German regulators welcome street panorama privacy law draft

A proposal to extend Germany's stringent privacy laws to cover street panoramas fulfills an urgent need, regulators say

German privacy regulators have welcomed a proposal to extend laws protecting Germans' right to privacy to cover use of their own image and that of their homes in online street panoramas, the Hamburg privacy regulator said Monday.

The draft law, to crack down on services such as Google's Street View or the Streetside function in Microsoft's Bing Maps, was submitted to the German Federal Parliament by the City of Hamburg in late April. Privacy regulators from Germany's Lände, or states, discussed the text at a meeting in Hamburg on Friday.

The initiative demonstrates "the urgent need for a comprehensive modernization of data protection," Hamburg's Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Johannes Caspar said in statement.

Google is in hot water in Hamburg over the recording of unencrypted Wi-Fi traffic by the cars taking photos for Street View. The data recording was an accident, Google told the Hamburg regulator -- and privacy regulators in France, Spain and Italy, who are also investigating the case.

The Wi-Fi privacy mis-step came to light when the Hamburg's privacy regulator requested information from Google in an ongoing investigation into the imagery used in the Street View service. According to the regulator, German law requires Google to ask permission before publishing pictures of people and their property. Google's approach is generally to publish first, and then take down the images if someone complains, although in deference to the Hamburg regulator's concerns, the company has still not launched its Street View service in Germany.

The proposed German law would amend Germany's Federal Data Protection Act to make it illegal to publish databases of street images linked to their geographic coordinates without first blurring faces and car registration plates in the images. It would also make it illegal to store the raw, unblurred image data for more than a month after first publication.

Homeowners and tenants would have the right to ask, at any time, that images of themselves and their homes be blanked out.

Under the proposed law, companies that collect such images, including Microsoft and Google, would have to announce the areas in which their vehicles will be recording, a month in advance of their visit.

Failure to follow these rules would expose companies to a fine of up to €50,000 (US$62,000).

The draft law was assigned to parliamentary committees for further examination on May 7.

So far, such rules are the subject of a voluntary undertaking between German state authorities and the companies that take the photos. But voluntary undertakings are not reliable enough, Hamburg State Justice Senator Till Steffen said when the draft law was presented in April.

Google already publishes the schedule of its Street View cars in Germany, blurs faces and number plates detected by its software in published images (but has not yet agreed to discard the raw data), and agrees to remove images after publication if they are subject to dispute.

Microsoft has not yet launched its Streetside image service in Europe. So far it has only collected images of some U.S. metropolitan areas and of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games venues in Canada. The company says that it, too, uses software to detect and blur faces and car number plates. It will also, it says, accept requests to blur or remove images of faces, homes, cars, acts of violence, nudity, and unlawful material -- and will comply with the requirements of local laws.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags google street viewInternet-based applications and servicesGoogleMapssecurityMicrosoftlegislationgovernmentprivacy

More about Federal DataGoogleIDGMicrosoft

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Peter Sayer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts