Google Loses Italian Privacy Case

For most of us, the recent Amanda Knox murder case was our introduction to the Italian justice system. Well, according to today’s New York Times article, several Google executives have gotten acquainted with some further nuances. For example, if you host user-generated content, you can be convicted of violating someone’s privacy if an upload to your site violates it – even if you cooperate with Italian authorities in the removal of the objectionable content and identification of the culprits.

This is a serious threat to the open sharing of information that has driven the web’s rapid adoption and growth. To force sites like YouTube to do prior filtering and checking would impose a huge burden on such sites, and could alter the viability of their business model. Worse, though, legislation purporting to protect the citizens of Italy could instead result in robbing them of free access to the web and all its unpredictable and messy usefulness. If the world ends up divided between net-freedom-haves and net-freedom-have-nots, Italy could end up on the same side of that line as China. That is not the side I’d choose to live on, no matter how good the wine and cheese are.

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