Google, Microsoft and Nokia launch one-stop 'hide from maps' service in Germany

Google, Microsoft and Nokia launch one-stop 'hide from maps' service in Germany

Summary: Google, Microsoft and other companies have come together to help Germans to blur pictures of their properties in mapping services like Google Street View.


Google, Microsoft, Nokia and a number of other companies have formed an association to attempt to allay Germans' privacy concerns over mapping services.

The organisation, known as Verein Selbstregulierung Informationswirtschaft (roughly translated as the association for self-regulation in IT), counts companies like Deutsche Telekom, Google, Panolife, Deutsche Post, Microsoft, Nokia and Encourage Directories among its members. Last week, the association launched a website where individuals can have their homes, their licence plates or themselves removed from a variety of mapping services that feature German locations, such as Google Street View or Nokia Maps, in one go.

Street View blurred building
A blurred out property on Street View. Image: Google

Users who are concerned that their premises, cars or they themselves have been photographed for mapping services can now visit the website and complain about the use of the images.

The companies will then check the complaint and blur the offending pictures, or appropriate parts of them. The new website also helps people to find out whether photographs of their property have been taken by one of the associations' members.

The new service is part of a commitment voluntarily signed by the companies in the wake of Google and others' decision to start mapping services in Germany. After the launch of Street View in the country, German citizens and politicians spoke out against the service, raising a series of privacy questions (it didn't really help that Google got caught collecting Wi-Fi payload data, too).

Instead of passing a new law to address such concerns, the companies set out to find a solution involving self-regulation. "The companies' self-governance is the right way to go," president of Germany IT association Bitkom,  Dieter Kempf, said. "We don't need a new law for every online service."

Companies are holding back on launching or updating services in Germany, according to Kempf – thanks in part to excessive criticism and fear of a reopening discussions about the privacy implications. "It is sad that innovative and widely used services are being slowed down in Germany," Kempf added. 

Topics: Privacy, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, EU

Moritz Jaeger

About Moritz Jaeger

Moritz is a Munich-based IT-journalist with more than eight years of experience as an author under his belt.

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  • I wish they would do the same in US too.

    My house, my wish and they should take prior permission from me to publish it in Public Internet.
    Ram U
  • Where do you draw the line

    It is a real problem. I like Street View and the pretty good Google Earth and Maps satellite views, but of *my* house? Am not so sure...
  • What is the difference between photographing it and seeing it?

    If something can be seen, it can be photographed. If you need privacy that much, (and I don't begrudge you that privacy,) put up a privacy hedge or fence to block the view of your property from the road. The Google street cars are driving down the road just like anyone else, and are only photographing what can be seen by driving down the street. That isn't an invasion of privacy.
    • Photographing is different from Publishing

      on the Internet for public without permission. Would it be ok with you if someone takes pictures of you, your wife or kids while busy in getting out of car in your driveway and posts it on the Internet without your consent? It is the same. It is same as paparazzi following celebrities to get click in their awkward moments and post them online for quickbucks. No moral.
      Ram U
      • If they make money from it, yes

        but if they're not making money from the photos of the front/outside of your house taken from a public stree, then privacy doesn't come into it, at least not by US law.
        • Sorry, I don't agree

          If an image that anyone takes doesn't meet a test for editorial newsworthiness and the subject(s) aren't public personalities or landmarks, I don't believe anyone should be able to publish these for the public to see without the subject's or owner's permission. I don't want photos of me, my family or my property to be published without my express permission, period.

          Now, most people probably don't feel the same way I do, but that doesn't mean I should forfeit my rights to control this. Hiding my house behind a fence or landscaping is an undue burden and, in all actuality, a violation of local ordinances in my town.

          If someone wants to see me or my house, they're welcome to drive by or fly over. I have no crazy belief that someone shouldn't be able to do that. But simplifying the process to something that is as trivial to perform as opening a browser and going to a web page is crossing the line in my book.
  • Google, Microsoft and Nokia launch one-stop 'hide from maps' service in Ger

    this is what i call 'condemned by good intentions.' mapping applications are too good to be true, but i may say one of the best application of technology in recent memory. it is nice to find your way in advance where you want to go and also to know where you are in realtime, but then the same convenience can be used in nefarious ways that can harm many. speaking of double edge sword...
  • Creepy

    It creeps me out seeing my dead mom in front of her house, over two years after she died.
  • Creepy II

    Same goes for my dead neighbor.
  • creeped out?

    How many times do you look for them on street view? Was there a horrendous accident when the google map mobile was filming or what?