“Google’s global privacy counsel will appear in Italian court this week on criminal charges of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data. The charges follow a two-year investigation by Italian authorities into footage uploaded onto Google Video that showed a disabled teen being disparaged by peers,” reports the International Association of Privacy Professionals.
Google’s Paris-based Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer and three other executives charged in the case will appear before the Criminal Court of Milan on February 3. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 36 months.
It is believed to be the first criminal sanction ever pursued against a privacy professional for his company’s actions.
The video that sparked the investigation was captured in a Turin classroom. Four high school boys were recorded taunting a young man with Down syndrome, ultimately hitting the 17-year-old with a tissue box. One of the boys uploaded the footage to Google Video’s Italian site on September 8, 2006. […]
Google removed the video on November 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests.
Nonetheless, Milan public prosecutor Francesco Cajani decided that by allowing the 191-second clip onto its site, Google executives were in breach of Italian penal code. […]
Cajani is prosecuting Google as an Internet content provider. Unlike Internet service providers, Italian penal code states that Internet content providers are responsible for the third-party content posted to their sites. This is essentially the same law regulating newspaper and television publishers.
But the Internet is a different medium, says Google. “We cannot agree with the concept that a tool can be blamed for the use that is made of it,” a company spokesperson said.
More details in IAPP’s full story. Here’s an interview with with Google’s Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer, news that he has joined a group advising the European Commission on privacy, and his unofficial blog on privacy.