German court rules Google Street View is legal

A Berlin court has ruled against a woman who sued Google to preempt Street View from photographing her house, a notable decision in a country with tight privacy laws that already govern the Google project.

A screenshot of Google Street View with a blurred-out house Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Perhaps no Google product has spawned a better blend of quirkiness and scandal than Google Street View--cameras pranked with staged sword battles, naked men emerging from car trunks, unsavory snapshots of dead bodies, and the ire of multiple governments, primarily in Europe, who believe that it's an invasion of privacy.

But in one of those countries, Germany, Google Street View has had a victory of sorts. A Berlin court has ruled, according to Deutsche Welle, that it's legal for Google to take the street-level pictures, striking down a lawsuit brought on by a German woman who sued Google over Street View and cited privacy and property rights.

The case is complicated, because the woman who sued did so out of the possibility that her privacy might be invaded--e.g. if Google Street View happened to take photos of the front of her house, and that the camera on top of the Google Street View vehicle would see over the hedge in front of it. So the decision's scope may be limited, and subsequently may not be evoked as frequently in property rights cases.

Google Street View launched in Germany last summer with the option for anyone to have his or her home blurred out by petitioning to Google, something which was decided after extensive negotiations with the German officials who work to enforce the country's tight privacy laws. Among those buildings blurred was, ironically, the Google office in Munich--because another tenant in the building requested that its offices not appear.

The German lawsuit is certainly not the most bizarre one that Google Street View has produced: Last year, a Japanese woman sued Google and claimed that Street View had exposed her underwear drying on a clothesline, something which she then said caused her to lose her job.

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