This week I have been enjoying the blurred images of German buildings whose owners have chosen to opt-out of Google Street View. Infamous moments in the country’s history have led Germans to take privacy very seriously; especially when it comes to information about their residences. Unlike the United States, where data privacy is an opt-out option, Germany law states that, “citizens must opt-in to have their data collected in any way.” (1). In fact, there is a document detailing the rights of the “data subject” in the German Federal Data Protection Act which serves “to protect the individual against his right to privacy being impaired through the handling of his personal data.”
An even more powerful gesture are the very public images that have resulted from this protection. While they serve a specific function—to obscure identifying aspects of buildings, faces, etc.—they also communicate very effectively the message that individuals should have the right to decide how their data is used. This gets to the heart of the Give Me My Data app—to prompt this sort of discussion. It is then ironic that Google, a company whose revenue is based almost completely on advertising opportunities made possible by aggregating and re-representing data, has inadvertently brought us this message.
I was excited to find my own apartment building in Berlin has been removed.
Another building down the street
Helge Denker, a reporter with the German daily, Das Bild, has found a clever way to opt-out.