Google executives convicted

Online 'bullying' video leads Italian court to convict three senior executives

An Italian court has found three Google executives guilty of privacy code violations.

Peter Fleischer, chief privacy counsel; David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer; and George Reyes, a former chief financial officer were given six month suspended prison sentences for privacy violations arising from a video posted on YouTube. The three defendants were acquitted of defamation, and a fourth defendant, Arvind Desikan, charged only with defamation, was acquitted.

Google said it removed the video, which showed Turin school pupils bullying an autistic child, within two hours of receiving a formal complaint. It also assisted the police in identifying the person responsible for uploading the video.

But prosecutors said Google waited to remove the video until after complaints to the police. It was argued that Google was a content provider, not a service provider, because it handles user data and uses content to generate advertising revenue. Italian privacy law prohibits the use of someone’s personal data with the intent of harming him or making a profit.

A spokesman for Google, Bill Echikson, called the ruling “astonishing” and said the company would appeal. Critics of the ruling claim that in Italy, Google and other similar sites will now have to monitor user-generated content to avoid potential criminal liability.