Google Stands up Against Italian Law System

Three Google execs have been convicted on charges of privacy violation in an Italian court, based on a horrid schoolkid bullying clip on YouTube. Though the video is shocking, it's the Italian legal system that's truly appalling.

Google's own blog describes what occurred: In 2006, some school students in Turin bullied a schoolmate, suffering from autism according to Google. This was terrible enough, but these bullies also filmed the event, and uploaded it to YouTube. The Italian police became involved, and notified Google officially about the offending clip--it was taken "down within hours."

Google's team then cooperated with the police to identify the perpetrators, and the data was subsequently key in convicting the female uploader, who received 10 months community service as a penalty, along with other involved male students. Google notes that "in these rare but unpleasant cases, that's where [their] involvement would end," Fast Company reports.

A Google spokesman in Milan said the ruling was "astonishing" and Google would appeal. None of the executives was present in court.

The judge hearing the case in Milan, Oscar Magi, gave the three Google staff members — David Drummond, Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer, George Reyes, its former chief financial officer, and Peter Fleischer, its global privacy counsel — a six-month suspended sentence each, but absolved them of defamation charges.

A fourth defendant, Arvind Desikan, Google's senior product marketing manager, was acquitted. None was involved in either production of the video or its uploading, but prosecutors argued that it should have been taken down immediately after it shot to the top of the "most-viewed" list, Times Online reports.

David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer and one of the three people convicted, said he was "outraged" by the court's decision.

The Italian courts have a record of pursuing technology companies for the misdemeanours of their users. Last year, Italy's taxation regulators opened an investigation in to eBay, demanding that it hand over the details of customers who had sold goods through the auction site between 2004 and 2007. Yahoo! has also been asked by public prosecutors to surrender the private emails of suspected criminals, while Facebook was forced to hand over the personal information of users who were using the social-networking site to "glorify" Mafia figures, and promoting the violent death of Silvio Berlusconi, reports.

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