Eric Sylvers and Eric Pfanner report:
Three Google executives were convicted of violating Italian privacy laws on Wednesday in a case that the company says could undermine freedom of expression on the Internet.
The case involved online videos showing an autistic boy being bullied by classmates in Turin. They were posted in 2006 on Google Video, an online video-sharing service that Google started before its acquisition of YouTube.
The officials who were found guilty are Peter Fleischer, Google’s chief privacy counsel; David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer, and George Reyes, a former chief financial officer. They executives, who were named because Italian law holds corporate executives responsible for a company’s actions, received six-month suspended sentences.
While the executives were found guilty of privacy violations, they were cleared of charges of defamation.
Though the executives will not have to serve prison time, the verdicts are nonetheless a black eye for Google, potentially tarnishing its self-styled “don’t be evil” image.
Read more in the New York Times.
The AFP reports:
Each executive was given a six-month suspended sentence for violation of privacy, [Google spokesperson Bill] Echikson told AFP today, adding that Google would appeal the verdict.
And the BBC provides some reactions from the defendants:
David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google and one of those convicted, said he was “outraged” by the decision.
“I intend to vigorously appeal this dangerous ruling. It sets a chilling precedent,” he said.
“If individuals like myself and my Google colleagues who had nothing to do with the harassing incident, its filming or its uploading onto Google Video can be held criminally liable solely by virtue of our position at Google, every employee of any internet hosting service faces similar liability,” he added.
Peter Fleischer, privacy counsel at Google, was also found guilty.
He questioned how many internet platforms would be able to continue if the decision held.
“I realise I am just a pawn in a large battle of forces, but I remain confident that today’s ruling will be over-turned on appeal,” he said.