Google is constantly fighting legal battles around the globe, and despite the diversity of the legal systems and the exact concerns, the complaints will generally fall into one of two categories: 1) Google is too much of a monopoly, and 2) Google needs to respect user privacy more. One of the biggest privacy concerns in recent years originates from Google Street View – a Maps feature that captures the way a street actually looks when you’re on it. This includes a glimpse at the buildings, environment, and – most crucially – the people who are there. In Switzerland, this final element of Street View caused a major legal scandal and a ruling earlier this month declared that Google would have to resolve the concern even if it means manually blurring every captured image.
The conclusions of the Swiss court were that each individual owns the right to their own image, and that image can’t be reproduced by others without the express permission of the individual. This means that, among other things, all the faces in Google Street View must be blurred. Currently, Google uses and automatic blurring technology that successfully removes identifying features for many of the people captured. However, the Swiss court determined that two percent of all total Street View images still needed to be blurred. Additionally, any other identifying items – including license plate numbers – would need to be blurred.
Taking this a step further, the Swiss court also determined that special care would need to be taken near “sensitive facilities,” including locales like nursing homes and women’s shelters. In these circumstances, Google would have to blur clothing or other even vaguely recognizable elements of individuals near these locations.
Private property must also be respected by Street View, which means that images of any walled-off area (such as walled gardens) must be remove, and Google must post notifications of their Street View image capture schedule so individuals can make an informed choice on whether to visit an area while Google is present.
Google representatives have stated that such manual editing would be financially and practically unreasonable. The company may choose to appeal to the Supreme Court of Switzerland, but they will be unable to resume new Street View image uploads until such an appeal is complete.
[via Search Engine Watch]