Google halts Street View updates in Germany

Search giant stops taking new images for Street View in country, even after Berlin court ruled it legal for Google to take streetscape photographs in Germany.

Google says it will no longer plough the streets of Germany to collect new images for its Street View service in the European country, following heated scrapes the search giant faced over privacy issues.

According to a post by tech blog site, Search Engine Land, while Google has yet to provide an official statement regarding its decision, it did reveal that it had no plans to take new images in Germany.

The blog site quoted a Google representative to say: "Our business priority is to use our Google cars to collect data such as street names and road signs, to improve our basic maps for our users in a similar way that other mapping companies do."

Existing photographs already taken by the company's roaming Street View vehicles in Germany will remain online, but these images--from approximately 20 cities--will not be expanded or updated as is typically done in other countries where Street View is available.

This announcement comes a month after Google won a court victory when the Berlin State Supreme Court ruled it legal for the company to take street-level photographs.

Google's privacy-related scuffles with Germany concerning its online mapping service have been notably heated--and documented in the media--ever since German authorities in May 2010 requested an audit of information collected by Street View cars. This led to Google admitting it had gathered personal data such as e-mail, passwords, login names and phone numbers, from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. This revelation sparked several privacy investigations and lawsuits worldwide.

When Street View officially went live in Germany last November, Google allowed residents there to opt out from the program by having pictures of their homes blurred--a result of negotiations with local authorities. According to the Internet giant, about 244,237 German households decided to opt out.

Street View also led to a series of privacy-related clashes with other governments besides Germany, including the United States, Australia, South Korea and France.

Most recently, a privacy watchdog in France fined Google US$142,000 for privacy violations committed by the Street View service.