Google Execs Facing Trial for Privacy and Defamation in Italian Court

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Four Google executives have been the target of criminal privacy charges in a Milan court over a video of a bullied disabled child which was uploaded and broadcast on Google Video. An Italian prosecutor has served charges against the execs, who, according to the Financial Times, include David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, and Peter Fleischer, its top privacy executive.

The four executives are charged with criminal defamation against the disabled boy and with breaching the Italian privacy code. They face up to three years in prison if convicted. One of the executives, George Reyes, former chief financial officer, has since retired from Google. The fourth is Arvind Desikan, a senior product marketing manager.

The case relates to an incident at a school in Turin in 2006 that caused outrage in Italy. Four boys were filmed teasing another boy, who has Down’s syndrome. A three-minute mobile phone recording of the incident was uploaded to Google Video, where it was seen by thousands of users over almost two months before being removed by Google after the Italian government and police intervened.

The Milan prosecution believes that Google should have intervined to prevent the footage from reaching the public, and in-turn, violated the privacy of the disabled youth. Google maintains that the company cannot monitor every single video uploaded to Google properties such as YouTube or Google Video (at the time) and that Google “removed the video as soon as the company became aware of it, and that the group had co-operated with investigators in identifying the four boys involved.”

Google released this statement : “Seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open internet. We will continue to vigorously defend our employees in this prosecution.”

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • It would be interesting to hear how the four bullies were treated/punished – one suspects that their lack of deep pockets meant they received no punishment whilst the authorities seek to trouser some cash from Goog.
    However you look at it, it’s not the proudest moment for Italian Justice.