Google Loses Swiss Street View Case

    April 4, 2011

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.