Google's Street View Cleared In Germany

Google has just received mixed news about Street View from European authorities. A court in Germany reportedly declared that Google's Street View program is legal, despite the EU's relatively strong privacy laws.

Google Street View involves posting photos taken from public streets. Many photos show residents' homes, but Google blurs people's faces.

In the U.S., the only court to address Street View ruled that it doesn't violate people's privacy. In that case, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Google didn't violate the privacy of a couple in Pittsburgh by showing a photo of their home. "No person of ordinary sensibilities would be shamed, humiliated, or have suffered mentally as a result of a vehicle entering into his or her ungated driveway and photographing the view from there," the court wrote.

Of course, the U.S. also has strong First Amendment protections that generally favor allowing people to take photos and publish them, both online and in traditional media.



Google also received less welcome news about Street View: French authorities fined the company around $141,000 because its Street View cars captured unencrypted WiFi data, including users' passwords and clickstream data.

Other countries have criticized Google for the collections, but regulators in France are the first to impose any fines.

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission declined to impose sanctions, but Google still faces an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission and state attorneys general. The company also is defending itself in a class-action lawsuit alleging that the data collection violated federal wiretap law.

Google is asking for that case to be dismissed. The company argues that the federal wiretap law only applies to interceptions of communications that aren't readily accessible to the public. Google says that any data it intercepted was publicly accessible because its Street View cars only collected material from networks that weren't password protected.

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