Google to argue for equal treatment over street images

Google publishes the locations where it is filming: while the court case is heard in Bern, Google Street View crews are out in cantons Ticino, Valais and Zurich Thursday

Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – A Swiss high court today will hear the case for Google’s widely popular Street Views, which have been the subject of a legal tangle in Switzerland almost since the company began publishing them in August 2009. The court will  have a full house for the 10:00 hearing, with all seats reserved.

The government and Google in December 2009 reached an agreement limiting the use of Street Views in Switzerland until the case could be heard by the high court.

The Swiss Federal Administrative Tribunal, one of Switzerland’s three high courts, Thursday 24 February hears “A-7040/2009, Google Street View”, brought by the federal data protection and information commissioner against Google Inc. and Google Switzerland.

Today Google will argue 10 reasons why Street Views should be allowed in Switzerland, with the emphasis on equal treatment: its street views provide no more information than images carried by Internet media of people and places or, for that matter, the company argues, the federal government web site.

Its case will be watched carefully because of court cases in other countries, with Canada and Australia among the countries where Google has had legal problems over Street View.

Its other arguments include:

  • the zoom function does not provide a sharper image than the human eye sees, nor, by zooming in, does the viewer have a more detailed image
  • the 2.75 metre height of the cameras is not invasive because of technical limitations applied, and the quality of the images is far less than that of aerial photos regularly taken by others, often available on the web
  • the automatic system for ensuring that faces and car license plates are fuzzy works well and in the very rare cases where a person can be seen more clearly, the best that can be said in terms of identification is that he or she appears to resemble someone who is known
  • the camera-carrying vehicles are easy to spot and in any event filming is announced publicly, in advance
  • the programme offers numerous services and options that are appreciated not just by individuals but by companies and even the government, with current filming of the ski slopes in Zermatt as an example of how tourism offices can benefit from the product.

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