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Germany seeks Internet data protection code

Clair Thwaites
Claire Thwaites, of Apple, attends the opening of a meeting of the German government with representatives of the IT industry in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 to discuss the chances, risks and restrictions of publishing private data on the Internet. Michael Sohn / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Germany's government urged the Internet industry on Monday to produce a voluntary data protection code to cover services like Google's "Street View" mapping service.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere met with representatives of Google and Apple among others after Google's plans to introduce "Street View" in Germany ignited concerns in the privacy-conscious country over the extent to which people's personal data are accessible on the Internet.

De Maiziere said he proposed that the industry draw up a data protection code by Dec. 7, and "this met with approval."

The industry should commit to "data protection-friendly basic settings" and give information "in a user-friendly way" about the gathering and intended use of data, the minister said.

A voluntary code could "make special legislative regulations unnecessary, at least in part," de Maiziere said, although he conceded that Germany's Cabinet has yet to reach a final agreement on the extent to which regulation is needed.

The justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said she could envision a mixture of a voluntary code and legislation.

Google's German unit could not immediately be reached for comment.

The company has said that it has committed itself to extensive measures to protect people's privacy in Germany, where it allowed people eight weeks to request that images of their homes be deleted from "Street View."