Google beefs up restricted Swiss Street View

Street View cameras have been at work off the beaten path in Switzerland Keystone

Having once threatened to shut down Street View in Switzerland in the face of strict privacy rulings, Google has revamped its online mapping service by adding ten times more images to its existing content. 

This content was published on May 19, 2015 - 12:27

The beefed-up Street View now includes many hiking trails, alpine passes such as the Majola, Brünig and St Bernhard and the iconic Monte Rosa mountain hut. However, a 2012 court ruling that restricts cameras to no more than two metres high – to avoid peeping over garden fences – means there are still some gaps in the service. 

The extended Swiss Street View, which went online on Tuesday, also includes new images of Geneva’s old town and the CERN particle physics facility. 

“Street View helps our users discover interesting places, for leisure or business purposes, and to plan trips,” Street View program manager Ulf Spitzer said in a statement. 

Jürg Schmid, director of Switzerland Tourism, also hailed the update as a “gift” for the ailing tourism sector. Other regional tourism bosses also gave the new service the thumbs up. 

Legal challenges 

The Street View upgrade is the latest step in a long, and often contentious, journey for the 360-degree mapping service in Switzerland. The concept was challenged by the Swiss data protection commissioner Hanspeter Thür for compromising privacy shortly after it was introduced in 2009. 

The argument was dragged into the Swiss courts, with initial rulings leading to Google’s threat to switch it off. But a Supreme Court verdict led to a compromise acceptable to both sides in 2012. 

The ruling accepted that Google would be obliged to pixelate 99% of images to blur faces, vehicle registrations and the like. In return, the court imposed the height restriction on cameras taking images plus a ban on filming certain sensitive places, such as schools, prisons and women’s shelters. 

The data protection commissioner’s office was unavailable for immediate comment.

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