German Street View error lets iPhone users see hidden images

Homes that should be obscured are sometimes partially or even wholly visible to iPad or iPhone users

Google is facing fresh complaints over Street View in Germany, after technical problems caused some properties to be visible rather than blurred in a preview of the service launched earlier this week.

Users of Apple iPads and iPhones found that the blurring was not complete on their devices, said Johannes Caspar, head of the Data Protection Agency (DPA) for Hamburg, on Friday. Google released imagery for the city of Oberstaufen and landmarks in five other German cities on Tuesday.

Google "agreed with our objections that nobody should see these pictures," Caspar said.

The company has agreed to black out the images, Caspar said. But the error is raising questions over how Google is handling the blurred images, which under an agreement with the DPA should be deleted from the company's databases, Caspar said.

"We have to face the fact that Google has problems, and maybe these problems come from the fact they haven't deleted the raw material," Caspar said.

The DPA is in daily contact with Google about the issue, Caspar said. Google has said it plans to launch Street View for 14 other German cities by the end of the year, but that launch could be hampered by the blurring problems.

"We will wait and see if Google will solve the problem with the blurring," Caspar said. "If this is not done, we think Google can't go online with Street View."

Google officials could not be immediately reached. The company has face some of the strongest opposition to Street View in Germany due to concerns over privacy.

Google allowed people in Germany to request that their properties be blurred before the Street View service went live, the only country where Google has allowed people to object prior. In other countries, people can request their homes be blurred but only after the images have appeared publicly.

In mid-October, Google said it received close to 250,000 opt-outs, which represented roughly 3 percent of the households in the areas where Street View will launch.

Even for PC users, some of the houses concealed in Street View become visible again as the point of view is moved further away from them -- and using the zoom tool allows viewers to compensate for that distance to get an unblurred close-up.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon