Swiss Court Orders Google to Manually Blur Street View Images

Google's Street View mapping service infringes privacy, a Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court has ruled. Google must blur all faces, license plates, and ensure the complete anonymity of people near sensitive facilities.

"According to the recent ruling, everyone has the right to their own image. So basically no one should be shown without his consent," according to the translation of the 20 Minuten Online report.

Among the court approved recommendations for Google to improve Street View:

  • Blur all faces and license plates (currently only 98 percent are blurred).
  • Guarantee the complete anonymity of people near sensitive facilities (e.g., women's shelters, nursing homes, prisons, schools, social services, guardianship authorities, courts, and hospitals) by further blurring people's clothes and skin color.
  • Exclude (or remove) images of private areas (e.g., walled gardens, courtyards).
  • Google must announce its itinerary in local papers of where and when Street View is scheduled.

Hanspeter Thür, Switzerland's federal data protection commissioner, in 2009 wanted Street View to shut down because faces and license plates weren't adequately blurred. Google eventually agreed to halt uploading new pictures of Swiss cities.

Google argued that manually blurring faces was financially and logistically unfeasible. It is possible Google could appeal through Switzerland's supreme court.

"We will evaluate the court ruling and investigate what this means for Street View in Switzerland and what possibilities of appeal we have," said Peter Fleischer, Google's global counsel for privacy.

About the author

Danny Goodwin formerly was Associate Editor of Search Engine Watch, where he also covered the latest search marketing and industry news. He joined Incisive Media in October 2007, in charge of copy editing columns that appeared on both Search Engine Watch and ClickZ. Prior to a life in the search industry, he worked in the journalism field, working in numerous newsroom positions, before later working as a freelance copy editor.