Street View in (kind of) Swiss roll-over

Agrees to extra blurring, but no more


Google has agreed to a demand that it apply extra blur to faces and number plates to its Street View service in Switzerland, but has refused to lower the height of its car-mounted spycams.

Street View launched in Switzerland in mid-August, and the country's head of federal data protection, Hans-Peter Thür, was quickly rattling the privacy sabre claiming that "many faces and car registration plates were clearly visible or were insufficiently obscured".

He ordered the service offline - something which didn't actually happen - and Google agreed to apply extra blur where required.

This didn't satisfy Thür, who then mandated extra blur, and said there were still "many problem pictures that did not respect anonymity, particularly in private roads and gardens". He also ordered Google to "pay particular attention to blurring such places as hospitals, schools and prisons".

The Great Satan of Mountain View described itself as "very disappointed" at the additional instructions, and has now apparently decided enough is enough. It has declined to lower the spycams to protect people's gardens from visual violation, saying that doing so would "bring the camera closer to pedestrians".

Whether this is making a stand on principle or merely a way of trying to avoid reshooting Switzerland remains to be seen. In Japan, it was forced to completely recapture all the data seized by its all-seeing eyes following a wave of complaints.

In that case, it did indeed drop the cameras from 2.45 metres - "just over the height of garden walls and so on" - to 2.05 metres. A Google spokesman admitted: "Japan's housing environment contains many narrow streets and low walls, and we didn't take that into consideration."

Back in Switzerland, Thür has previously said he will drag the matter before the Swiss Federal Administrative Court if Google refuses to roll over. ®

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