Google's Street View will not resume its activities in the Czech Republic
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Deutsch: Keine Wiederaufnahme von Google Street View in Tschechien
For the second time, the Czech data protection authority (UOOU) rejected Google's application to resume its data collection through its Street View system. The Czech data agency had already rejected a similar request from Google in December 2009. However, Street View photographs taken prior to October 2009 will remain online.
Hana Stepankova, a spokesman for UOOU said they had concerns over the legality of Google's service. "We do not have complete certainty the information (collected) is being processed according to law," she said.
Google representatives have expressed their disappointment and their belief that Street View is legal in the Czech Republic. "We have in place robust procedures to protect privacy, such as face and number plate blurring and a removals tool. We'll continue to engage in dialogue with the (data protection authority) to answer any other questions they have," wrote Lena Wagner, Google spokesperson, in an e-mail to Deutsche Welle.
She expressed Google's confidence that the agency would grant the company permission to resume data collection, provided the process could be done legally. Stepankova also confirmed the intention of the Czech authorities to continue the dialogue with Google in this matter.
In Germany, several hundred thousand people have chosen to opt-out from Google StreetView's service; the Germans have been given the possibility to opt-out by 15 October 2010 in case they did not want their homes or businesses to be included in the service.
In the light of the debate over Google Street View service, the German government has decided to consider new laws on online data protection. On 20 September, a high-level meeting took place in Berlin, chaired by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, with representatives of the IT industry to discuss the chances, risks and restrictions of publishing private data on the Internet.
In an e-mail sent to Deutsche Welle, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, an Austrian professor and the director of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Center at the National University of Singapore expressed his opinion that Google will continue to face problems in several European countries having in view the different approaches in the implementation and interpretation of the data protection directive.
"It is conceivable that capturing license plates and building facades through Street View is legal in the UK, but illegal in the Czech Republic. Especially nations with a surveillance past (like Eastern and Central Europe) often have tough privacy laws. It will take a long time and much effort for Google to navigate this thicket of information privacy laws," said the expert.
However, Google has recently been cleared in the UK by the Information Commissioner, as it has been found that Street View vehicles had not collected "significant" personal details but the company it is still under investigation by the Metropolitan police.
In the meantime, the company continues to extend its Street View service into Europe and stated in August they would send their Street View cars to Latvia.
Czech Republic stops Google from further Street View photography
Czechs halt Google Street View (15.09.2010)
Strong German opposition to Google Street View: report (19.09.2010)
EDRi-gram: Google Street View faces citizens' reservation in EU (25.08.2010)