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April 4, 2011

Google loses Swiss Street View case, ordered to blur details

Court asserts owner's right over their image is important

By CBR Staff Writer

A Swiss court has ordered Google to blur all images of individuals and vehicle plates on its map service Street View.

Introduced for Switzerland in 2009, Google’s Street View provides a ground level panoramic view of places which are constructed based on still photographs taken by its specially equipped vehicles.

However, Switzerland’s data protection commissioner Hanspeter Thuer had complained many times that the service breached privacy rules.

In November 2009, Thuer had said that he was filing a formal complaint against Google after the search engine company refused to modify its images.

Now, a Federal Administrative Court has asked Google to make pictures unrecognisable.

It said, "The defendants must make all faces and number plates unrecognisable before the pictures can be published on the Internet."

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The court said that the interest of the public in having a visual record and the commercial interests of the defendants in no way outweigh the rights over one’s own image, as the pictures can be made more or totally unrecognisable, and this is a proportionate measure.

Google may appeal against the Federal Administrative Court’s decision.

Last month, French regulators had fined Google €100,000 ($142,000) for collecting private data over unencrypted WiFi networks without the knowledge of users for Street View.

In an unprecedented move, the regulators accused the search engine company of collecting private data such as e-mail exchanges and passwords without informing the users about it.

Google had said last year that the data was collected accidentally due to a programming error.

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