Google says it'll introduce "Street View" mapping feature in Germany's largest cities before the end of the year. German officials have been one of the harshest critics of "Street View" program, which provides detailed photographs of neighborhoods taken by Google cameras. At the insistence of authorities, the faces of individuals and licenses plates will be blurred. People can also ask to have images of their homes removed from the database starting next week — a move aimed at dispelling privacy fears.
"This tool available before the launch of the service is unique to Germany," Google spokeswoman Lena Wagner said, adding the company hopes to launch maps of the 20 cities in November, then expand the service.
The cities will include Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Cologne, among others.
Johannes Caspar, head of the Hamburg office for data protection, criticized Google for refusing to set up a hot line to answer questions. He said he has also urged Google be more transparent about how it plans to handle the data of those who object to the mapping program. "Google is missing an opportunity to restore trust," he said.