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Google's German Street View set to go live

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CIOL Bureau
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BERLIN, GERMANY: Internet giant Google is set to make images of 20 German cities available online through its controversial Street View technology after reaching agreement with data protection officials, the company said Tuesday.

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Street View, which allows users of Google Maps to view nearly-seamless 360-degree photographic views of city streets, has raised privacy concerns in Germany since the company's camera vans started photographing the country in 2008.

"There are misgivings, but we are taking these misgivings seriously," said Google Maps Europe product manager Raphael Leiteritz.

Any person can request to have their property or residence digitally 'blurred' on Google's Street View - a practice that the firm also carries out automatically for the faces of individuals captured in public places.

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However under the deal struck by data-protection officials from the 20 cities, German citizens will now have the right to have their properties blurred before the images go live online.

"The goal is the best possible protection of the private sphere," said Google spokeswoman Lena Wagner.

Google hopes the new service will be online by the end of 2010, Wagner said.

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The German government has responded particularly strongly to Street View, which already operates mostly without such restrictions in 23 countries.

Google came under criticism in May when the firm admitted that it had collected snippets of private data from unencrypted wireless networks whilst gathering information for Street View.

Germany's Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner vowed Tuesday to ensure that Google would carry out its commitment to comply with all requests from citizens that do not want their property displayed in the service.

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"That also goes for the requests of citizens that do not have internet access. I will keep a very close eye on whether this system works in practice," she said in a statement.

The cities included in the German version of Street View will be the 20 biggest, starting with Berlin and including Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

The company said there were no further plans as yet to add more cities.

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