Privacy Ruling Against Google in Italy Hinged on Profit Motive

Italian judge says commercialization potential means no safe harbor

In an odd case a few weeks ago, three Google executives were found guilty in an Italian court of privacy violations stemming from a video posted years back to Google Video of an autistic child being taunted by other children.

Google said that the decision was in violation of legal "safe harbor" provisions in Europe meant to protect service providers from liability for the actions of users.

But in his decision, which was translated by the Associated Press, Judge Oscar Magi said that because of Google's intent to put advertising alongside such videos it was not protected.

"There also is no such thing as the endless prairie of the Internet where everything is allowed and nothing can be banned," argued the judge, who said the he intended for the ruling to be a message that sites should be proactively screening content posted by users.

Repeating the company's earlier statement that the ruling amounts to an attack on Internet freedom, a statement of Google declared that, "If these principles are swept aside, 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."

The company is reviewing the case and says it plans to appeal the decision.

Jackson West is for once on Google's side when it comes to a privacy issue.

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