Google Street View again faulted for invading privacy, this time in Switzerland

Another European data protection commissioner has determined Google is not sufficiently protecting their citizens’ privacy.  Google introduced their Street View system last week in Switzerland and, according to the Swiss Data Protection Commissioner Hanspeter Thür, the pictures do not sufficiently anonymize individuals.  This comes after Greece and Japan raised objections to the car mounted cameras in May, and a small town in the United Kingdom physically blocked the Google efforts in April.

The Swiss Data Protection Commissioner demanded Google shut down their Street View service until it complies with local privacy requirements. Source: Google

“Numerous faces and license numbers weren’t blurred or were done so inadequately,” said Mr. Thür in a statement.  That same statement demanded Google cease Street View filming until compliance with Swiss Law could be guaranteed.

A Swiss privacy official insists Google's Street View is not obscuring identities enough to comply with local laws. Source: Google

We at the CIPP Guide noted that the Street View art project, unveiled 6 months ago in February, seemed hit or miss on the face and license plate blurring technology.  This is the same anonymization technology first used in New York City, lauded as privacy respecting and hushing many of the criticisms surrounding the original Street View photographs.

The Swiss Data Protection Commissioner demands Google shut down their Street View due to privacy infringement. Shown here, privacy protections don't work well enough to comply with local laws. Notice the bumper sticker was blurred, but the license plate is in clear view. Source: Google

There was one photo that made a serious buzz, likely promoting Mr. Thür’s actions.  A national parliamentarian, Ruedi Noser, was clearly seen walking across the street with a woman.  The woman was later identified as the legislator’s assistant, but Mr. Noser apparently demanded the “instant shutdown of Street View” until Google could guarantee proper de-identification every time.

“There is probably no problem for my wife, as you could also recognize my companion in the picture,” the weekly NZZ Swiss newspaper quoted Mr. Noser as saying.

The European Union guarantees privacy as a fundamental right to all EU citizens through the Data Protection Directive.  Find more CIPP Guide stories concerning Europe and the EU’s Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC.


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