Google execs convicted of privacy breach in Italian court

24 Feb 2010

Three Google executives were today convicted in a Milan court for failure to comply with the Italian privacy code in connection with a video upload by a Google Video site user in late 2006 depicting a school bullying incident.

Google is appealing this decision and says it is “deeply troubled” by this sequence of events, adding that the conviction attacks the very principles of internet freedom by way of finding a hosting service guilty of criminal defamation for content created and uploaded by a user.

“Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming,” said Matt Sucherman, VP and deputy general counsel, EMEA, Google.

The three convicted executives – David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes – had nothing to do with the creation or upload of this video, nor were they aware of its existence or the fact that Google had removed it as soon as Italian police had informed them of its presence on the video site.

Sucherman went on to cite the fact that European Union law is meant to protect service providers from liability once they remove any illegal content after being notified of its existence.

“The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take-down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy.

He said that this decision sets precedent for sites like Blogger, YouTube and other social networks to be responsible for “vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video” thus changing the very nature of the internet and the political, social, economic and technological benefits it brings.

By Marie Boran