Swiss Court to Google: You Can't Afford Manual Street-View Blurring? Are You Kidding?
Google argues that manually blurring out the faces and license plates sometimes captured by its Street View cameras is financially and logistically unfeasible. But the company’s going to have to do it anyway if it wants to continue offering the service in Switzerland. A Swiss court says Google must guarantee that all faces and license plates photographed as part of its Street View mapping efforts are unrecognizable prior to their publication on the Web. Obscuring a good portion of them via an automated process, which Google does currently, just isn’t good enough. “The anonymity of individuals must be ensured,” the court wrote. “Every person has a right of privacy with respect to his or her own image. No one may be photographed without his or her consent.”
The court took a dim view of Google’s claim that most faces and license plates are already blurred beyond recognition and an even dimmer one of its argument that manually ensuring all of them are obscured would be prohibitively expensive.
“The claimants are discounting any breach of privacy rights of numerous individuals, in the interest of their commercial success,” the court wrote. “All privacy breaches could be avoided, but this would entail additional costs for the defendants, as they would have to make images (even more) unrecognisable in part manually. The additional costs would obviously not, however, jeopardise the commercial survival of the defendants.”
Tragically for Google, “it costs too much” rings hollow as a defense when you’re a company that grossed, what, $29 billion last year.