Google: Swiss ruling could close Street View

Google said on Wednesday it would appeal to Switzerland's highest court against a ruling forcing it to mask faces on its Street View service. The ruling could force it to shut down the facility in Switzerland, it said.

Google: Swiss ruling could close Street View
Max Bucher

The judgement from the Federal Administrative Tribunal ordered the Internet giant to ensure that all people and cars pictured on Street View were unrecognisable. 

The official Swiss data protection watchdog took Google to court in November 2009 after complaining on several occasions that the service’s coverage of Switzerland flouted privacy rules, following similar complaints elsewhere in Europe.

“In the interest of Internet users and Swiss companies, Google will lodge an appeal …before the Federal Tribunal so that Street View can still be offered in Switzerland,” the firm said in a statement.

Google warned that it might be forced to shut down the facility for Switzerland even though it was used by what it said was “half of the Swiss population.”

Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer said: “Ninety-nine percent of people are not identifiable.”

“The decision of the Federal Administrative Tribunal requires us to guarantee that 100 percent of faces and licence plate are not identifiable. We simply cannot comply with that.

Street View allows users to take a ground level panoramic view of some locations on Google Maps, based on still photographs taken by specially equipped vehicles.

Data protection commissioner Hanspeter Thuer has accused the Internet firm of refusing to apply most of his recommendations, while Google claims it must rely on an automatic blurring system for faces and vehicle registration plates.

The Federal Administrative Court ruled last month that all faces and number plates must be made unrecognisable before they can be published on the Internet.

Google argued on Wednesday that about 1,000 Swiss companies had already integrated Street View into their websites, including property agents,the post office and city councils.

In its ruling published on April 4, the administrative court concluded that the public interest in having a visual record and Google’s commercial interests could not outweigh an individual’s right over their own image.

It said “the pictures can be made more or totally unrecognisable, and this is a proportionate measure.”

Google’s Street View has sparked similar privacy concerns and legal battles in several other countries, including Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

France’s data privacy regulator imposed a record fine of 100,000 euros ($142,000) on Google in March for collecting private information while compiling photos for the service.


France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

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Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

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