Google's Street View contested in France and Switzerland

By EDRi · August 26, 2009

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Deutsch: [Googles Street View in Frankreich und der Schweiz angefochten |]

After being criticised and contested in several countries in Europe, such as
UK, Germany and Greece and even outside Europe like in Japan, it is the turn
of France and Switzerland to complain against Google’s service Street View.

Several complaints have been recorded in France in 2009 against Street View
service as recently indicated by the French Data Protection Authority – CNIL
(Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés).

CNIL is keeping an eye of Google’s system as the company has introduced in
France this summer tricycles equipped with cameras to explore parks, walking
streets and other less crowded areas. Despite the system introduced by
Google to blur faces and other identification elements such as licence
plates from the images taken by Street View cameras, the system is not 100%
proof. For instance, profiles or faces through grills can still be visible
and are not blurred. Besides, people are also asking for other elements to
be blurred such as the access to private homes.

The French authority is also concerned about the delay in the data treatment
and the retention of raw images. In June, Google committed in front of
European Commission’s Article 29 working party to improve this aspect and
delete the raw images but not on a very short term and no precise period of
time was given.

In Switzerland, less than one week after the launching of Street View, the
authorities have already asked for the immediate interruption of the service
under threat of taking the case to court as they consider that Google’s
blurring technology is not good enough.

“Numerous reports from the public and our own research show that Google
Street View does not respect the conditions that were laid down. Many faces
and car numbers have not been blurred, or only insufficiently so,” stated
Hans-Peter Thür, the Swiss data protection commissioner who asked Google to
“improve the service and ensure that the images published meet Swiss legal

In its defence, Google admitted there were still some flaws in their
technology: “Our face and license plate blurring software is very effective,
but like any new technology it still makes mistakes now and then –
occasionally blurring things that shouldn’t be blurred, or missing some
things that should.”

Sébastien Fanti, a lawyer specialised in Internet issues, warns on the fact
that all the data gathered by Google is available to US authorities as
according to the USA Patriot Act, any US government agency has access to
data collected anywhere in the world by US firms, even without a court
order. “If the CIA asks to see what was going on in Zurich this spring,
Google isn’t going to provide blurred images,” says Fanti.

Google’s Switzerland spokesman Matthias Meyer admitted that the companies is
collaborating with authorities but stated that “What we are putting on line
are photos of the past. Once they’ve been taken they don’t change, nothing
is shown in real time.”

This is far from being reassuring and as it can be seen people in many
countries there are a lot of privacy concerns related to Street View

Google Street View feeds Cnil’s complaints (only in French, 10.08.2009)

CNIL in the wheel of Street view tricycle (only in French, 7.08.2009)

Switzerland asks the interruption of Google Street View (only in French,

Europe asks for the suppression of the raw images by Google Street View
(only in French, 16.06.2009),39020774,39504703,00.htm

Big Google is watching you – really? (only in French, 21.08.2009)

Street View privacy guarantees remain fuzzy (24.08.2009)

EDRi-gram: Privacy complaints related to Google’s Street View (16.07.2009)