Google doesn’t have to blur faces in street view

Mon 11 June 2012 11:00, Tamara Yadvichuk

Google doesn’t have to blur faces in street view

According to the recent ruling of a Swiss court, Google is not obliged to blur all the faces and number plates on images which appear in their street view feature. The legal action began last year with complaints from the Swiss privacy watchdog which stated that Google’s panoramic view violates the privacy of the Swiss.

On Friday Swiss Federal Supreme Court decided that Google street view, in fact, doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy when it displays public spaces. On the other hand, it is not allowed to expose private areas such as yards and gardens without their owners’ consent – an earlier ruling specified that the cameras Google uses to take street view pictures should not be placed higher than 2m to ensure that they don’t photograph anything invisible to an average passer-by.

Besides that, Google needs to make sure that in places such as schools and prisons which the state considers sensitive people’s faces are made unrecognizable.  Up to now, Google has been using the system which was meant to blur faces and number plates automatically – the privacy concerns are mainly about the pictures which Google had missed.

Google is not the only one who has faced problems with its street view feature. Last month I wrote about the Russian search engine Yandex whose ‘panoramas’ feature is very similar to Google’s street view. While gathering footage for their ‘panoramas’ in Turkish cities, Yandex automatically blurred the face of Atatürk, founding father of modern Turkey, who happens to appear on multiple banners and posters throughout the country. And according to the Turkish law, distorting the face of Atatürk is prohibited… Long story short, Yandex employees still have to fix the problem manually every time a blurring issue is reported.

Tell us in the comments what you think about street view: is privacy more important than the convenience of a global service which may show people’s faces from time to time?

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