Google To Shut Down Street View If Switzerland Supreme Court Doesn’t Reverse Ruling Requiring Right of Anonymity

May 11th, 2011

This could get real interesting.

From AP:

Google is threatening to wipe photographs of streets and houses in Switzerland from its online maps unless the country’s supreme court overturns a ruling requiring an absolute guarantee of anonymity for people captured on the popular Street View service.

Shutting down Street View in an entire country would be the Internet search giant’s most severe response yet to complaints it is violating people’s privacy.

Well it’s not exactly a threat. It seems Google is litigating this issue and is arguing for a position.

The Mountain View, California-based company said Wednesday it will ask the Swiss Federal Tribunal to throw out a lower court decision that obliged it to ensure all faces and vehicle license plates are blurred before uploading pictures to the Street View service. Street Views allows map users to click on virtually any spot in a city to zoom into a series of street-level pictures taken by cars mounted with 360-degree cameras.

The ruling last month by the Federal Administrative Court in Bern — following a complaint from the country’s privacy watchdog — also ordered Google to obscure identifying features such as skin color and clothing from people photographed in the vicinity of “sensitive establishments,” such as women’s shelters, retirement homes, prisons, schools, courts and hospitals.

“The demands made by the administrative court are unrealistic,” said Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel. “They would force us to withdraw the service from Switzerland.”

So let’s get this straight. Google does everything its power to keep its search engine open in China, subject to a censorship regime of a brutal tyrant. But mandate privacy! Harumph. Google shrugs and exits the market.