In December, the Finnish Data Protection Board gave a decision, which stated that offering Fonecta Oy's Virtual Tour street view service on the Internet is subject to a permit in Finland. The decision of the Data Protection Board is a response to the Data Protection Ombudsman's request to assess the processing of personal data that occurs in Fonecta Oy's street view service.
The service allows users to virtually move along city streets and in large shopping centres. Despite the fact that the faces of the people in the pictures have been blurred out, it was possible to identify people, e.g. based on their physical characteristics. On the same grounds, the Data Protection Board found that the licence plates of vehicles visible in the pictures before being blurred out are personal data in accordance with the Personal Data Act.
This being the case, the Data Protection Board found that processing pictures of people walking on the street and licence plates of cars for publication in the service can be considered the kind of processing of personal data that requires a permit, unless one of the limitations of scope set forth in section 2 of the Personal Data Act or one of the general prerequisites for processing data set forth in section 8 is fulfilled.
In its decision, the Data Protection Board granted Fonecta a permit to collect and process personal data in accordance with section 43(1) of the Personal Data Act for the purpose of creating and maintaining a street view service, provided that Fonecta complies with the permit conditions set by the Board. Pictures taken for the service, i.e. the raw data, can only be stored until the street view service has been created and cannot be transferred to third parties. The pictures published in the service must also be manipulated so that people and vehicles appearing in them can no longer be identified. The permit is valid until 31 January 2014.
Similar street view services are offered in Finland by Eniro Oy and Google Inc.