Google Street View breaches Swiss privacy
Zurich - A Swiss court has ruled that a Google online map application breaches local data protection laws and said the company must obscure faces and car number plates before publishing pictures on the internet.
The Swiss Federal Administrative Court said on Monday that Google would have to make the necessary changes to images before publication or get the required consent to publish them, though it recognised this was a potentially costly undertaking.
"The avoidance of additional costs and the free-of-charge and thus commercially attractive offering of Google Street View are, in principle, to be recognised as profit-oriented interests of the defendants and cannot outweigh the interests of the individuals in question," said the court in a statement.
The case was brought by the Swiss Data Protection and Public Domain Ombudsman in November 2009 after an earlier claim was rejected.
"We are very disappointed because Street View has proved to be very useful to millions of people as well as businesses and tourist organisations," said Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel at Google.
"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."
The judgement is a further setback for Street View after France's data protection regulator fined Google last month for collecting private data from wireless networks when its camera-equipped cars gathered footage for the online map service.
"Taking and publishing pictures of people or property without consent breaches the right to privacy," said Andrea Arcidiacono, spokesperson for the court.
"Every one of us according to Swiss law has the right to exercise control over their personal data."
Arcidiacono noted Google could appeal against the decision in the Swiss Supreme Federal Court.