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June 11, 2012

Google Doesn't Have to Guarantee 'Complete' Privacy in Swiss Street View

By Rory Lidstone, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Good news for Google (News - Alert), as Switzerland's Supreme Court ruled that the search giant does not need to guarantee absolute anonymity for people picture in its maps-related service, Google Street View. This partial repeal of a lower court decision means that Google will not have to blur the faces of every single person in Switzerland Street View.

"It must be accepted that up to a maximum of one percent of the images uploaded are insufficiently anonymized," said the Swiss Federal Tribunal in a statement.

Google does still have some work to do, however, as the ruling still dictates that the Internet company must make it easy for people to have their images manually blurred, while total anonymity must still be guaranteed in sensitive areas like schools, hospitals, women's shelters and courts — where even skin color and clothing must be obscured.

The Swiss Tribunal also upheld part of the Federal Administrative Court's ruling from last year which states that Google must stop automatically publishing pictures of private gardens and courtyards taken with cameras positioned higher than six and a half feet.

Google has yet to say whether or not it will follow through on its previous threat to remove all pictures of Switzerland from Street View. Daniel Schoenberger, Google's legal chief for Switzerland, offered only this statement, "We will now look at the ruling closely, discuss it with the federal data protection commissioner and examine what options are available."

This isn't the first time that Google has faced issues from countries with strict privacy laws. In Germany, residents are able to request that entire buildings be blurred.

Google has been in the news frequently this week, although mostly for news of one acquisition or another. For example, the company acquired QuickOffice, an Office 365 equivalent for Android (News - Alert) and iOS; social networking company, Meebo, and; e-commerce rating site KikScore.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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