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Google Loses Swiss Street View Case

Swiss court demands higher levels of censorship

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The way Google’s Street View program operates in Switzerland may soon change in dramatic fashion.  A Swiss court has ordered that (among other things) Google must ensure all faces and license plates are unrecognizable, even if that means employees have to review all images manually.

That represents a potential problem for Google.  The company’s automated blurring software catches most – but not all – faces and license plates.  Achieving 100 percent effectiveness could force Google to spend lots more money on the program.

Then one other potential sticking point includes an order to make people near sensitive establishments (such as schools and women’s shelters) completely unrecognizable, and the Swiss court wanted Google to advertise when and where Street View pictures will be taken, as well.

On the whole, that might be enough to convince Google to discontinue its Street View coverage of Switzerland.  The program remains more of a lark than a moneymaker, after all, leaving Google few good reasons to comply with the Swiss court’s demands.

Or, although no one’s committed to anything yet, there’s also a possibility that Google will try to appeal the case and bring it before the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

For the record, Google stated, “We are very disappointed because Street View has proved to be very useful to millions of people as well as businesses and tourist organizations.  More than one in four of the Swiss population has used it since the service launched in Switzerland.  We’ll now take some time to consider what this means for Street View in Switzerland and our appeal options.”

A big hat tip goes to GenevaLunch’s Ellen Wallace.

Google Loses Swiss Street View Case


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  • http://www.laokay.com Adsense Publisher

    It’s about time somebody made Google do what would be expected from anybody doing the same. I hate it when corporations seem above the laws and ethics because they are so arrogant in the ways they operate.

  • RobLar

    So a couple of things. First, how does Google know that 1 in 4 of the Swiss population used Google Street View.
    And two, is Google saying, “we know what’s good for you, so we’re going to do it, regardless of privacy”
    They are worst than Microsoft was accused of being. At least you paid Microsoft, bringing them into your life. Google just takes takes takes, first Google books (HUGE copyright infringement), now street view, (basically taking pictures to generate ad revenue).
    So yes, Google is making money off the backs of YOU (and me).

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Doug Caverly

      An interesting point on the subject of “paid”: the Swiss court semi-suggested to Google, “[P]assing on the cost to the users of Google Street View would not be out of the question.”

  • KS

    Anything cannot be good for everyone or bad for everyone as we are individuals and we have different thoughts and likings. It is just our view point that matters.

    When technology proceeds to give something better to the society, it takes into account only the majority.

    I could not understand the privacy issue in regard to the street view. What is it like? What’s wrong if anybody captures the outside of my house which is visible to at least all those who are going through the street that my house stands by. The only thing I would like to be assured that it should not be misused. Misused in the sense that no on should claim my house as his/her own.

    Landmarks have always facilitated finding locations. What’s illegal and unethical about it?

    No corporation is above law. But what is the law? What is the lawful definition of privacy???

    When anything is not private, how can any privacy regarding it can be maintained. A person should feel happy if he/she or his/her property is of some use to others without causing any harm himself or herself.

    I strongly opine that Google should bring it before the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

  • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed Rude

    First, we must note that thsi is a ruling in Switzerland. This ruling on privacy is based on Swiss understandings of privacy rights.
    Google, like any international company, must obey the laws of each jurisdiction in which they operate.

    The core of the ruling: “…not a blanket prohibition of Google Street View but merely the publication on the Internet of images of individuals only where they have been made unrecognizable or, as the case may be, only where the consent of the individuals in question has been obtained,” the court said…” according to the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/04/swiss-google-street-view-anonymity_n_844538.html).
    The ruling in Bern is interesting only in that it told Google two things:
    1. When in a particular country, follow the norms of that country as far as privacy is concerned.
    2. Your technology for blurring faces is not good enough when it comes to senior housing, Schools, Women’s Shelters, and Prisons.
    Personally I agree with the Swiss courts on both issues – Anomynity is necessary in certain places, and, the norms of the society should be considered when it comes to issues of privacy.

  • claudia64

    What the court ruled is not unreasonable; Google should ensure anonymity of all individuals to conform to Swiss laws and, perhaps, culture. What’s unfortunate – and this is totally from my selfish point of view, because I love Street View both for practical purposes and virtually touring – is that manually checking each image will cost Google more than it wants to pay. Therefore, Google will likely not update the Switzerland Street View imagery. Too bad they won’t accept volunteers for the monumental task; I’d gladly donate my time.

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