Switzerland declares war…on Google.

Google’s “Street View” application is the topic of a court case once again, this time in Switzerland.  For those unfamiliar with its use, “Street View” allows users a 360 degree street-level view of any location, from anywhere in the world. According to the BBC, Swiss concerns stem from the height of the Google camera, which allows it to see over walls and hedges that would otherwise prevent line of sight, and the application’s use of faces and vehicle license plates that are not rendered “sufficiently unrecognizable.” Google has already been asked (nicely?) to comply with the Swiss requests, but has not, and is now preparing to “vigorously contest” the case.


A Google "Street View" car (Photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk).

Is this a violation of privacy rights? If all images were acquired from a legal perspective, is there a case here? This relates very strongly to photography and privacy rights, which we as journalists need to be aware of. What do you think is the proper course of action?


8 responses to “Switzerland declares war…on Google.

  1. Hmm. I’m not familiar with Swiss law so I wouldn’t judge whether it’s a violation of privacy rights or not. But if the Swiss don’t like it, I feel like Google should comply to their request instead of being hard-headed. I mean, it’s Switzerland, not the U.S. You follow the local laws, not the laws of a place you come from. That’s just my two cents.

    • I agree with Sam. Although I think that Google’s “street view” is a very useful tool, the company needs to comply with the laws of the country that they are trying to use it in, or at least go with a compromise. That’s just common sense. As far as violating privacy laws–I’m on the fence. I appreciate being able to Google map a location and see what exactly that location looks like, but I think that they should take the pictures of the street when no one is around, and definitely blur out license plates. That might help their case a little bit.

  2. The street view is useful, but I do think Google should try harder to blur our license plates and other things like that. Like Sam said it’s not the U.S., so they need to comply with Switzerland’s laws in this case.

  3. I guess I don’t understand why Google wouldn’t do an “easy fix” for this and just blotch out all unnecessary info. It seems a little bit like an invasion of privacy and if reality TV has to blotch everything out, why not Google?

  4. I agree. I love Google Street View, and I have used it multiple times, but I have always kind of wondered if there would be problems with it in the future. One time I googled a relative’s house and someone was in the backyard. Talk about creepy! If the Swiss don’t like it, then Google needs to change it.

  5. The program definitely seems invasive. I looked my home address up on there. It had pictures from well over 5 years ago, which makes it seem like kind of a joke, but it’s still kind of creepy.

    P.S. I loved your title on this one! Switzerland’s always been neutral, and it made me giggle inside. 🙂

  6. Technology and privacy are a very interesting combination, and it’s proved difficult for many to find a balance between the two.

    I’ve always thought it’s kind of fun to get on Google Street View with friends here at school and we can give each other “tours” of our hometown. On the flip side, for those who have deliberately constructed hedges and fences for the purpose of privacy and can get online to see Google Street View completely disregard them, I can understand the controversy.

    If the Swiss are angry about some still photos online though, they should at least be happy they don’t live in Britain. ( http://bit.ly/1qxhQl ) There, a little government intrusion onto someone’s personal life seems to be a common occurrence.


  7. Thanks wrkemble, I thought I was being clever too.
    It hadn’t occurred to me at the time the significance of this taking place overseas. What we consider to reasonable privacy rights here may be altogether unheard of there.

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