Google told to erase Swiss street view maps violating privacy laws

Written by Associated Press | Bern | Updated: Aug 27 2009, 05:27am hrs
A Swiss government official is demanding that Google immediately takes off the Internet any image of Switzerland in its street view maps, and the company said it would discuss the matter with the privacy rights regulator. Hanspeter Thuer, federal data protection commissioner, said.

Googles pictures were violating Switzerlands strict privacy laws by failing to obscure peoples identities.

Numerous faces and licence numbers werent blurred or were done so inadequately, said Thuers statement, adding that he demands that Google immediately take its Google Street View online service off the Internet until it can ensure that public images respect Swiss law.

Googles Street View mapping service offers detailed street-level images. Since launching in 2007, it has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide but has faced privacy complaints from many individuals and institutions that have been photographed. Greeces Data Protection Authority rejected Googles bid earlier this year to roam Greek streets with cameras mounted on vehicles, while the Pentagon barred Google from photographing US military bases for the service.

Residents of a small English village formed a human chain in April to stop one of Googles camera vans, while in Japan some complained that the service provided a view over the fences around their homes, prompting Google to agree to re-shoot all photos in the country.

Thuer said he would meet with Google early this week, and the company responded by saying it was looking forward to sharing views.

We are excited about the discussion with the commissioner to hear his thoughts and to respond by demonstrating how we protect theprivate sphere with Street View, said Peter Fleischer, Googles global privacy counsel. Since the launch last week the product has proven to be very popular with the Swiss people, he said.

Google Maps had an 80%increase in volume and only a small number of requests to erase pictures. Google Switzerland spokes-man Matthias Meyer said these problems needed to be understood in the context of millions of pictures. When complaints have been made, Google has responded. In cases where a deletion or further blending was demanded, we have shown that our technology works very effectively, Meyer said.