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Switzerland's Data Protection Watchdog Wants Street View Disabled 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-so-neutral dept.
glow-in-the-dark writes "The Swiss office for Data Protection has asked Google to turn off Street View within the country because it doesn't meet the conditions demanded when permission was given to go ahead with the photography. Google answered privacy concerns with the following points (I'm translating them from German; here's an automated translation): 'Google will publish in advance where it is going to record the images, so you can act accordingly.' Do they want you to hide? Where is the real obligation here? 'Google has made masking the images of people and car license plates obligatory.' I think this is where trouble starts, because their permission to go ahead appears to have been dependent on how well they did this. I have browsed one particular town as an experiment and was quite quickly able to find unmasked faces. This means that either the algorithm they use doesn't work, or that it is done manually and they've fallen behind (in which case they should not have put up the images). 'Although a picture of a home is generally not covered under Data Protection, Google has agreed to remove them if asked. Follow the same process as removing a person.' I think it wouldn't be half as bad if the pictures weren't taken with a high enough resolution to see inside a house. In short, Google has not been given the easy ride it had in other countries regarding Street View. I actually suspect there is more to come."
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Switzerland's Data Protection Watchdog Wants Street View Disabled

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:36AM (#29155645)

    Four posts on this topic so far, and all from AC.

    If we're all so concerned about regulation of corporations by governments, maybe we need a meta-government [metagovernment.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @11:51AM (#29155743)

    What I've never fully understood is why Google doesn't just do two passes before they post a photo. I realize the world is a big place, but it should be possible to remove moving objects from a scene from two photo sets. With a single pass many fast moving things should be able to be removed from the multiple angles, and a second pass should be able to remove slower moving objects from another set of multi-angle photos (with the possible exception of certain cats [nytimes.com]).

  • Re:Metamorofthis (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @12:22PM (#29155923) Homepage

    In Canada, at least not long ago when I was still an avid photographer, permission had to be asked of an individual before h/is/er picture was taken.

    Dunno about Canada or Switzerland, but in the US, the right of publicity in most states is relatively weak: http://www.publaw.com/rightpriv.html [publaw.com] . Asking for permission might be a good idea, but in the US, it seems pretty clear to me (IANAL) that what google is doing isn't violating the right of publicity.

    I think it's reasonable that a person has a right to vet images of them that reach the public.

    Seems unreasonable to me. You're out in public. People can see you.

    Extending the argument, property has value, and public posting of a property's image could impact on the property's value.

    Just because a particular action can affect the value of your property, that doesn't mean that you have a legal right not to have that action taken.

    Not to mention weird stuff like stalkers.

    Huh? If someone's stalking you, and they know your address, you think they won't be able to get a photo of your house?

    Google's gone totally Kafka.

    I actually find your overly expansive view of property rights a lot scarier than anything google is doing.

    IMO the really creepy stuff happens when lots of data about a particular person gets aggregated and made conveniently available. For instance, there are web sites like snitch.name that web-scrape social networking sites. Google isn't aggregating data about individuals here, and in fact they're trying pretty hard to avoid even including recognizable faces in the photos. Another creepy thing is when employers won't give Joe a job because Joe's credit rating is bad -- and then Joe can never pay off his debts, because he can't get a job. Again, it isn't google doing this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @12:27PM (#29155951)

    "Google has made masking the images of people and car license plates obligatory."

    What about windows on houses, that's probably the biggest privacy concern right there, but no mention of masking windows so you can't see inside people's homes. Why not?

  • Why is it... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @12:31PM (#29155963)
    Why is it that Street View is OK but CCTV in Britain is bad? Both only see what anyone on the street could see. You don't have an expectation of privacy in public.
  • by TheMCP (121589) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @12:48PM (#29156071) Homepage

    Advice for Google:
    Switzerland wants not to have street view in their country? Give them what they want. Turn it off. Don't spend another dime on it. Every time someone tries to use the feature for switzerland, put up a notice that says "Street view is blocked for this country by order of the Swiss government." And then wash your hands of it. You don't have to spend any more money on delivering a perfectly reasonable feature when the government wants to give you a hard time about it, and they don't get to have enjoyment of the service after they've been pissy about it. Maybe then other countries will be slightly more reasonable about your services when they recognize that if they give you too hard a time about things, you'll make sure their population knows *precisely* why they can't get the same level of service that people in every other country can.

  • 1) Why is it a problem when Google takes photos of your house?

    Because they're going to publish those pictures online for millions, nay, billions of people to gawk at. You forget the scope of this.

    (2) What is your expectation of privacy regarding the portions of your property visible from a public street?

    My expectation is that only people who are on the street right now, will be able to see those portions. My expectation is that most people are not more than twelve feet tall.

    (3) You say it's creepy when individuals put up pictures of your house. Has that happened? Have you tried to find out? If not, can you truly say that it is important to you?

    This is Google we're talking about, not your local auctioneer. Their stated objective is to put the entire world up on Street View and danm in they have the ability to do so. Is my house up their? I honestly don't don't know as I've never used the danm thing. But I have seen enough Street View photographs to know that I never want to see my house up there.

    You might be OK with the concept and execution of Google Street View. However, a lot of people most certainly are not happy. We don't want our houses plastered up on an easily indexed, location linked, photography database. We don't want twelve foot high cameras taking snapshots over our front lawn hedges.

    Either something is viewable from the street and therefore fodder for general photography, or its not.

    You're like someone arguing that ice cannot turn into water because you see no change while examining the individual molecules. The issue here has never bee the photographs themselves. It's been what Google is doing with them. You've inductively scaled up individual rights and freedoms into the monstrosity that is Street View. But of your logic here is valid, where is this going to end? What happens when Google decides to put your entire personal public history up on its very own page in the new Google Identity? Is that right?

    No. Rights do not scale up. You cannot inductively grant rights, house photograph by house photograph, until someone has an indexed database of every home on earth and proceeds to publish it. True, you cannot find the one house, the one step in the process, where the enterprise became definitely wrong. But the result is wrong all the same. Like a phase change of matter, Google Street view took rights and concepts that were solid, and make them first watery and then entirely vaporous. You can't see this by looking at individual atoms, the houses being added, only by looking at the big picture.

    Street View is wrong. Arguing about my house, or your house, is as pointless as arguing about raindrops in a thunderstorm. We are talking about everybody's home now. And no one has the right to do what Google is doing with them.

  • by Score Whore (32328) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @01:08PM (#29156203)

    Are you for real? Consider this:

    Person A: "I don't want this cookie. Take it off my plate."
    Person B: "OK. Fine. I'll take it off your plate and then you won't be able to enjoy it. That'll show you."

    You know that you aren't really punishing anyone by taking away something they have explicitly said they don't want?

  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @02:35PM (#29156743)
    1) Put up a bigger fence, or get a smaller ego and realize no one gives a shit about your house.
    2) Hmm...interesting expectation. Since it's completely unreasonable, I think we can all ignore it. Newspapers and TV stations can also include your house when that murder next door takes place. Don't believe me?? I live in a quiet, suburban area and a lady two doors down committed suicide by cop. My house was all over the news. Good thing I'm not selling it right now.
    3) You've never looked at your house on street view?? Ok .. there is someone that is just technologically impaired. It's the first thing most people do when they find out about it. My house looks GREAT by the way!!! Much better than the view on the news with the police tape and police cars around it.

    Google Street View is one of the greatest things the Internet has brought forth. Too bad a small, paranoid minority is trying to take it away from the majority everyone that finds it useful
  • Dont be silly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by omb (759389) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:15AM (#29162489)
    Having laws that protect peoples privacy is not a police state, and the polizei here are much more polite, and reasonable, than they are in the US, as they report to the geminde leadership or the Kanton.

    The privacy officer is making a corporation abide by its agreements, which would also be a good thing in the USA.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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