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Google Street View must obscure faces and license plates in Switzerland, court says [Updated]

April 4, 2011 |  9:42 am

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Google has received a court order that says it must guarantee that faces and license plates are unrecognizable when it publishes scenes in Switzerland in its Street View maps.

The ruling handed down by the Swiss Federal Administrative Court on Monday will affect all future  ground-level pictures taken by Google for its Street View service, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

"Every person has a right of privacy with respect to his or her own image," the court said in an email statement to Bloomberg. "No one may be photographed without his or her [prior or subsequent] consent."

Google's lawyers argued that privacy protection was already in place because of technology that automatically blurs faces and cars' license plates in the Street View images, though it was found that the blurring was not foolproof.

The order can be appealed through Switzerland's supreme court, Bloomberg said.

Officials at the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant were unavailable for comment Monday morning.

[Updated 1:39 p.m.: Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said in an e-mailed statement that the tech giant has rexeived the Swiss court's verdict and "currently assessing its implications."

"We are very disappointed because Street View has proved to be very useful to millions of people as well as businesses and tourist organisations," Fleischer said. "More than one in four of the Swiss population has used it since the service launched in Switzerland. We'll now take some time to consider what this means for Street View in Switzerland and our appeal options."]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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Photo: Thomas Imboden drives a Google Street View camera-equipped snowmobile in the shadow of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland, in February. Credit: Olivier Maire / Keystone/Google/Bloomberg News

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