The worldwide reach of the World Wide Web means companies have exposure to violating other countries laws, even from colourful, “don’t be evil” offices in Mountain View, California.
One former and two current Google executives — its chief privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, its senior VP and chief legal officer, David Drummond, and its former CFO George Reyes — were found guilty in an Italian court today of violating privacy laws, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported. The three received suspended six-month sentences.
The charges stemmed from a video uploaded to Google Video by Turin teens in 2006, depicting themselves bullying a disabled classmate. Though Google took the video down when it was alerted to its existence and assisted authorities in identifying the teens, it spent almost two months in Google’s “funniest video” category, according to Bloomberg’s review of court filings.
The Italian prosecutor expressed satisfaction with the ruling and that, “Protection of human beings must prevail over any business logic,” while Google called it “astonishing” and promised to appeal.
Criminal charges being filed if the same situation occurred in the United States (which, with the rampant popularity of YouTube bully videos, it does) would of course be unheard of, and civil charges are nearly impossible to pursue successfully as well. (That does not mean people do not try, of course — but actions have a much greater chance of being successful if the offensive behaviour is the company’s, not a third-party uploading content.)
Google noted this could chill the development of the Internet in Italy; we wonder if the long-term impact will actually be a reconsideration of laws that were created well before the Internet existed.
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