TMCnet News

Germany unveils plans to tighten internet privacy
[December 01, 2010]

Germany unveils plans to tighten internet privacy

BERLIN, Dec 01, 2010 (dpa - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Germany unveiled plans Wednesday to regulate the internet, including opt-out rights from Google Street View and a ban on web services that display profiles of people.

The privacy rules were drafted after an outcry over the summer about Street View, which offers close-up views of city streets.

Google launched the service for 20 German cities last month after submitting to the tightest restrictions anywhere in the world.

Germany's draft new restrictions are a combination of self-regulation by Google and other leading companies and a bill that will make it an offence to cross Berlin's red line on privacy.

Internet search sites that aggregate data about people may fall foul of the law.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it was "a particularly serious invasion of privacy rights" when sites "publish data that has been aggregated as a matter of business" and that "yields a comprehensive personality or travel profile" of a person.

This type of people directory will only be allowed if the subjects consent to be profiled or if the right to free speech trumps their right to privacy.

As the minister was unveiling the bill, the head of Germany's digital industry federation Bitkom was proposing more self- regulation.

The federation offered to set up a one-stop service, where people can protest at their homes being shown on the web.

That would extend Google's opt-out rule to the other companies that offer street photo services.

In Germany, Google blurred photos of many buildings before Street View went live. In other nations it only processed complaints after the launch.

Government privacy commissioners attacked de Maiziere's plan as too lax, saying the self-regulation part was not enough.

"Companies that don't sign up to self-regulate won't be bound and there won't be any independent privacy watchdog to police it," said Johannes Caspar, a commissioner from the federal state of Hamburg.

De Maiziere said he also hoped to make it an offence for camera phones to use facial-recognition software to automatically identify people by name, for example by matching the faces with images found on Flickr photo site.

The companies that agreed to self-regulate included Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Deutsche Post DHL and Deutsche Telekom. The industry agreed in September to draft the rules. Chief executives are to meet senior officials on December 7 to discuss the next step.

To see more of dpa, go to Copyright (c) 2010, dpa, Berlin Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

[ Back To's Homepage ]