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Privacy - Germany vs. Google

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David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Germany is jumping to the lead with Google caving in and providing opt outs for Street View and a new law that will limit employers ability to check out prospective job candidates on Facebook and other social networks.

Google has made their opt out of street view service live in Germany and this provides German citizens until September 15th to exclude their properties from being shown on Google Street View.  During this four-week period, Germans will be able to go to a dedicated Google page and request that their homes be blurred before the images go live on Google Maps. This option  will be available for a limited time in the 20 cities that are part of the first launch of Google's German Street View and will extend to all cities covered as Google Maps Germany rolls out.

While Google oped to provide the Street View opt out without legal requirements, the German government is taking a more direct route in terms of employment uses of data.  After months of negotiations between the different parties in Germany’s coalition government, the Die Welt and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspapers are reporting that new regulations are set to be approved by the German cabinet on Wednesday.

Reports are that employers will be banned from using Facebook and other non-career focused social networks as part of their review of prospective employees. Searches on job sites and social networks specifically designed for professional purposes like LinkedIn would be allowed.

Highlighting the challenges of privacy, it will still be legal to “google” applicants.  However, the rule will require that they disregard information that is old or outside of a candidate’s control.  There’s no provision, yet, for 

In theory, this could do more to protect people from their youthful indiscretions than would Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s prediction that a free and legal name change once a person reaches adulthood could be the solution. However, since many social networks are indexed by Google and Bing - so long as the use of Google is allowed this seems like an unenforceable law. Though it will send a message to employers and social network to be wary of how they use social media data.

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