Why Does Google Make the Germans Go Bonkers?

The hard-on Germany has for Street View gets more ironic and amusing by the day. @larsan sent me a link to German newspaper story that points to all the others who open up even more data than Google. As best as I can translate, that includes:

* Deutsche Telekom’s online phone book let you search on someone and find an aerial view of the house from four angles and a view of the backyard – with, note well, personally identifiable information attached: name and phone number.

* The site Sightwalk has street-level tours of seven German cities, including parks. Knowing Germany, one could probably find naked people there.

* State governments not only take but sell detailed images of property, including monitoring for heat loss.

At the same time, the German government is rolling out mandatory ID cards with RFID tags embedded in them. ID cards sent Brits over the edge; they’d do the same here in the U.S, I’m sure.

But at least I’m starting to see some debate over Street View and privacy nuttiness; saner voices are, if not prevailing at least speaking. Mario Sixtus writes a wonderful column (in German) recounting the inane conversations he has with German friends about Street View. This column says the argument is typically German, that the fight against Street View has no real basis, and that this fight is bringing out the cultural divide between online and offline. This photographer is going to replace pixelated buildings in Street View with real pictures linked to the addresses (take that, fool!). Thisstory points out that Street View has been around in other forms since 1948. And this column asks why Germany is irrational about Google.

That’s really the question: What is it that makes Germans go bonkers about Google? Is it media trying to gain an advantage against their competitor? Is is anti-Americanism? Is it some inner anti-capitalism? I’m serious. I can’t figure them out and I think they should sit down and try to figure themselves out. The Green Party of Germany invited me to come next month to talk about publicness and privacy and I can’t wait to hear their explanations.

In the meantime, the insanity continues. Church leaders are opposed to Street View, saying, “The world belongs to God, not Google.” Oy.

Cross-posted at Buzzmachine.com

Jeff Jarvis blogs about media and news at Buzzmachine.com. The author of What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009), Jarvis is associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at ...read more

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