After Privacy Hysteria, Germans Learn To Love Google’s All-Seeing Street View

It’s been a year since Google Street View became available in Germany – and very little of the negative stir that greeted its initial arrival has survived. The service has come to be seen as a useful tool, and some former opponents even want their homes i

An infamous
An infamous
Johannes Kuhn

MUNICH -- The Silicon Valley "spy" opened shop in Germany a year ago to a firestorm of controversy. It was last November when Google launched its Panaroma Street View service of 20 German cities, from Leipzig to Stuttgart. In the lead up, the U.S. company's project not only met with mistrust but sometimes hysterical debates that went on for months, touching on everything from who had rights to building facades to how high fencing needed to be to ensure privacy.

Altogether, the questions and concerns amounted to an attempt by Germans to work out a definition of the private sphere in the digital age. The result of that debate was that 245,000 people opposed having their home publically on view, and substantial portions of some well-to-do areas are simply screened out of the German version of Street View.

But if Google were to launch the project again now, the picture might look very different. Serial break-ins that some thought would be a result of the service did not materialize. Nor, in the end, did people whose houses and apartments are pictured by the service protest much about having their private residences on display for the whole world to see.

The software is apparently not of interest to wrongdoers and voyeurs. It is, however, popular among people trying to determine if they want to visit an area or buy or rent a home there. Google spokeswoman Lena Wagner said that in Germany, the number of visits to Google Maps, into which Street View is integrated, went up 25% during the past year.

Hamburg's Johannes Caspar, the data protection head responsible for making it possible for Germans to oppose Street View, said he was happy with the service. "The Google camera car was, for many people, a symbol of a digital world trying to appropriate the analog world," said Caspar. Giving people the possibility of opposing the service, he explained, "diffused the situation and helped Street View gain acceptance."

Another indication of acceptance is that when Microsoft announced it would be photographing German streets for "Bing Maps Streetside," its Street View clone, only 80,000 people opposed. "Google Street View did the pioneering work, and now people know what the pictures look like when they're published," said Caspar.

In the meantime, according to Google spokeswoman Wagner, some who originally opposed having their property photographed now want their homes included in the service. Too late. Google promised German data protection authorities it would make all opposed imagery unrecognizable.

For now, Google has no plans to further develop German Street View to include other cities, the company said. If its camera cars were seen on the streets of Germany this year, it was to update Google Maps and route planning.

A virtual walk in the park

In other countries, however, Google is making increased amounts of information available via Street View. For example, the service enables users to take virtual walks in six parks from Madrid to Tokyo. Google sent camerapersons out on bikes to get the footage.

In California there's a test program that makes it possible for users to tour the inside of some shops and restaurants. The idea behind this is that potential clients can check out the vibe and the selection on-screen before deciding whether they want to go to a place. Meanwhile, the virtual tours could enhance the Google Ads of the establishments by giving clients more information. Google could eventually offer online table reservations or product orders.

Scenarios such as these don't look realistic for Germany, at least not in the foreseeable future. In fact, because the images date back to 2008, many of the buildings on the German Street View no longer exist. A few examples are Berlin's Palace of the Republic or Cologne's City Archives. In some ways, the much-feared "spy" from Silicon Valley has become a picture album for virtual visitors taking a nostalgia tour.

Read the original story in German

Photo - byrion

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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