A 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.
- 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.