The Wall Street Journal reports on privacy questions in Germany surrounding online services giant Google:
As companies such as Google and Facebook Inc. expand their reach, many Germans, scarred by a history of authoritarianism, say they are increasingly fearful of losing control of their personal information. With polls showing a majority of Germans opposed to having images of their homes included in Street View, which provides Internet users street-level views of public buildings and private residences, politicians have been scrambling to act, with some even calling for new legislation to curb the service.
Google has taken pains to assuage German concerns, allowing people to opt out of the service before it goes live. So far, however, such overtures seem to have failed to quell many Germans’ fears. […]
Germany has been the flashpoint in the debate over U.S. technology companies’ handling of online data privacy. Google created a stir in May when it said it had inadvertently been collecting snippets of private data sent by consumers over wireless networks for years while compiling photos for its Street View service.
Since then, Germany’s justice minister has asked Apple Inc. to explain what kind of personal information it collects on its new iPhone 4 and how long it stores it. And Hamburg data-protection officials last month launched legal proceedings against Facebook over the way it handles data about non-users of the social-networking service without their permission. […]
Germany’s privacy protection statutes, a reaction to its troubled 20th century history, are some of the world’s strictest. The laws limit the personal data that the government and companies can collect and exchange.
Legal experts agree that the images supplied by Street View alone wouldn’t violate Germany’s current privacy laws. The concern, however, is that Street View data could eventually be used by some sites in conjunction with other personal information about residents, allowing viewers to access much more information than the color of their house.