Google and other companies providing geo-data services like Street View must come up with their own rules to protect citizens’ private spheres, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Monday.
The German public has raised strong objections in recent weeks to the introduction of Google Street View, which provides online photographs of streets and houses connected to the firm’s online mapping services.
At a summit of regulators and internet firms in Berlin on Monday, de Maiziere said that Google and its peers must come up with a so-called “data protection charter” by December that would ensure citizens’ rights.
Data protection campaigners have argued that Google Street View allows unprotected access to information comprising the “private sphere,” including homes and gardens.
“I am expecting that the (companies) take responsibility for data protection-friendly rules,” the minister said.
On Saturday, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported that “hundreds of thousands” of Germans had sent applications to Google to have the images of their properties obscured when the service goes online later this year.
De Maiziere said with self-regulation, government legislation that would prescribe the activities of Street View and similar systems could be avoided.
“We have to protect the free use of free space,” de Maiziere said, arguing that legitimate interests such as live television coverage, traffic management and property services could be damaged by overzealous regulation.
The industry association Bitkom appeared on Monday to accept the minister’s request to come up with self-binding rules.
“We have to keep in mind how we can — socially and economically — use the opportunities presented by technical advances,” Bitkom president August-Wilhelm Scheer said.