Federal Administrative Court imposes obligations on Google Street View

4 mai 2011 – On March 30th, 2011, the Federal Administrative Court ruled on the Google Street View case. The court held that Swiss data protection law is applicable to Google Street View. The court ruled that Google violated the principles of legitimacy, proportionality, purposefulness, and transparency without the consent of the persons concerned, and that the violation was not legitimised by an overriding public or private interest. It further held that Google’s private economic interest in providing its services does not prevail over the importance of the privacy interest being breached.

The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) had filed an action against Google Inc. and Google Switzerland GmbH concerning Google Street View in Switzerland.The FDPIC’s claims were basically identical to his earlier recommendations (for details see the News dated 02.10.2009 and 27.01.2010). The court’s decision was published in April 2011 on the court’s website (decision A-7040/2009).

As a consequence of the Federal Administrative Court’s decision, Google must ensure that:

  • faces and licence plates are rendered completely unrecognisable before pictures are placed online;
  • the anonymity of individuals in sensitive areas, such as domestic violence shelters, homes for the aged, prisons, schools, social authorities, wardship authorities, courts, and hospitals, is guaranteed;
  • no pictures will be taken of private areas that are otherwise not accessible to normal passersby;
  • at least one week’s advance notice is provided, both on the internet and in the local press, regarding where Google plans to take pictures (i.e. in which towns or villages);
  • prior to placing pictures on the internet, at least one week’s advance notice is provided regarding which towns and villages Google will place online.

The decision may be appealed by Google to the Federal Supreme Court for a final decision.