Switzerland Continues To Fight Google Street View; Takes Google To Court

from the swiss-neutrality dept

A few months ago, when Google launched its “Street View” tool in Switzerland, the government got upset and told Google to take the site down because it violated people’s privacy. This was despite the fact that Google had been discussing the project with the government and put in place multiple privacy safeguards, including blurring faces and license plates. Apparently, it wasn’t enough. Mr. LemurBoy alerts us to the news that Switzerland is now taking Google to court over Street View, claiming that it doesn’t blur people enough, and that sometimes the cameras can see over fences or walls. Of course, anyone walking down the street can see the same things as well, and if they’re tall enough, they can see over walls. Is Switzerland going to take tall people to court as well?

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Comments on “Switzerland Continues To Fight Google Street View; Takes Google To Court”

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27 Comments
Derek Reed (profile) says:

On Privacy

Something like Google street view or street cams do slightly reduce the level of privacy, because there’s more people that can more easily view the area. Of course before that there wasn’t absolute privacy or anything close to it, but on a side street with a fence only truck drivers or very tall people might have been able to view said “private” area. Now it is something that potentially a much larger audience can view.

This isn’t to say that there’s any legitimate need or any realistic way to stop such cameras and street view type of projects, just that the levels at which we are exposed is increasing due to technology. There is an effect and a trend happening here, and it’s something that we do need to acknowledge and be aware of.

Anonymous Coward says:

The service of Google Earth Street View is really useful. I like having the ability to ‘see’ the front of the building I have an appointment in before driving there.

Having said that, I don’t understand why Google doesn’t remove people, cars, or anything easily identified to belonging to an individual. They have the technology to ‘blur’ faces and license plates, so it isn’t that far a stretch technologically to remove them completely is it?

If they did this extra step without being asked I’m sure the service would be accepted in a lot more countries, and be available to a lot more people.

Tek'a R (profile) says:

Re: "i dont understand why.."

“remove people, cars, or anything easily identified”

first, remove? as in perform massive-scale image editing to untold millions of images, on a much greater and more intrusive scale then blanking Lic# plates (which seems to be a matter of recognizing the shape of strings of numbers) and faces?

Next they will invent matter transmission and just beam people instantly through their computers to let you view the street first-hand.

Technical and usability hurdles aside (“what is this view of?” “I cant tell, its all blanked out cars, blanked out houses and blanked out road signs”)bowing down to these mindless “save the children” mouthbreathers without a shred of law or, goodness help me, Reason just encourages them while doing nothing to make anyone safer, wiser or kinder.

and i think we all know that had Street View been launched by a homegrown swiss company (Blick auf die Strasse?), then these problems would automagically disappear.

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: "i dont understand why.."

Responding to this comment, as the one below seems like a double post…

“first, remove? as in perform massive-scale image editing to untold millions of images, on a much greater and more intrusive scale then blanking Lic# plates (which seems to be a matter of recognizing the shape of strings of numbers) and faces?”

Surprisingly, I think they *are indeed working on it.*

The main problem right now is that these services are very early in evolution, so they usually only have one picture of any one view to go on. Once they have some time and multiple shots per view, they can probably examine multiple shots to figure out what is solid vs. mobile, and eliminate the changed or mobile parts. Further, they are working on 3D mapping technology that plots points in images taken from multiple angles, into 3D coordinate space. They figure out all the corners, create a 3D mesh, and then apply normalized images as textures across the mesh. Then the problem becomes eliminating inconsistent 3D objects from underlying 3D mesh spaces.

Most of this work is in Google Earth R&D experiments, but I’m sure they could enhance Street View with it in the future. With O3D and other 3D web initiatives, the distinction between Google Earth and Google Maps may fade entirely — it’ll all be one big VR simulation of the Earth with pre- or real-time navigation functions, and limitless configurable camera angles. Add animations, and it might even offer real-time traffic simulation, where traffic data is available, and time-of-day and weather based lighting.

Tek'a R (profile) says:

Re: "i dont understand why.."

“remove people, cars, or anything easily identified”

first, remove? as in perform massive-scale image editing to untold millions of images, on a much greater and more intrusive scale then blanking Lic# plates (which seems to be a matter of recognizing the shape of strings of numbers) and faces?

Next they will invent matter transmission and just beam people instantly through their computers to let you view the street first-hand.

Technical and usability hurdles aside (“what is this view of?” “I cant tell, its all blanked out cars, blanked out houses and blanked out road signs”)bowing down to these mindless “save the children” mouthbreathers without a shred of law or, goodness help me, Reason just encourages them while doing nothing to make anyone safer, wiser or kinder.

and i think we all know that had Street View been launched by a homegrown swiss company (Blick auf die Strasse?), then these problems would automagically disappear.

Mattarse says:

So I understadn streetview is great – but I do not see it as wrong that Switzerland is being careful with allowing it. Google has already shown a disregard for privacy (in the case of street view) by driving down and photographing both private roads and driveways.
I believe there have also been instances where Google has posted pictures of people without having the faces blurred.
With these mistakes, although Google may have corrected them quickly – the pictures that should not have been posted have been online fo rpeople to see.
I do not think streetview should be stopped, but if countries (especially a country with a high regard for privacy such as Switzerland) are concerned, I think it makes sense.

John85851 (profile) says:

Just give in

Personally, I think companies like Google should just give in to government requests like this.
But, instead of saying they’ll blur the images, Google should say it’s too much work and then pull out of Switzerland. Then, they should block all of Switzerland from accessing ANY Google service.

Who has more to lose: the citizens of Switzerland who have to use a new search engine and who can no longer use GMail, Google Maps, etc; or Google who loses all of these users?

Sure, it’s drastic, but it’s about time people stood up to the vocal minority who complain about any new tech offering.

Matt Rosin says:

Bad for Switzerland

Personally I like Google Earth and the way you can explore an area via all the photos, panoramas and videos you can see in it. If anything I think the street view should use a much better camera lens and there should be a lot more of it. However, blurring what is requested should be done. The reason is this lets me see places I have been a long time ago, just now I saw a street near my home overseas and then was exploring Trocadero and Monmartre in Paris. Switzerland would lose a lot of tourists who would depend on this kind of exploration in the future before traveling. I think I’d like to look at the town where some of my relatives are from before Switzerland takes it down!

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