Privacy and Google

Today’s post on the Official Google Blog, Serious threat to the web in Italy, has background on an Italian court convicting three Google executives in a trial over a YouTube video showing an autistic teenager being bullied. The Google employees were accused of breaking Italian law by allowing the video to be posted online. While the judge cleared the three Google employees of the the defamation charges, he convicted them of privacy violations and imposed suspended six-month sentences. A fourth defendant was acquitted. Google claimed that pre-screening all YouTube content was impossible. The video was posted on YouTube in 2006 shortly before Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in an all stock transaction.

Italian prosecutors argued that Google violated Italian privacy law in not obtaining the consent of all the parties involved before allowing it to go online. Google’s lawyers said that the video was removed as soon as it was brought to its attention and that it provided information on those responsible for posting it, four students who were later expelled from their school in Turin.

The NY Times article Google Loses in Italian Privacy Case has more detail on the facts of the case. Google plans to appeal the findings of the Italian court. More than the fate of these three employees are at stake. It seems that Italy may pursue similar cases against other net giants, such as eBay, Yahoo and Facebook. Broader legal issues are the subject of a post at Concurring Opinions, Google Officials Criminally Culpable for YouTube Video, where the author Daniel Solove suggests that the case go to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) under Article 8 and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Jurist reports that the Italian case is just part of Google’s privacy-related legal troubles. Last week, an internet privacy group filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Google Buzz violates privacy laws. Canada’s Privacy Commissioner also issued a press release asking Google to explain how Google Buzz has addressed privacy issues since its recent launch. The privacy concerns about Google Buzz are spelled out in detail in a Jurist post Google’s “Buzz” should have required consent for secondary use of private information. The new product has led to inadvertent disclosures of personal information to unintended people. Google Buzz links to Gmail so that if a new user accepts the default options and does not opt-out or edit this Gmail list during profile creation, the whole list becomes part of the user’s profile available to the public. This video explains Google Buzz.