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Google Street View restrictions relaxed in Switzerland

A Swiss court this week granted Google a partial victory in its battle over Street View in the region.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, a Swiss federal court found that Google does not have to black out 100 per cent of faces and license plates on its 360-degree mapping service.

Instead, Google will be required to manually black out the faces and license plates that have not yet been obscured (about one per cent) only if a user complains. The search giant must make it easier for someone to file a complaint, however, according to the Journal.

"We're pleased the Swiss court has upheld a key part of our appeal, acknowledging that we have strong privacy controls in Street View, like automatic blurring of faces and license plates," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said in a statement. "We're reviewing the court's decision in full and are speaking to the DPA [Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection] as we consider our options."

At issue is an April 2011 ruling from the Swiss Federal Administrative Court in Bern, which required Google to be 100 per cent accurate with its face- and license-blurring techniques. It also had to hide distinguishing features like skin color and clothing of people photographed near "sensitive" places like women's shelters, schools, prisons, hospitals, courts and hospitals.

Google said those rules were too restrictive and threatened to pull Street View from Switzerland altogether.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Swiss privacy watchdog Hanspeter Thuer in 2009. Although Google automates the blurring process, Thuer has long argued privacy issues are too important to leave to a machine.