Street View: Soon With More Blurriness

    September 3, 2009

On August 18th, Google released Street View imagery of Switzerland.  A few days later, Switzerland’s Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner complained.  Now, it looks like the two sides have reached an agreement that will have some rather far-reaching effects.

Peter FleischerTo start, Google’s going to do a more thorough job of blurring the license plates visible in its photos of Switzerland.  It’s also due to take another shot at blurring Swiss citizens’ faces.  This should satisfy Commissioner Hanspeter Thür, since he and Peter Fleischer, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, met to discuss the situation.

Then here’s a key point: Google’s going to revisit older Street View images and make the faces in them less distinct, too.  So the next time you research a route to any spot, whether it’s in the Alps or the middle of America, what you see may be markedly different.

This could cause Street View to be a bit less interesting, but it could also make a lot of objections to the program disappear.  That would be quite important, since Google must be tired of running into fresh complaints every time it releases new photos, and software tweaks tend to cost less than lawsuits.

The changes should start becoming visible over the next month or so.