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Google Bosses Convicted In Italy
 
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24-Feb-2010  
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An Italian court has convicted three Google executives in a trial over a video showing an autistic teenager being bullied.

The Google employees were accused of breaking Italian law by allowing the video to be posted online.

Judge Oscar Magi absolved the three of defamation but convicted them of privacy violations.

The UK's former Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said the case gave privacy laws a "bad name".

The three employees, Peter Fleischer, David Drummond and George De Los Reyes, received suspended six-month sentences, while a fourth defendant, product manager Arvind Desikan, was acquitted.

David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google and one of those convicted, said he was "outraged" by the decision.

"I intend to vigorously appeal this dangerous ruling. It sets a chilling precedent," he said.

"If individuals like myself and my Google colleagues who had nothing to do with the harassing incident, its filming or its uploading onto Google Video can be held criminally liable solely by virtue of our position at Google, every employee of any internet hosting service faces similar liability," he added.

Peter Fleischer, privacy counsel at Google, questioned how many internet platforms would be able to continue if the decision held.

"I realise I am just a pawn in a large battle of forces, but I remain confident that today's ruling will be over-turned on appeal," he said.

Richard Thomas, the UK's former information commissioner and consultant to privacy law firm Hunton & Williams, said the case was "ridiculous".

"It is like prosecuting the post office for hate mail that is sent in the post," he told BBC News.

"I can't imagine anything similar happening in this country. The case wasn't brought by the Italian equivalent of the information commissioner but by criminal prosecutors and we don't know their motives.

"I find it worrying that the chief privacy officer who had nothing to do with the video has been found guilty. It is unrealistic to expect firms to monitor everything that goes online."

The verdict is likely to have ramifications for content providers around the globe.

Google said at the trial that pre-screening all YouTube content was impossible.

The video at the centre of the case was posted on Google Video in 2006 shortly before the firm acquired YouTube.

Prosecutors argued that Google broke Italian privacy law by not seeking 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 the firm also provided information on who posted it.

As a result four students were expelled from their school in Turin, northern Italy.
 
 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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