Apparently, the Germans aren't particularly thrilled with Google Street View, the Internet giant's service that lets you see street view images of roads almost anywhere in the world.
Personally, I think Street View is almost science fiction, it's so amazing. Recently, my wife had to go to an event in an unfamiliar city and wasn't sure where she'd be driving to. We were able to scope out the entire trip using Street View, down to exactly what buildings looked like, so she'd know landmarks as she made her way to the event.
Aside: Google, Street View needs a little more juice. It'd be nice to set a destination and a start location and have Street View just automatically show you a slide show of the entire trip, without having to click the mouse a bajillion times.
Anyway, back to our story. It turns out that Google plans to roll out Street View throughout 20 German cities over the next year and gave German citizens the chance to opt-out their homes prior to the roll-out.
According to an article in Der Spiegel (which means "The Mirror" and was actually started by the British while occupying Germany), several hundred thousand German citizens have chosen to opt-out of the Street View service.
I was curious about whether Germany got any special Google privileges the rest of us are denied, so I went to the source and asked Google directly. Here's what I was told:
Both Americans and Germans can use our easy-to-use reporting tool to request that images of their house be removed from Street View. They can simply click on "Report a problem" on the bottom left-hand side of the Street View image, complete the form and click "Submit."
However, we're enabling people in Germany to request the blurring of their house in advance of the imagery becoming available online. Of course people will still be able to use the "Report a problem" button directly in the Street View image once the product is launched, just as they can everywhere else the product is available.
So there you go. If you're in Germany, you can preemptively stop Google from releasing your home's picture. If you're in the U.S. (or weren't paying attention that day in class in Germany), you can easily ask Google to block your home.
Update: I was just contacted by "a Google spokesperson," who requested I add the following note:
We’re not able to give you an exact figure for the number of letters we have received because that isn’t yet clear. For example, some of the letters are duplicates, others relate to other products and some are spam. We encourage those who don’t want their houses to appear on Street View to use the tool, and once we know what the total figure is we’ll publish it.
Here's a quick tutorial on how to do that:
What do you think? Did you opt your home out of Google Street View?