Switzerland kills Street View
I’m loving the Swiss. The Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commish to be exact. His name is Hans-Peter Thür and he has accused Google of not protecting the privacy of Swiss citizens. Quelle horror! I can’t believe that – Google not respecting privacy?!!
Regular readers know that I have an aversion to Google Street View. Yes, it can be very useful to look up the restaurant you’re off to for dinner or voyeuristically scan your neighbour’s backyards, but as we know, it can catch someone at an embarrassing moment and criminals are increasingly using Street View. No stretch of the imagination to think that crims can use it to scan roads in a neighbourhood, checking cars, backyards for signs of easy access, checking out whether there’s a Rottweiller in the yard that might cause problems and so on.
Greece, Japan and Germany have raised concerns about Street View and you may have read about angry citizens in Buckinghamshire, UK surrounding one of those stupid cars with intrusive 360-degree camera on the roof (police had to be called but unfortunately the Google car got away unharmed).
And the Swiss watch dog has now demanded that Google withdraw Street View from the country, one week after its launch. Thür has banned Google because he considered that faces and vehicle numbers were not sufficiently blurred. Google responded by saying that since launching in Switzerland there has been an 80% increase in maps usage, proving how popular their tool is. Well of course it is: people like to play with new stuff but once people realise how hard it is to request your face be blurred or the hoops you have to go through to get your image withdrawn from Street View – well, let’s see if people like it so much then. Clearly, any country that allows secret squirrel bank accounts like Switzerland is likely to be a country that jealously guards its privacy.
I can assure Google that if ever I spot one of those sinister looking cars with the Orwellian looking camera (or a Google Trike – yep, they get round on bikes too), the driver had better run.
Seriously, whilst we all enjoy Google this and Google that – stop for just ONE moment to think about these questions:
- does Google hold too much power and influence over the Web and more particularly its future?
- are you at all worried about the possibly that Google may have secured a virtual monopoly over literature?
- are you at all concerned that Google is helping China to censor search results and is a willing part of the Great Firewall of China? So if someone in China searches “Tiananmen Square protests” or “Falun Gong”, they would find nothing, zippo.
- should we have anti-trust concerns about Google, particularly the close relationship between Apple and Google?
- have you thought about how much we rely on Google? if Google disappeared overnight, whoosh, what other search engine would you use, would you be at a loss without Google Maps or Street View? If you think you’d be like a deer caught in the traffic lights – then perhaps we are allowing Google to influence and control our online experiences too much.