360 cam images in Germany

Tomorrow I go for a week to Germany, and want to take some 360 images while driving in my car. Is this allowed, because Google streetview is not active in Germany because of privacy issues.

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Street view is active, but only in specific (the biggest) cities. But as far as I can remember (please correct if I’m wrong) Google decided to restrict street view in Germany by themselves, not by a court’s decision or something; AFAIK they only have been forced to allow people to blur people/license plates. And specific cars and houses/apartments if the owners request so (which they always offered internationally anyways) MS streetside was completely shut down for Germany though.

It’s indeed a difficult topic, but I just googled (in German) for any relevant information on Mapillary and privacy concerns in Germany, and didn’t find anything except for one discussion on OSM forums:
mapillary und Datenschutz / users: Germany / OpenStreetMap Forum (the discussion is in German, but you might use Google translate or similar to read.)

I guess as long as nobody complains it’s fine. And if by any time someone complains and Mapillary would become restricted or even forbidden it’d be an automatic process, so I don’t think you have to worry. But I’d recommend to manually look through all pictures to make sure everything’s blurred correctly.

Edit: This law might be interested aswell:
It roughly translates to:

  1. It’s allowed to duplicate, publish and publicly show works* (in this case photos) of things that are permanently located at public ways, streets or places; the works* can be taken by using drawing, graphics, photography or videos.
  • Don’t know the correct translation, I hope it’s still clear.
  1. is irrelevant for Mapillary.

A long, german detailed description of the “Panoramafreiheit” (Freedom of panorama) can be found here:

English version (covers Germany just minimally though): Freedom of panorama - Wikipedia

Second edit: Oops, just saw how old this topic is. Maybe it’s useful for someone else though.

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So I’d like to talk about this topic once again, because in seven years many things could change - do you know how the situation in Germany looks right now? When I look for the information myself I can find a lot of articles that equipment like dash cams are only legal when I record dangerous situations and that taking photos or filming public spaces is limited due to privacy reasons. So I would like to ask someone, who know German law in this field, because I plan use 360 degrees cam riding my bike in Berlin in August, so it would be nice to not be stopped by police :wink:

Google streetview came back in Germany in 2023 , so it seems situation is getting more normalized…

The general legal mode of operation (rule of thumb) in Germany is this:

  • You are free to capture anything visible from within a public space with any capture device for a limited reasonable purpose, unless it is specifically forbidden by law, other regulations, or an authority.
  • In a non‑public space it is usually assumed that you have to ask for permission, even if taking pictures has been omitted in the house rules.

German law has been harmonized (this is the EU commission’s official term for implementing EU directives) with EU directives (colloquially called “EU law”, although no such thing exists) long time ago. Hence, basically anything goes what goes in other EU countries. However, due to Germany’s basic law (Grundgesetz, Germany’s de facto constitution), federal data protection law (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz), and copyright law (Urhebergesetz) a few things are handled a bit stricter than by other EU members. But, these special cases usually should not concern you when capturing for Mapillary.

Key terms for you here are public space and reasonable purpose. Simply put, as long as you stand (or drive) and capture from within in a public space you are safe, even if you capture private buildings, roads, etc. However, there is a limit to this. You must not capture things like private gardens over a fence, rooms or offices in buildings through windows, random people only, military installations (usually signed with text, icons, or pictograms), etc on purpose. In other words, you must not invade the privacy of others on purpose, even in or from within a public space. Beware that not every publicly accessible space is also a public space. For example, many places like shopping malls, university campuses, train stations, airports, hospitals, fuel stations, and their parking lots are often publicly accessible spaces but are not a public space. So, no capturing there, unless you have a permit from the proprietor (usually such imagery is not suitable for Mapillary anyway). And although most public offices and agencies are located on public land, run by a state entity, and are thus indeed public spaces, their premises are nevertheless regulated by house rules put forth by authorized officials. Many of these places do not forbid photography in the house rules but I would not try messing around with a camera there unless I would have a permit. So, better stay away from this kind of places.

Thus please keep in mind that although train stations are not a public space in Germany, yet most railway tracks are because the former is often owned by the Deutsche Bahn AG (Germany’s largest railway company, commercially run and owned by the federal government), the DB Netz AG (DB AG’s fully owned subsidiary railway track operator), or other private entity and the later is owned by the federal government but only operated by the DB Netz AG. Land owned by the federal government by definition is a public space. Because most railway tracks operated by DB Netz AG are on federal government land they are thus a public space. However, like every operator or proprietor they can make house rules and forbid capturing. Fortunately, because most railway tracks are on federal land the DB Netz AG generally does not forbid capturing railway tracks, except for some few kilometers of private tracks on private land they operate (then things are usually marked with signs). Almost all railway station operators however forbid in their house rules capturing on the premises (including the DB Netz AG), though particularly this rule is usually very laxly enforced on the spot (but not as lax by their legal department should you publish any footage without permission).

Capturing for mapping or Mapillary gives you also a limited reasonable purpose. So, you are safe in this regard too. In other words, what German courts have complained about was “unlimited unreasonable purposeless recording of public spaces” with dashcams, basically mindless recording, which inevitably results in surveillance. The courts ruled that such recording infringes on people’s privacy, even in public spaces (private spaces are regulated separately and thus work a bit differently). This is why you have to explicitly request a dashcam to record an event (often an accident or act of vandalism). Capturing for Mapillary (for mapping) is a limited reasonable purpose.

You do not have to worry about the copyright of things (that is the publishing part) either because Mapillary complies with EU directives (and German law) by blurring faces and license plates, and enables anybody to blur any sensitive data they have a right to, like a building, a business, a garden, etc.

One last warning: Do not capture (even unintentionally) footage of victims and rescuers at accidents or after a violent crime. This is an offense and it is rigorously prosecuted.

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Practically, there are no problems in Berlin. Sometimes curious people ask why the GoPro is oddly mounted on my helmet (it’s not directed ahead, but 45° to the side). Police was never asking.

BTW, this is the current 360° coverage here:

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Thank you so much for your responses - it clarifies a lot :slight_smile: So now I can feel a lot safier and confident during my stay :wink: