The Data Protection Board ("DPB") has the power to grant permission to process personal data if the general preconditions for processing personal data under the Finnish Personal Data Act are not met. On 24 January 2011, the DPB stated that a mobile mapping service provided by Finnish company Fonecta Oy ("Fonecta") was subject to permission given by the DPB.
Fonecta's mobile mapping service covers several cities in Finland and by virtue of the 360 degree images offered by the service; a user may walk virtually on a city street. The images used in the service are based on raw data consisting of the street views gathered by one of Fonecta's subcontractor. When first processed this raw data was automatically blurred. As a result of which all facial features of individuals and vehicle licence plates were blurred.
According to the decision, the DPB considers that the mobile mapping service displays images of people walking along the streets as well as licence plates of cars in such manner that the service will always require a permit by the DPB. It is the processing of images prior to blurring that requires permission.
The DPB granted a permit to Fonecta to carry out this processing until 31 December 2011. The conditions of the permit include:
- handling the images so that persons and vehicles cannot be identified;
- the raw data used as part of the service may only be processed until the mapping service (with blurred images) has been created; and
- the raw data may not be passed on to third parties.