February 24, 2011

Swiss Officials Order Citizens to Wear Masks in Public - Ban Tourists Posting Photos on Web

BERNE (ZAP) -- In a bold move to demonstrate that the Swiss government is as serious about privacy for its citizens as it has historically been regarding the protection of illicit foreign assets in Swiss bank accounts, the head of the newly created Switzerland Federal Department of Facial Anonymity, Nicolas J. Biellmann, today issued a preliminary order requiring that all Swiss citizens wear "full head coverage" masks at all times when outside their homes or places of business within the borders of Switzerland.

This groundbreaking move, being enthusiastically supported by radical pro-privacy groups in Switzerland and around the world, comes on the heels of previous Swiss orders that search giant Google must obscure every single human face -- even if this must be done manually -- that appears in their "Street View" images, or else potentially terminate Street View services for Switzerland.

"Upon due reflection," said Biellmann, "we realized that Google Street View was only the tip of the iceberg. After all, Street View imagery is usually only updated after months or even years. But there are lots of other people out there taking photos of Swiss faces every day -- whom we must protect our citizens against as well."

The "mask order" comes in conjunction with other new regulations banning tourists in Switzerland from posting to the Internet any photos of Swiss citizens, even taken in public places and gatherings. Under this new law, any such photos that are subsequently posted to the Web, will bring about swift action by Swiss authorities. This may involve Web site shutdown orders, extradition of the tourist photographers back to Switzerland if they have already left the country, and in extreme cases the so-called Swiss "doomsday" option -- the remote and permanent shutdown of any and all cuckoo clocks associated with the photos' perpetrators.

At a press conference in downtown Berne today, reporters were provided with examples of the government-approved masks that would be required under the new order [editors, see attached photo DS0393-A3 below]. Officials noted that approved masks would be available in a wide range of styles, and would include characteristics of popular Swiss folk heroes, characters from major films, and even a variety of cute animals.

In answer to a reporter's question, Biellmann explained that approved masks would be constructed from special materials that are essentially transparent to government real-time surveillance closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. "We want to assure everyone that the government will still be able to track your every move via our CCTV systems. Our goal here is simply to make sure that firms like Google, and individual tourists, are blocked from citizen photography. You can be confident that law enforcement and other aspects of the government will have full access to your actual faces at all times, everywhere you go in public. Your ugliness will not be seen by anyone else," said Biellmann.

After a brief comment period, the new masking and anti-tourist photography regulations are expected to become law on April 1, 2011.

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Update (February 25, 2011): Yes, except for the part about Switzerland demanding that Google obscure every single Swiss face in Street View -- even if it has to be done manually -- the rest of the story described in this posting is of course a satire. But you already knew that.

Posted by Lauren at February 24, 2011 01:40 PM | Permalink
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