Wi-Fi routers and some traffic carried by those networks, which Google halted amid concerns from regulators in countries including the U.S., France, U.K., Italy, Spain and South Korea.

The DPA is also looking at how Google retains the personal information of Germans who have requested their properties be omitted as well as how those obscured images are stored. Street View is due to launch in Berlin, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Bremen, Dortmund, Dresden, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne, Leipzig, Mannheim, Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Wuppertal.

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