Swiss court to issue ruling on Google Street View

Switzerland's data protection commissioner wants Google to manually blur people's faces

A Swiss court is considering a request from the country's data protection commissioner that Google should manually blur people's faces in its Street View imagery application rather than use automated technology.

Hanspeter Thuer, the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC), contends that too many faces are missed by the automated blurring technology and that people should review the images.

Google and the FDPIC both made presentations on Thursday to a five-judge panel of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, which will issue a ruling in a few weeks, said Eliane Schmid, the FDPIC's information officer.

Google has been in a long-running battle with Switzerland over Street View since it came online in that country in August 2009. A month after Street View's launch, Google was warned by the agency that it should take more steps to protect people's privacy and gave Google some recommendations, including to more carefully blur people who are outside sensitive facilities, such as hospitals and prisons.

Google has said that its blurring technology is more than 99 percent effective, but "everybody goes on Street View and looks around for areas we live in. Everyone finds faces or number plates that are identifiable," Schmid said.

"It is up to them [Google] to come up with a solution," she said.

In a statement provided by Google's London office, the company said it uses "a variety of technical and operational controls" with Street View.

"Although blurring technology may occasionally miss a number plate or face, it catches the majority of these images and is a very effective tool," Google said. "This is new technology and we are always working to make improvements. Where we are notified that a number plate has not been blurred, we will blur the plate manually."

The FDPIC also complained about the height of Google's periscopic cameras used to take the imagery, which are mounted atop vehicles. Google resisted, saying it would not lower the cameras since it puts the devices closer to people's faces.

Google did lower the camera height in Japan, but not for privacy: The company said it was done to preserve image quality because the streets are more narrow than other locales and houses are closer together.

Switzerland is just one of many companies that have challenged Google over Street View over privacy issues.

Some of the more fierce criticisms arose in Germany. In response, Google allowed German citizens in certain areas to request that their properties be blurred before Street View went live in November. Germany was the only country in which Google gave people that option. More than 250,000 opt-out requests were received by the company.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGoogleregulationMapsgovernment

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?