Google to Appeal Italian Privacy Ruling and Jail-Time Sentence

Google LogoGoogle is set to appeal the conviction of three Google execs. The conviction, which includes jail time, is for privacy violations involved in allowing Google Video content to be posted. Google will appeal the ruling as soon as January.

Google’s Appeal

Peter Fleischer, who acts as Google’s global privacy counsel and who is also a defendant in this case, confirmed the company’s intentions to appeal. That appeal will happen in early 2012, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The other two defendants in this case are David Drummond, Google’s SVP of Corporate Development, and George De Los Reyes, a former Google board member. Details on Google’s representation in Italy, the anticipated legal battle, and court dates have yet to be released.

The Case’s History

The case centers around footage posted to Google Video in 2006. The content showed Italian students harassing a fellow student who has autism. While the content was pulled down less than 24 hours after it was posted, the Italian government decided to charge Google representatives with both defamation and privacy violations.

The Italian Government first chose to pursue the case as a criminal matter in February 2009. This meant that, beyond any civil penalties and damages, Google execs faced the possibility of jail time. In November 2009, the Italian government moved forward with pursuit of “six-month to a year sentences.”

While broadly dismissed as a ridiculous case that would almost certainly fail to stick, the February 2010 ruling found three of the four executives guilty of the privacy violations. (The defamation charges came back as “not guilty.”) The executives were sentenced to six months in jail.

As the executives awaited an appeal, their jail time was suspended. As Google appeals the ruling, the sentences will either be dismissed or served.

The case is noteworthy in how hard is pushes against the boundaries of privacy laws for content distributors on the web. Do you think the case will be dismissed? What responsibility, from a legal perspective, should content distributors have for the content published on their platform? Who should be held responsible when the law is violated? And, should the execs be confirmed as guilty in this case, should Google or the U.S. government resist the choice? Sound off in the comments.

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