Authorities in Austria and Switzerland Rule on Google Street View
Time 3 Minute Read

Austrian DPA Gives Green Light Subject to Conditions

On April 21, 2011, the Austrian Data Protection Commission (“Austrian DPA”) published its decision allowing Google to register its Google Street View application on the Austrian DPA’s data processing register.  As part of the registration procedure, Google agreed to blur images of faces and license plates prior to publishing them on the Internet, and to provide information to the public about the right to object to publication of certain images.  Further, the Austrian DPA required Google to:

  • blur the entire image of individuals (not only their faces) prior to online publication when the images are captured in “sensitive” locations, such as in front of churches and other places of worship, hospitals, battered women’s shelters and prisons;
  • blur images of private properties not visible to a pedestrian, such as fenced private gardens and courtyards, prior to publishing them online;
  • introduce appropriate, easy-to-use tools for exercising the right to object to the online publication of images of buildings; and
  • provide information on its website about the right to object to the online publication of images, as well as access to the tools that may be used to exercise this right.

Swiss Court Decision Confirms Swiss DPA’s Opinion

On March 30, 2011, the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland (the “Court”) issued its ruling on a previous opinion by the Swiss Data Protection Authority (“Swiss DPA”) concerning Google Street View.  The Court found in favor of the Swiss DPA, which initially brought the claim in November 2009.

According to the ruling, Google must ensure that every face and license plate is blurred (manually, if necessary) before Google Street View images are published online.  The Court also ruled that when capturing images near sensitive places, such as prisons, hospitals, schools, courts, social institutions and safe havens, Google should ensure the anonymity of individuals who appear in the images by erasing all identifiable features such as skin color and clothing.  In addition, Google should not publish any images of private areas, such as walled gardens or courtyards, which are normally closed areas for pedestrians, and must either remove any such images currently on Google Street View or seek consent from the affected individuals to leave the images up.  Finally, prior to sending the cars out to capture Street View images, Google must inform the public of planned Street View vehicle routes by publishing information on its website and in local newspapers.


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