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Switzerland court partially rules for Google in privacy case

The Supreme Court of Switzerland [official website, in German] announced [official statement, PDF, in German and English] Friday that it has ruled partially for Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] in a case over privacy violations through its Street View service. The federal tribunal based in Lausanne held that Google is not compelled to completely blur all faces and license plates but should do so manually if someone files a complaint. In sensitive areas, such as schools, hospitals, courts and prisons, Google is compelled to conduct a full anonymization of all persons and indicators. Additionally, the court ruled that Google must cease to automatically publish pictures of private gardens and courtyards taken with cameras positioned higher than 2 meters (6 1/2 feet). This decision partially reversed a ruling by the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (FAC) [official website, in German], which held [JURIST report] that the service constituted a breach of privacy and ordered the company to take extra steps to ensure adequate protection for Swiss citizens. Google had appealed. The initial complaint was brought by the Swiss Data Protection Ombudsman and Public Domain (FDPIC) [official website].

Various countries have alleged that Google violated privacy laws by capturing personal data through its Street View service. In March of last year, a Berlin high court ruled [JURIST report] for Google holding that the company's controversial service is legal in Germany. In 2010, a woman sued the company for violating her property and privacy rights by taking pictures of her, her family and the front of her house. The court however held that because the picture was taken from the street, no such violation has occurred. On the other side, the French National Commission of Information Technology and Liberty (CNIL) [official website, in French] fined [JURIST report] Google 100,000 euros (USD $141,300) for violating the country's data privacy laws. Google captured personal data through Google Street View cars used for its Google Maps service but failed to respond to request in a timely manner and to stop using seized data. Similarly in 2010, the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) [official website] held [JURIST report] that Google UK has violated the Data Protection Act [text] by collecting data through its Street View service. The ICO did not impose fines but announced that it will require the company to pay fines if it does not comply with the data protection regulations in the future.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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