Swiss Court Demands 100% Anonymity In Google Street View Photographs

street-view-car-smallA Swiss court says Google must make sure all faces and license plates are blurred on Google Street View, even if Google has to blur them by hand.

That’s one of several pieces of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court decision handed down today, and the one that’s likely causing the most disappointment at Google.

The company’s automated blurring technology blurs about 98-99% of faces and license plates, and Google recently argued that manual blurring of all Street View imagery would be prohibitively expensive. (Imagine, for example, if other countries followed suit with a similar demand.)

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, shared this statement after today’s decision:

We have received the court’s verdict and are currently assessing its implications. We are very disappointed because Street View has proved to be very useful to millions of people as well as businesses and tourist organisations. 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.

Using a Google translation of this original Swiss article, other rulings in today’s decision require Google to

  • guarantee the anonymity of persons in the area of sensitive locations like women’s shelters, nursing homes, prisons, schools, etc.
  • remove images of private locations like courtyards and walled gardens – things that a “normal passerby” wouldn’t see
  • buy local advertising to alert Swiss residents when Street View is coming into their town to take photographs

Google has faced Street View challenges and setbacks in other European countries. As our Greg Sterling has written, some have suggested that Street View shows why Europe needs uniform privacy standards.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Google: Street View | Legal: Privacy | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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