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EU Google Privacy Your Rights Online

After Modifications, Google Street View Approved For Switzerland 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-idea-to-do-what-the-swiss-ask dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Since Google began collecting Street View data in Europe a few years ago, many countries have taken it the company to court in order to settle privacy concerns. The NY Times reports that the last challenge to Street View's basic legality has been resolved. Switzerland's top court accepted that Google could only guarantee they would blur out 99% of faces, license plates, and other identifying markers, but also imposed some additional restrictions. 'Those conditions would require Google to lower the height of its Street View cameras so they would not peer over garden walls and hedges, to completely blur out sensitive facilities like women's shelters, prisons, retirement homes and schools, and to advise communities in advance of scheduled tapings.'"
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After Modifications, Google Street View Approved For Switzerland

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  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:58PM (#40269643) Homepage

    'Those conditions would require Google to lower the height of its Street View cameras so they would not peer over garden walls and hedges

    While it'd not be a complete 1:1 mapping of those features to large & gated-off mansions, one can see where that one came from.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      This is Europe not America.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not to say that there isn't some nice villa's in switzerland,vbut in most european cities space and privacy is a precious commodity. I live in zurich and looking outside my apartment I can see the guy taking a shower next door. When your bedroom window is on the verge of the street, asking google to lower their camera is the least that they can do, I would go further and ban it completely in built up residential areas. Curtains help.

    • by mpoulton (689851) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:16PM (#40269741)
      Where do you live that only rich people have fences or hedges? More importantly where all have you traveled that you've never seen towns where everyone has those things? I've lived all over the USA, and I'd in say about 1/3 to 1/2 of the places I've lived it's been common for most people to have fences or hedges for privacy. In Phoenix almost every house has a 6' block wall fence, including in very poor neighborhoods.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    OK, a lot of that I can see - e.g, women's shelters or schools. But if the Google van snaps some photos of the outside of a prison, what's the problem there? Presumably they're not violating the privacy of the inmates, who are inside the prison, and anyone could come along and photograph the prison from the same place and post it on Flickr.

    Just curious what's up with that.

    • and anyone could come along and photograph the prison from the same place and post it on Flickr.

      Anyone who routinely uses a camera at the top of a 3 meter pole.
    • Re:prisons? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by houghi (78078) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:30PM (#40269823)

      Presumably they're not violating the privacy of the inmates

      Yes they are. In Europe privacy does mean something much more complexx then it does in the USofA.
      It does not just mean: "Things I do in my house with the curtains closed".
      It goes much, much further then that.

      Perhaps you can best compare it to the original copyright where I have the right to my own life and everything that goes on it it. And copyright as me, the owner of my life. You should have my permission of you want a copy of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:04PM (#40269673)

    Why is this tagged "eu" and has a EU flag? Switzerland is not a EU member.

  • by rhook (943951) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:06PM (#40269683)

    Wouldn't blurring these out be the same as putting up a sign saying "Women's Shelter"? I thought those places were nondescript houses.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Wouldn't blurring these out be the same as putting up a sign saying "Women's Shelter"? I thought those places were nondescript houses.

      I expect its the 1% of faces that don't get blurred that they worry about here - someone escaping a violent partner appearing on google images outside their address

  • by orzetto (545509) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:10PM (#40269705)
    Even if the article is tagged EU, it discusses only Switzerland, and Switzerland is not in the EU [wikipedia.org].
  • by capedgirardeau (531367) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:20PM (#40269767)

    The law regarding this type of thing here in Switzerland drives me crazy.

    You are out in public, you should have no expectation of privacy. Period, end of story.

    What is next? Legislating that no one can look at anyone else in public? We all have to walk with our heads down so we don't accidentally see anyone else out on the street?

    I am all for private data staying private, but when I am out in public, it is, get this: public information.

    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:35PM (#40269851)
      I am all for private data staying private, but when I am out in public, it is, get this: public information.

      I have a 6' fence around my backyard. My neighbors cannot see in, and I cannot see out Stand in the street, take a picture of the front and side of my house, and you see fence.
      Now elevate your viewpoint to 10 feet. You can see much more.

      If I stood in front of your house taking pics with a camera on a 10 foot monopod, you'd rightfully wonder WTF. But Google, with their 10 foot tall cameras, somehow gets a pass.
      • by jonnythan (79727)

        That's reasonable. What's not really reasonable is having to blur out faces, license plates, and a billion other things.

        • by tftp (111690)

          What's not really reasonable is having to blur out faces, license plates

          It is perfectly reasonable because leaving them in does not contribute anything to the value of StreetView. It's not FaceView or LicenseView, after all. Even if you leave those things unblurred the presence of a certain person or a vehicle at a certain location is generally useless - those things are mobile...

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          People have been shown leaving sex shops or prostituting themselves. In the past if you did those things away from where you live there was basically zero chance of anyone you know finding out just by seeing you do it. Now your picture will end up on hundreds of web sites and be preserved forever.

          Worse still facial recognition is rapidly improving and it isn't hard to see that given a few years it would become possible to search for people on Street View, even if Google are not the ones offering the service

      • I suppose that's reasonable. But suppose I'm riding past your house on a really tall unicycle. Should we be banning those as well? Or should you have a taller fence?

        • by subreality (157447) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @05:21PM (#40270691)

          A person riding past on a tall unicycle results in one person seeing over the fence. Google taking pictures is explicitly for the purpose of posting them to a popular web site with strong indexing so anyone in the world can look over your fence remotely.

          I wouldn't mind if some guy on a unicycle looked over my fence and saw me exposing myself to the sky. He can deal with his own mental scars. But I wouldn't be happy about it at all if Google took pictures for the whole world to see.

      • If I stood in front of your house taking pics with a camera on a 10 foot monopod, you'd rightfully wonder WTF. But Google, with their 10 foot tall cameras, somehow gets a pass.

        You've made a good point, but just to clarify.

        The height Google Street View was using for their camera was actually around 8.2 feet, or about 2.5 meters, and those pictures are usually taken from the middle of the road, not just a few inches next to the top of your fence.

        And no, I'm not trying to give Google an excuse here. 8.2 feet in some of the smaller streets in Switzerland was too high in my opinion. And I'm glad that the government is making them lower that height. But for many larger streets, wider

        • Also blanking out prisons and women's shelters, doesn't make much sense to me. The Swiss government obviously didn't learn from the mistakes of other governments or Barbra Streisand. Experience has shown, that hiding information, which would normally be publicly accessible, only helps publicize that information even more and attract it undue attention.

          The point, I think, is not to conceal the existence or location of these facilities (which can, after all, be readily established using a telephone book), but rather to more-thoroughly protect the privacy of the individuals visiting or making use of them. As Google has acknowledged that their face- and number-plate-blurring algorithm is only about 99% effective, the Swiss solution is to insist on specific exclusion of these particularly-privacy-sensitive locations. (It was deemed that "Oops, we're sorry

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Now elevate your viewpoint to 10 feet. You can see much more.

        Just out of curiosity, are stilts illegal where you live?

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Well, duhh, two storey houses are also illegal in your neighbourhood. Your neighbours need permission before they or contractors they employ can climb on their roof. Trucks driving through your neighbourhood must paint out their windows. Your neighbour also pays to have all hills and slopes removed, dead flat, to match their heads.

        You own the privacy inside your home not out in your yard, that is part of the neighbourhood and as it impacts them, both in the products you release from your yard and the imp

        • Actually, in many places neighbours can register their disapproval over building adjoining two-story houses, and such houses, if built, have requirements on the height of windows overlooking neighbouring yards.

          But that's sort of irrelevant as many of the other things you point out are true. What is not true is that there is a simple "it must be impossible to see into a yard" principle in the law. This is about the practicality and the effects, and the possible effects from Google showing your yard to the

      • by xenobyte (446878)

        There are two things here:

        1) Google should take their photos from a human height, i.e. 6-7 feet, not 10 feet or more. This is what people see so that's what Google should show.
        2) What are you hiding? - You can put up a hedge or similar which obscures things, but a 6-foot solid fence? - You MUST be hiding something!

        Seriously, I think it's a runaway trend to put up tall fences, walls and so on. You need to open up and face the world, not shield yourself from it. It's arrogant and somewhat hostile to do separa

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      As long as the government doesn't start using the 'public data' to track your every movement and associations, i agree.

      while not being able to look at another person is sort of silly, i wouldn't be surprised if they start banning cameras in public.

  • Seems reasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:42PM (#40269893)

    Lowering the height seems reasonable. If someone has a high fence or hedge or such, they obviously consider the area behind it "private" and wish it to stay that way. But doing so will not significantly worsen the Street View images.

    Likewise, blurring out sensitive areas is also logical. I think they're going a bit too far, personally - retirement homes? - but it's still not unreasonable. I can disagree with the extent of that decision while still recognizing that it was a logically-defensible and rational decision.

    Advising communities in advance is also reasonable, if defined reasonably. Obviously, demanding Google go door-to-door six months ahead of time and personally notify every single person is unreasonable, but if it's just "mail them a letter stating the days and approximate times you expect to go by" or "put a notice in the local newspaper", it's fine. I doubt many people will care, but it will placate the few who have concerns.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Warning people will allow them to put out advertising. Could become a national sport, getting your personal message on Google.

      • Could become a national sport, getting your personal message on Google.

        Get your message on google just in time to get it automatically blurred with a lot of other things too.

  • Its now useless there.

    I'm as much for privacy as anyone else but if i can stand on the street corner and see something, there is no reason Google cant record it too.

    Don't want to be on Google, don't do whatever you are doing within sight of the street....

    • by tftp (111690)

      if i can stand on the street corner and see something, there is no reason Google cant record it too.

      Privacy, just like security, is largely based on obscurity. Yes, you can stand on the street corner and watch. However you have to physically be there to do that. Given that not everyone is overly interested in doings at street corners, most people are safe and secure simply because there are too many street corners for observers to stand at.

      Google offers to be your personal army of watchers. You no long

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        What if another ten million people don't want to be inconvenienced by those ten million people?

        • by tftp (111690)

          What if another ten million people don't want to be inconvenienced by those ten million people?

          It depends on who can insist on his solution, who is more powerful. I think Chairman Mao already explained what the origin of power is.

          In this case it is quite obvious who is in control in the country: it's the country's government, representing all citizens. Opinions of citizens of other countries, or of employees of foreign corporations, have no weight here.

  • What, exactly, is the problem with showing women's shelters, prisons, or schools?  Will bad people not be able to find them without street view?  What is the downside, I don't understand.
    • Yes, you beat me to it! I thought that was strange too. I could see women's shelters, but prisons and schools are very strange additions to the privacy list. You mean students and prisoners have an expectation of privacy while going to their cells? Good luck with that.
  • by AnonymousDot (517935) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @04:28PM (#40270377) Homepage
    Switzerland, like probably some other countries in Europe, has privacy of its citizen written in the law. That means that, by default, you are not allowed to take pictures of home gardens without prior approval (with or without fence). You also cannot also take picture of, or interview, individuals without their prior consent.
  • Why does it take one country to impose common sense on street view?

    The rules Switzerland are imposing should be used across all of street view, not just for Switzerland.

  • When did schools become "sensitive facilities?" I thought that was strange -- part of the apparent "there's a stalker behind every bush" mindset of modern parents.
  • by wired_parrot (768394) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @11:34AM (#40275291)
    It seems to that the various privacy laws in place across Europe targeting Google Maps have little effect on Google, which has enough resources that they can easily apply technical fixes to tackle each states differing privacy requirement. The net effect though, is to provide a high barrier of entry for competitors. A young startup wishing to start a competing street level mapping service will not have army of lawyers to sort through each states differing laws. Nor may they have the technical expertise to accurately implement blurring algorithms to the satisfaction of the courts. In short, while these laws are intended to target Google, they end up benefiting it, by making it more difficult for competitors to enter the field.

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