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Swiss Up in Arms Over Google Street View

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Switzerland's discretion, especially in terms of banking, is well known. Now, the alpine country thinks that Google should comply with its national penchant for privacy. On August 18, Google added Street View, 360-degree street-level imagery, to its maps of cities in Switzerland, Taiwan, and Portugal. Three days later, Switzerland's data protection agency asked that the new service be rescinded.

Though not explicitly cited as motivation, the government request came after a newspaper found and published a Street View image of a Swiss politician walking on the street with a woman (later identified as his assistant). After talks, Google has agreed to delete individual images from Street View when specific complaints are received. This is hardly the first time that Google has hit a bump in the road with Street View this year:

- In February, a Pennsylvania court dismissed a claim by a couple that discovering images of their house online had caused them considerable "mental suffering."

- In April, citizens of a suburb of Milton Keynes, England, blocked their street so a car equipped with the top-mounted 360-degree camera couldn't enter and gather Street View images. Because the camera was mounted so high, the locals were afraid it would capture images over their garden walls and invade their privacy.

- In May, the BBC reported that Google was forced to re-shoot all its work in Japan using cameras mounted lower on the car roofs to ensure that no shots violated the privacy of the residents.

What's all the fuss? Personally, I get a kick out of seeing the Street View image of my apartment building (looking carefree and naked without the construction scaffolding that has engulfed it for the past year). I love seeing how the camellia bush next to the front door of my childhood home has grown. More practically, I find it very useful to type in an address and get a visual on a destination before I leave my desk. Perhaps I wouldn't make a good Swiss Miss. Then again, I live on the 10th floor, far above Google lenses.

What about you? Do you worry about getting caught on camera? Do you ever use Google Maps or Google Earth to spy or pry?


Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of Google Map

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