Hold tight kids, internet privacy laws just got flipped upside down. An Italian judge found three Google executives guilty of violating the privacy of an Italian student who was bullied in a 2006 video posted on Google Video. The video resided on the site for two months before it was brought to Google's attention and pulled. None of the executives were involved in any way in the making of the abhorrent video. Nevertheless, Italian judge Oscar Magi sentenced the execs to a six-month prison sentence but cleared them of defamation charges. No jail time is expected, however, since any sentence of less than 3 years is typically commuted in Italy for those without a criminal record.
As you can imagine, Google has responded with vigor. In a post on Google's official blog ominously titled "Serious Threat to the Web in Italy," Google calls the decision "astonishing" citing the assistance it provided to local police in helping bring those who uploaded the video (and bullied the autistic child) to justice. More importantly, Google says that the decision "attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built." On the surface, we have to agree. Here's how Google describes the dystopian knock-on effect should this ruling take precedent:
"European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them - every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video - then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear."
Google will, of course, appeal.