Google Threatens to Erase Street View in Switzerland

Search engine refuses to grant 'absolute anonymity' in Street View images
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 11, 2011 11:13 AM CDT
A Google driver drives with a Google vehicle around Palo Alto, Calif., streets Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010 to shoot "Street Views". The Federal Trade Commission is scolding Google, but not taking any further...   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(Newser) – The time for a virtual trip to Switzerland is now. 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 by the popular Street View service. Shutting down Street View in an entire country would be the Internet search giant's most extreme response yet to growing complaints it is violating people's privacy.

The Swiss ruling last month ordered Google to ensure all faces and vehicle license plates are blurred and 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. If Google fails at the higher court and goes through with its threat, it would be the first time that the company has permanently switched off Street View anywhere in the world, though it has faced privacy concerns in many of the 27 countries where the service is available.

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