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Google wins partial repeal of Swissprivacy ruling


GENEVA (AP) ? Switzerland's
supreme court has ruled that Google
doesn't need to be perfect when it
comes to privacy. The Internet giant has won a partial
repeal of a lower court decision that
required the company to guarantee
absolute anonymity for people
pictured in its popular Street View
service. "It must be accepted that up to a
maximum of 1 percent of the images
uploaded are insufficiently
anonymized," the Swiss Federal
Tribunal said in a statement Friday. The court said Google still has to
make it easy for people to have their
images manually blurred, and must
ensure total anonymity in sensitive
areas such as schools, hospitals,
women's shelters and courts, where skin color and clothing must also be
obscured. The Lausanne-based tribunal
additionally upheld part of the Federal
Administrative Court's ruling last year
that Google must stop automatically
publishing pictures of private gardens
and courtyards taken with cameras positioned higher than 2 meters (6 ?
feet). Google welcomed the supreme court
verdict but left open whether it would
now withdraw its previous threat to
remove all pictures of Switzerland
from Street View. "We will now look at the ruling
closely, discuss it with the federal data
protection commissioner and
examine what options are available,"
said Daniel Schoenberger, Google's
legal chief for Switzerland. Switzerland's privacy watchdog had
wanted an absolute guarantee of
anonymity in Street View, an online
service that allows users to take
virtual tours of cities and towns in
dozens of countries around the world. During a court hearing last year the
data protection commissioner
Hanspeter Thuer used a live version
of Street View to demonstrate
examples where the software failed
to obscure faces of adults and children in public ? including outside
the court itself ? and even peered
into private homes. While data protection laws in
Switzerland are particularly strict,
Google has faced privacy concerns in
many of the countries where Street
View is available. In Germany,
residents can request that entire buildings be blurred to protect their
privacy. Thuer said he was satisfied with the
ruling as it confirmed that foreign
companies also are subject to Swiss
privacy law. Google has one of its biggest offices
outside the United States in Zurich,
where hundreds of engineers
develop new services for the
company. As part of a publicity drive in
Switzerland, Google has used its Street
View cameras to photograph the
country's ski slopes and spectacular
Alpine railway journeys.