Google is free to roll out its Street View service in Hungary after getting the nod from the National Data Protection and Freedom of Information Authority (NAIH), chairman Attila Péterfalvi said on Monday. A position formulated earlier by former data protection commissioner András Jóri would have made it impossible for Google to offer the panoramic ground-level views of Budapest offered by the service, Péterfalvi was quoted as saying by state news agency MTI. The official said faces and car number plates would be blurred to protect privacy.
The US-based internet giant welcomed the news, saying its Street View service was good for tourism because it allowed people to virtually “visit” a destination before travelling there. Google’s first car began photographing the streets of the capital in 2009 but the project was stalled by objections when the then-ombudsman expressed concerns over invasion of the right to privacy.
“One can take a virtual walk on the beautiful coastline of Croatia or in the historic centre of Prague,” Richard Schuster, communication manager for Google Hungary, told this newspaper. “We are looking forward to show Hungary to the world too.”
Hungary was not the first country to express concern over the service, which made an international sport of searching for passers-by in bizarre poses and various states of undress. Some European countries initially banned it, then softened their stance and allowed Street View to go ahead under specific conditions.
In Germany, large areas of well-to-do suburbs were blurred out after their owners exercised their right to privacy. In November German prosecutors dropped a criminal case against Google, whose street cars were found to have been collecting data from WiFi networks.
A map of Google Street View coverage published by the Washington Post last year showed almost complete coverage in Western Europe, except for Portugal and Germany, where it only covers a few major cities. Further east, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia are covered so far. The southernmost area covered by this most detailed of maps is in Antarctica, while Norway’s Arctic tip marks its northernmost reach.