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Here in America, we think Google Street View is great -- all unicorns and double-rainbows -- but elsewhere in the world, folks have been significantly less enthralled. Germany ordered Google to let citizens opt-out of having their homes included on the service. England and Canada found Google guilty of invading personal privacy. And now, Switzerland has served up the biggest smackdown to date, ordering Google to obscure all faces and license plates photographed for Street View within the country's borders.
The court's ruling applies only to images taken in the future, meaning that data currently hosted on Street View is okay. However, it leaves Google in a curious position.
Having anticipated such concerns long ago, Street View already employs technology to blur faces and license plates. But as the court discovered, that technology doesn't always work. Before Google continues documenting the Swiss highways and byways, it will need to fine-tune its technology or risk heavy penalties from the government.
Of course, such deep concerns about privacy should come as no surprise from Switzerland -- a country known for hiding Nazi loot stolen from Jews during World War II and for aiding other questionable practices with its notorious "Swiss bank accounts". After all, if you're a former genocidal dictator on the run, wouldn't you rather be discovered by the CIA than by some teenager using Street View?
As fans of both Street View and personal privacy, we hope Google can resolve the matter soon.