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Swiss official tells Google to erase street views

Hanspeter Thuer, Switzerland’s federal data protection commissioner, said Google’s pictures were violating Switzerland’s strict privacy laws by failing to obscure people’s identities on the mapping service, which offers detailed street-level images.

The main street of Grindelwald is shown on a Google employee's mobile device as he poses for photographers on the launch of the Google Street View application at Google office in Zurich August 18, 2009.

Christian Hartmann/REUTERS

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A Swiss government official is demanding that Google Inc. immediately take off the Internet any “Street View” images of Switzerland, and the company said Monday it would work to resolve problems with the privacy rights regulator.

Hanspeter Thuer, Switzerland’s federal data protection commissioner, said Google’s pictures were violating Switzerland’s strict privacy laws by failing to obscure people’s identities on the mapping service, which offers detailed street-level images.

“Numerous faces and license numbers weren’t blurred or were done so inadequately,” said Thuer’s statement, adding that he “demands that Google Inc. immediately take its Google Street View online service off the Internet” until it can ensure that public images respect Swiss law.

Since launching in 2007, Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide but has faced privacy complaints from many individuals and institutions that have been photographed.

Greece’s Data Protection Authority rejected Google’s bid earlier this year to roam Greek streets with cameras mounted on vehicles, while the Pentagon barred Google from photographing U.S. military bases for the service.

Residents of a small English village formed a human chain in April to stop one of Google’s camera vans, while in Japan some complained that the service provided a view over the fences around their homes, prompting Google to agree to re-shoot all photos in the country.

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