There has been a very interesting legal battle going on in Italy in which 3 Google employees were convicted to be guilty of not complying with the Italian privacy code, by a judge in Milan today. It all started way back in 2006, when students at a school in Turin, Italy filmed and then uploaded a video to Google Video that showed them bullying an autistic schoolmate. There was no doubt that the video was reprehensible and condemnable and hence Google took the video down immediately and even worked with the local police to help pin down the culprits, who were subsequently sentenced and punished.
But the case didn’t end there, as the public prosecutor in Milan decided to indict 4 Google employees under Italian Privacy act. As pointed out by Google in a post today,
those 4 had nothing to do with this video. They did not appear in it, film it, upload it or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video’s existence until after it was removed.
Still, the court has decided to convict them in their ruling and this means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload. This is atrocious to say the least. It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. I agree that many a times freedom is misunderstood and misused and Google has many a times been on the wrong side when it comes to privacy, but in the current scenario, convicting the Google employees for privacy concerns is heavily misplaced.
As Google says,
Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming.
The hosting company can be held liable only if it fails to take down the illegal content on receiving the complaint/notice, but cannot be expected to review/monitor each and every data being uploaded on to their servers. I hope the common sense prevails and the judgment is revoked at the earliest. Paolo Brini sums it up nicely – “In all of history, nobody ever thought you had to put in jail a postman because a package contained something illegal.”
Do pour in your views.