Google fixes Street View as German launch continues

Google released Street View imagery for 20 more German cities on Friday, saying it has improved the process used to blur the properties of those who object to the service.

The wider launch comes about two weeks after Google received complaints over imagery it released for the city of Oberstaufen. Due to a technical problem, iPhone and iPad users were able to see properties for a very short time before the blurring took effect.

The blurring also somewhat partially obscured adjacent properties, a problem Google said it has remedied.

"Our new manual blurring process completely blocks out a house, car or person, but no longer cuts out all the surrounding scenery as well, such as a nearby street sign or trees," wrote Andreas Tuerk [cq], a Google product manager, on a company blog. "This enables us to respect requests for removal without blacking out the entire area."

Google will use the method for all future requests from people, Tuerk wrote.

Google has faced some of the strongest opposition to Street View in Germany, a country with strict privacy laws. The company allowed people to request that their properties be blurred prior to Street View imagery going live. Germany is the only country where Google let citizens opt out prior to launch.

The company received upwards of 250,000 opt-out requests by mid-October, which represented about 3% of the households in the areas that Street View covers now.

The company is still facing scrutiny from German authorities. Hamburg's Data Protection Agency has been investigating Google's admission that it collected unencrypted Wi-Fi traffic using its Street View vehicles, a practice that has been halted. Also, Hamburg's prosecutor's office is still determining whether data collection violated the country's laws.

Street View now covers Berlin, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Bremen, Dortmund, Dresden, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne, Leipzig, Mannheim, Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Wuppertal.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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