Google's Street View Too Close To Home? - Ask German Privacy Officials - Technologist
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Google's Street View Too Close To Home? - Ask German Privacy Officials

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Google has stated its intention to roll out its Street View mapping service for 20 cities in Germany by the end of 2010. Copacetic? Not necessarily, according to German data privacy officials.

As part of the Google's Street View regime in Germany, property owners in the included cities have one month to register their buildings online as unrecognizable. This has drawn the rebuke of some German data privacy officials, who have complained, among other things, that this Street View program should not be launched during the summer holidays, that this initiative should have included a telephone complaint hotline, and that objections and complaints should be welcome at all times.

Germany is not the first country to include officials who have spoken out against Google's Street View. Indeed, Street View has drawn the attention of data protection regulators from at least several other European countries. This is not altogether surprising, as Europe generally tends to more jealously guard privacy rights than does the United States.

There is something to the notion that a person's home is that person's castle. A person's home is the one place theoretically where that person can quietly enjoy repose and peace from the outside world. Encompassed within that notion is the feeling of privacy and lack of public exposure. Accordingly, while Street View may be a valuable tool in certain contexts, there definitely is some sense to affording full and meaningful consent by property owners before their buildings are made public for viewing.

Yes, the counter argument can be made that most buildings already are available for viewing from public locations such as from real world street views. However, it is one thing for some passersby to see someone's house with their naked eyes as they walk down the avenue. It is a far different thing to make a person's house available for viewing worldwide at the click of a mouse.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes.  His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com.  To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.