Greece to Google: Street's closed

Photo illustration: Jake Turcotte

The future for Google Street View in Europe looks fuzzy.

On Monday, Greece's Data Protection Agency (DPA) halted Google from collecting images for the mapping service, pending "additional information" from the Web giant.

According to a statement (it's in Greek – click here for English, courtesy of, ahem, Google Translate), the DPA wants assurances on how long the images will remain online and a promise to blur residents' faces.

"In part as a legacy of seven years of harsh military rule, Greece has draconian rules around protecting private data – edicts that for years have made it extremely hard for governments to install state-of-the-art monitoring technologies," Helena Smith writes for Britain's Guardian. "The abolition of CCTV cameras – although a relative rarity in Greece compared with the UK and other EU states – was a major demand of protesters when violence erupted in the country last December."

Street View is popular in the US (where it recently doubled its coverage), for its utility in planning trips to unfamiliar areas, but has run into privacy concerns. In March, a California lawmaker pushed a bill to require online mapping services to blur "sensitive" targets like schools, hospitals, and government buildings.

European privacy advocates met the DPA's decision with joy. "This is fantastic news," Privacy International director Simon Davies told the BBC. "The Greek regulators understand the risks of future technology creep. They have watched what has happened in the US and UK very carefully and will be familiar with the arguments on both sides."

In response, a Google spokesperson told The Telegraph that it wanted to abide by all laws, and said it looks forward to working with Greece for a harmonious outcome.

“Google takes privacy very seriously, and that’s why we have put in place a number of features, including the blurring of faces and license plates, to ensure that Street View will respect local norms when it launches in Greece. We believe that launching Street View in Greece will offer enormous benefits to both Greek users and the people elsewhere who are interested in taking a virtual tour of some of its many tourists attractions,” the company said in a statement.

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