Google to abide with Swiss court ruling

CIOL Bureau
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ZURICH: Google will comply with an expected Swiss court ruling into whether its Street View web service fails to protect people's privacy by showing their faces and licence plates, the company and Swiss authorities said.


The company is accused of failing to obscure such sensitive images from its photo mapping application sufficiently and setting cameras at a height on filming vehicles that allows them to see over fences, hedges and walls into private property.

"Google commits to a final and binding Swiss court decision and to implement it also with regard to images which have already been transmitted outside of Switzerland," Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) Hanspeter Thuer said in a statement on Friday.

Street View went live in Switzerland in mid-August, after it had already caused controversy in Britain and raised concerns when vehicles mounted with periscope cameras began shooting images in Germany earlier this year.


Google could continue taking photos of roads in Switzerland provided it gave at least a week's notice on where photos would be taken, but would not be allowed to put the images on the Internet until the final court decision, Thuer said.

"We are pleased that we have come to this agreement with Mr Thuer, under which we can continue taking photographs for Street View," said Google's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer.

"However, we will not put online any additional images on Street View until the decision of the Federal Administrative Court."


A source close to proceedings said a final court decision was unlikely within the next year.

Thuer referred the matter to the country's Federal Administrative Court in November, saying Google had failed to comply with most of his recommendations to protect people's privacy.

Google said previously it would not lower the height of the cameras on its vehicles in Switzerland. Google did this in Japan, but only to preserve image quality since the streets are narrower and houses closer together.

Lowering the cameras posed other problems because it brought them closer to people's faces, the company said, adding it continually improved the software it used to pick out and blur faces and licence plates automatically.