German government considers voluntary data protection code

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Nation prepares for Street View roll-out.

The German government has urged its online companies to produce a voluntary data protection code.

In an aim to cover services such as Google's Street View, interior minister Thomas de Maiziere has asked that a data protection code be drawn up by 7 December and asked that the industry should commit to "data protection-friendly basic settings" and give information "in a user-friendly way" about the gathering and intended use of data, according to Mercury News.

He said that a voluntary code could "make special legislative regulations unnecessary, at least in part"; although he conceded that Germany's cabinet has yet to reach a final agreement on the extent to which regulation is needed.

De Maiziere met with representatives of Google and Apple after Google's plans to introduce Street View in Germany ignited concerns over the extent to which people's personal data is accessible on the internet.

Google is intending to ‘map out' 20 German cities by November 2010, but has extended the deadline for users to opt out of its Street View mapping service until 15 October. While other countries allow users snapped by Street View cars to have their face blurred, Google Germany is allowing people to have their homes removed before the service launches, according to BBC News.

It reported that hundreds of thousands of people have contacted Google to opt out of the Street View service, although Google declined to confirm the number, saying "at this stage it is not possible to give an accurate number of opt-outs".

In a statement to Mercury News, Google said: "The legislator must make sure that in addition to the requirements of data protection, the development of innovative business opportunities and modern technology are allowed to flourish. We therefore welcome the proposal for self-regulation and are happy to contribute to it in a constructive way.”

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