back to article Blur Switzerland more, Google ordered

Switzerland's head of federal data protection has told Google that his country is still not sufficiently blurry on the Great Satan of Mountain View's Street View service, despite the company agreeing to further obscure faces and number plates. Hans-Peter Thür ordered Street View offline ealier this month because "many faces …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe he doesn't like it

    Because somewhere you can see a big heap of nazi gold?

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    It must be tricky

    trying to navigate a tram over those Heisenberg-style rails.

    I blame it on quantum.

    The one with the blurry outline, if you'd be so kind!

  3. Nigel Callaghan
    Big Brother

    What's the difficulty?

    Ignoring the option of just dropping Streetview from Switzerland, the solution seems straighforward: Given the awesome processing power of the Google cloud, why don't they just drive round several times and take four or five shots of each scene (over several days), then process them to remove everything that has moved/disappeared between shots - that would take out people (except dead drunks on park benches) and vehicles (unless they were clamped/abandoned) - and that's a solution they could apply worldwide.


  4. Anonymous Coward

    Pointlessly Massive Ego Alert

    What is exactly the problem with privacy here?

    That there's a slim chance that:

    1. Someone may recognise thier partner "playing away" and snogging someone?

    2. Terrorists/Robbers may be able to plan an attack/robbery based on street view info?

    3. A boss may recognise an employee sciving off work?

    These images are probably updated once a year, if that.

    The vast majority of people in the images are unknown to the vast majority of people viewing them.

    It's a *public* space - if photographers can walk down it, photograph stuff and post those photos onto a publically accessible website, what's the problem with Google doing the same?

    This is not a case of "if your innocent, what are you worried about", but rather a case of MASSIVE ego - the fact that this bloke, Hans-Peter Thür, thinks any of us really give a shit what happens on the streets of Switzerland!

    I don't even know who he is, he doesn't know who I am, so if I saw him on street view, pinching some womans backside, it would be nothing be mildly amusing.

    Theoretically, someone could report such behaviour to the authorities - but then, that's a good thing, right?

    Whatever, the reality here is that these are NOT live images, they are updated infrequently and thus have no real privacy issues, unless you've got an over inflated ego and think your better than everyone else.

    I think this is the problem - education - that many people are so mis-informed, they believe these images are live!

  5. Naich

    What I'd do

    If I was Google I'd run every single image through a gaussian blur filter and reduce the whole street view experience to a fuzzy blob.

    But I'm a small and petty man.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Pointlessly Massive Ego Alert

    "What is exactly the problem with privacy here? That there's a slim chance that:...1. Someone may recognise thier partner "playing away" and snogging someone?..."

    With respect, that's *their* call not yours. As ever with privacy things, everyone is fine with *others* losing their privacy for some greater good, but not their own. Which makes it their call, and at worst the call of their elected representatives. So if they're bothered then its a real problem even if you think otherwise.

    You see the same pattern again and again. e.g. MPs are happy for DVLA records to be sold, but not their own, if you ever see an MPs car on TV it's plates are blanked out. Same with Contactpoint, your kids data may be available to everyone but not MPs kids data.

    Look at the Polizei attack over the weekend, there is a protest over Stauble's data surveillance law, the police are out in force and clearly want a fight. A man on a bike asks for their ID numbers because he objects to them hitting everyone, he is asked to leave the area, and starts to move away. Then one of the punchy police is told about the man asking for their IDs and he goes over drags him back and they punch him out. (And he ends up in hospital)

    Notice the irony there, on the one hand they are protesting a mass surveillance law because it violates their privacy, on the other, the officer is angry that they want his ID because it violates his privacy! Both sides agree the basic privacy right, just some are more violent in their protests.

    You can see why privacy is a fundamental right. One that *you* cannot give away on *my* behalf.

  7. James 100

    Private != public

    AC, the whole concept of *privacy* is supposed to apply to things in *private*. Google's photographs are being taken in one public place (on the street) and displayed in another public place (their website). If you object to something you do appearing in the latter public place, don't do it in the first public place either - simples!

    In a nutshell, you waive that privacy by choosing to appear in public. Now, there's a small grey area with, say, following a particular individual around in public all day (basically the grey area paparazzi inhabit) - but that's not relevant here. Photographs showing a view through windows, too, but again that's a pretty small corner case.

    If I were Google, I'd be inclined to replace all the Swiss photos with messages saying "this image censored by demand of Hans-Peter Thür", followed by his office's contact details. Or replace all the heads with cuckoo clocks and pave the streets with chocolate.

  8. James Hughes 1

    If the Swiss don't want it...

    take it away.

    I doubt they make much money from the Swiss Streetview anyway.

    Spend more time and money in the UK!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward, RE: *thier call*

    This is a *completely* different argument, you can't compare the scenarios your portraying with something like street view!

    If that was the case, every single photograph ever taken in a public space would need to be examined just in case someones privacy had been violated.

    We're talking photographic images used for the purpose of *navigation* of places here, not photographs taken with the express purpose of identifying people or situations!

    It's patently absurd when privacy "watchdogs" get down to this level.

    To prove how absurd your argument is when forced into this type of scenario, please go and do a google image search on, for instance "new york city street"

    Get it now?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE:Private != public

    "If I were Google, I'd be inclined to replace all the Swiss photos with messages saying "this image censored by demand of Hans-Peter Thür", followed by his office's contact details. Or replace all the heads with cuckoo clocks and pave the streets with chocolate."

    I completely agree with you James 100. Then again I, Like yourself, am a major idiot.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Impossible Dream so beloved of the Despotic and Neurotic, the Psychotic and the Inadequate?

    Privacy is one of those ethereal concepts which always attract public attention, for exposure of a perceived secret advantage/shameful action/criminal act, which is used to unfairly disadvantage every one else/someone else. It is easily attempted but never guaranteed or guaranteeable.

    Normal actions attract no attention ergo privacy encourages abnormal actions?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    unusual stance

    this seems to be an unusual stance for a country that until recently published a book detailing car registrations and their owner's details (name, address).

    Perhaps the issue is that the information is not controlled by the government. A clear worry, for what is nearly a police state.

    An interesting counter move might be to make street view available to everybody except those in Switzerland. How could the Swiss courts object if nothing was available in Switzerland?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @@Their call

    "If that was the case, every single photograph ever taken in a public space would need to be examined just in case someones privacy had been violated."

    And yet if I followed you around in public you'd call me a stalker, even though I and you are in public places! There's nothing special about public places that absolves them from the privacy debate!

    The same debate rages about CCTV, should all that CCTV footage be recorded and made available even when no crime is committed? The answer is no, just because you're in public doesn't mean you automatically lose your right to privacy. In Europe you cannot take peoples photos for commercial use even in public. Hence this is well within the privacy debate.

    "do a google image search on, for instance "new york city street""

    New Yorkers are free to make their own choices. Do you accept that if the Swiss object then it's THEIR decision over their country?

    @amanfromMars "Normal actions attract no attention ergo privacy encourages abnormal actions?"

    In a two state world there would be "normal action" and "abnormal action", but we live in an N state world.

    An action may be not normal but not "abnormal" in the sense that it is a crime. Do you want people to see who masturbate? I think not.

    An action may be viewed as "normal" in one context, yet a crime in another context, e.g. 18 year old American comes to UK, drinks alcohol, that would be a crime in the US, you wouldn't want that info made public.

    An action may be viewed as "normal" by one group, but objectionable by another, e.g. Halal butchery practices are abhorrent to some.

    An action may be "normal" but "abnormal" due to a fault in the perception of the observer, e.g. living wills in US health care is viewed as "Nazi death panels for pensioners" by some misguided extremists Republicans.

    An action may be "normal" but be used against the person anyway, e.g. if I know you need to buy the airline ticket to France tonight, and I know how much money you have available, I can make you pay the maximum you can afford, regardless of my actual selling price.

    What people think is acceptable as a loss of privacy is up to them. And in this case the Swiss don't like the recognisable but blurry faces of people identifiable on those photos.

    IMHO if they knew the volume of information they're letting out already, they would be appalled, as it is, it's only because they can see Google Street View that they realize the privacy problem. As ever, it's only when you face the private data that is spread about yourself that you see the depth of the true problem.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Re @@Their call

    Thanks, AC, you expanded upon the futilities of man, and his lack of intelligence/good education, perfectly.

  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Everything you do online is easily viewed/monitored?

    And here is someone tilting at windmills and proposing to be able to keep water in a sieve, metaphorically speaking. ......

    And here he is doing a great three stooges impression .....

    And does anyone doubt and/or disagree with the Title question? .... which is probably why whenever you get in touch with Governments online, they are frightened to say anything/acknowledge receipt of communications/petrified in inaction, for then can ignorance of a development be wheeled out as an invalid excuse, although putting communications which are ignored into the public domain, is a valid counter measure which can then easily be used by any number of interested souls, with more savvy than the publicly petrified.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @@Their call

    *sigh* final attempt...

    Once again, you start veering of course into a privacy debate which has little to do with the subject matter which is photography aimed at assisting people to navigate!

    As far as your argument about the Swiss making thier own decision on privacy, if you read the article, it's a single person, as a representative of the state, who is calling for this - Hans-Peter Thür.

    You seem to assume he represents his entire country on this issue!

    Lets keep this in perspective folks.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As opposed to Matt89

    "Once again, you start veering of course into a privacy debate which has little to do with the subject matter which is photography aimed at assisting people to navigate!"

    No it has 100% to do with the privacy debate, since the people are not needed for the purpose of navigation, they're transients in the photos and they are the problem also with those photos.

    Perhaps I misunderstood your argument, in the first argument you seemed to be saying this:

    Public place = not Private place by definition of word public. Hence outside the privacy debate. Am I correct?

    But that was a play on the definition of the phrase 'public place' since public place is just 'a place where the general public can go', not public as in the 'opposite of private'. i.e. just because it's a public place doesn't exclude it from a privacy right because it's not the same definition of the phrase. I gave you a few examples of this in the above comments of how public places can and have been considered in the context of privacy.

    e.g. I live but am I not live.

    Now the argument your putting seems to be that he's unrepresentative, but I think that's a lost argument. There is a very strong movement for privacy now, and I think his comments are spot on with the sentiment of the general public.

    "Lets keep this in perspective folks."

    He wants them to do a better job of the blurring, lets keep *that* in perspective. He's not exactly asking for the moon here. If they can't then they could ditch the whole street-view thing and I don't think anyone would feel a great loss.

  18. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    @@@Their call (Matt 89)

    - a photo made to navigate doesn't need that level of detail.

    - if I take a picture of you and stick it in my album at home it's not a problem, even if I use it on a public album it's OK-ish (that debate is currently taking place). If I take a picture for COMMERCIAL use it is law in several countries that you will have to seek permission from all present.

    It's not about logging who was where at which time, it is about not collecting personal details unless it is justified. It's not about "having nothing to hide", it's about you not having the legal right to obtain personal details from me without indicating why and obtaining my permission. I have nothing to hide, but my privacy happens to be a Human Right (article 12) and I'm not going to allow some slipsliding US company to slowly usurp that because it gets in the way of making money.

    Two bonus remarks:

    1 - what do you think of that Streetview "features" that identifies windows and then offers to zoom in on them? We're talking private homes here, if the code can identify windows it ought to mask them, not make matters worse.

    2 - fences are built for privacy - the Google recording at elevated height is essentially wilfully ignoring the express wish for privacy (which is where they got into trouble in Japan).

    Now, just to help resolve some ignorance: "about the Swiss making thier own decision on privacy, if you read the article, it's a single person, as a representative of the state, who is calling for this - Hans-Peter Thür."

    Wow. Major fail. By definition, he is making this call on behalf of the state. Through a process called "democracy" (unknown in the US and UK other than in government marketing), this good man has been given the privilege to act on behalf of the Swiss citizens, and he does his job by not taking any BS from Google. Google were told there was a problem, they made promises in response and didn't keep them - baaaad mistake in Switzerland, where even a handshake deal still has legal value. You have a problem, they will actively help you work it out and have a fair shot at resolving the issue. You take the p*ss, they will come down on you like a ton of bricks. Not exactly rocket science to understand.

    What you may have failed to notice in the reporting is that he isn't just acting off his own bat - the department has had plenty of complaints from citizens.

    Your perspective is off: Switzerland is the first country to simply say "no", probably because they think they've had enough blackmail from the US. When you examine the reasons why they have asked Google to do the non-evil thing, you should actually ask yourself why all those EU and UK regulators didn't speak up, the issue is no different there. Or is privacy now officially dead in the UK and EU?

    You may want to try living in a real democracy. It'll teach you that you don't just have rights, for it to work you also have obligations. The payback is that things work, and your rights as an individual are actively protected - have you tried shopping a UK company that spams you to the Information Commissioner recently? Did anything happen? No? Thought so..

  19. asdf

    Re: Fred Flintstone

    >You may want to try living in a real democracy

    Are you talking about Switzerland? I agree with your argument but be careful with the nationalism as it undermines your argument. Switzerland's right wing history is almost as bad as Austria's. Also be careful not to think everyone in the US likes what Google is doing. The sheeple just haven't figured out that the worlds biggest advertising agency having access to the greatest info repository in human history is not worth the cheap little web trinkets they give us to keep us amused.

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