Google threatens to shut down Swiss Street View

May 11, 2011 By FRANK JORDANS , Associated Press
Attendees crowd the convention floor at the Google IO Developers Conference in San Francisco, Tuesday, May 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP) -- Google is threatening to wipe photographs of streets and houses in Switzerland from its online maps unless the country's supreme court overturns a ruling requiring an absolute guarantee of anonymity for people captured by the popular Street View service.

Shutting down Street View in an entire country would be the Internet search giant's most extreme response yet to growing complaints it is violating people's privacy.

The Mountain View, California-based company company said Wednesday it will ask the Swiss Federal Tribunal to throw out a lower court decision that obliged it to ensure all faces and vehicle license plates are blurred before uploading pictures to the Street View service. Street Views allows map users to click on virtually any spot in a city to zoom into a series street-level pictures taken by cars mounted with 360-degree cameras.

The ruling last month by the Federal Administrative Court in Bern - following a complaint from the country's privacy watchdog - ordered Google to obscure identifying features such as skin color and clothing from people photographed in the vicinity of "sensitive establishments," such as women's shelters, retirement homes, prisons, schools, courts and hospitals.

If Google fails at the higher court and goes through with its threat, it would be the first time that the company has permanently switched off Street View anywhere in the world, though it has faced privacy concerns in many of the 27 countries where the service is available.

Last year, it bowed to demands for users in Germany to be able to blur entire houses in Street View. And in March the company received a euro100,000 (US$143,570) fine in France because the cars used to take photographs for Street View had illegally collected personal data from Wi-Fi networks, something it has apologized for.

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Kingsix
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
Big problem I am seeing here is that the demands of these countries goes too far. Blur out people so you cannot even see their skin color or clothing? Thats mental. Blurring their faces, license plates, etc should be enough.
And whats with blurring houses? I don't get it, if I drive there I could see the house, take a picture and put it on the net right? I could see blurring the windows to not show anything inside. But the house number is public knowledge.
jjoensuu
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
"Street View had illegally collected personal data from Wi-Fi networks, something it has apologized for."

haha, and claimed that that collection was due to some "rogue employee" (Google does not have "disgruntled" employees). Anyway it now seems that that Wi-Fi network data collection is going on with Android so it has probably been part of a larger plan (I guess to provide services based on that later?) all the time.
Objectivist
not rated yet May 11, 2011
@Kingsix
I don't see how it is of any of your business if the people in a sovereign state decide to make such legislations. The service isn't for you, it's for them. If they don't want it, who are you to consider it as a "big problem?"
I would however agree that the loss outweighs the gain, but ultimately it's their loss, and of course Google's as well.