Street View Blurring Requirements Eased By Swiss Court
June 9, 2012

Street View Blurring Requirements Eased By Swiss Court

Google will be able to continue offering their Street View service in Switzerland after a federal court there ruled that the Mountain View, California-based tech giant will not be required to black out faces and license plates before publishing photographs online.

Previously, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court in Bern ruled that Google had to blur 100% of the people and license plates before they could be added to the mapping service, and that other features such as skin color and clothing of people photographed near schools, prisons, hospitals and other "sensitive" areas needed to be obscured, PC Mag's Chloe Albanesius reported on Friday.

"Google said those rules were too restrictive and threatened to pull Street View from Switzerland altogether," Albanesius added. However, Friday's ruling in the case declared that the company did not have to automatically obscure the remaining 1% of faces and plates that had not yet been blurred.

However, the court did order them to manually do so if a user complained, and told them to make it easier for individuals to file such a complaint, according to PCMag and Wall Street Journal reports.

"The Federal Supreme Court holds that it is not justified to require, in addition to automatic anonymization prior to publication on the Internet, that all faces and number plates be rendered completely unrecognizable," the court said in a statement, according to Reuters reporter Martin de Sa'Pinto. "It therefore upholds the appeal in part."

According to Kevin J. O'Brien of the New York Times, Daniel Fischer, a privacy lawyer at the firm AFP Advokatur Fischer & Partner in Zurich, called it a "typical Swiss legal compromise," adding that "both sides got to keep face."

O'Brien added that Google global privacy council Peter Fleischer said in a statement that the company was "pleased" that a "key part" of their appeal had been upheld by the Swiss federal court. He also said that the ruling served as recognition "that we have strong privacy controls in Street View."

Despite the victory, Google "is still under intense scrutiny in Europe for its collection of private e-mail and Web traffic data from unsecured home Wi-Fi routers, which Google compiled with other equipment mounted on Street View cars and did not disclose in advance to privacy regulators," O'Brien noted.

"German prosecutors in Hamburg and the Hamburg data protection supervisor are continuing to investigate the illegal collection of Internet data, but have been hindered in part by the refusal of the Google engineer responsible for the project, Marius Milner“¦ to speak publicly about the project," he added.