Germany -- In a latest turn of events citing some concerns regarding how Bing Maps deals with requests to blur images on its Streetside feature in Germany, software maker Microsoft has temporarily removed its Google Street View-like service Bing Streetside Maps offline in Germany, in order to assess some of the complaints, the company said on Tuesday.
The company initially unleashed its Bing Streetside feature for its Germany users last year. However, like Google with its corresponding Street View service, it seems Microsoft has now met with almost similar resistance from particularly privacy-conscious Germans.
Now, in the wake of recent privacy protests, all German panorama photos were made inaccessible as a precaution while Microsoft evaluates the complaints and contemplates a solution, including those outside Germany can also no longer see the images that had been taken inside the country, the company said in a statement.
“Quite a few number of German customers have voiced their apprehension to us about the way in which Bing Streetside blurring requests are tackled,” Microsoft spokesman Thomas Baumgärtner said in a statement.
“As we take data protection and the privacy of our customers very seriously, we have as a preventive measure decided to take the mapping service Streetside Beta offline in Germany, while we check these individual cases and work on a satisfactory solution for all parties,” Baumgärtner added.
As a matter of fact, blurring out faces is common issue with ground-level photographs in both Streetside and its rival Google Maps Street View service. However, that does not appear to be quite far enough to satisfy everybody in Germany as some have requested that the companies blur out the facades of buildings, as well.
Bing has successfully canvassed quite a bit of Germany since it commenced photographing the country last May for the Streetside feature and was still diligently at work on the project as recently as this month. However, according to an unnamed source that spoke with PCWorld, Bing plans to continue on with the photography schedule.
Further, Microsoft spokesman Baumgärtner stated that as of this point, he could not predict when or if the service will ever be reinstated. The complaints were limited and were not initiated by a data protection agency, he said. 'These are single incidents,' he said, without disclosing how many complaints Microsoft received.
Ever since Microsoft commenced photographing German streets in May last year, the company so far released Streetside photos of 31 cities and areas, including Berlin, Düsseldorf and Munich, according to a company overview published on March 1. Besides these, another 21 locations are scheduled to be photographed during 2012. Elsewhere, Microsoft has released Streetside views of parts of the U.S. and of the regions around Paris and Marseille in France, and around London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and Coventry in England.
Moving forward, Google Maps encountered complaints of similar nature when it embarked on accumulating images for Street View. Since those complaints filled Google's inbox, the company complied with requests to blur out faces and buildings, has seemingly stopped updating any of the Street View imagery for German cities, leaving much of the country's Street View imagery out in limbo.
Google eventually consented to delete the raw images from its internal database within two months of receiving a request.