What next for Google?

What next for Google?

1st March 2010, Comments 0 comments

The conviction of three Google bosses by a court in Milan could have serious consequences for the internet giant, experts say.

The decision comes on the back of claims of anti-competitive activity, as the company suffers its worst week for several years.

Judges in Milan ruled on Wednesday that Google had violated the privacy of an Italian boy with autism by allowing a video of him being bullied to be published on the site in 2006. Google's senior vice-president David Drummond and his colleagues George De Los Reyes and Peter Fleischer were handed six-month suspended sentences for their role in the affair.

Not guilty

The company denied any wrongdoing, and communications manager Bill Echikson said: "They didn't upload it, they didn't film it, they didn't review it, and yet they have been found guilty."

But although Google has threatened to appeal against the court's decision, it will nevertheless have serious implications for its privacy policy, according to US-based 'Google watcher' Ian Paul: "It depends on how far this goes and if this becomes a trend worldwide. Right now it's just restricted to Italy, but if it extends across Europe or influences decisions in other countries it could be much further reaching."

Photo Wikimedia

The complaint against Google was made by an Italian advocacy group for people with Down's Syndrome, Vivi Down, after a child was filmed being set upon by four of his classmates. It later transpired the victim was autistic.

'Dangerous precedent'

The company argued that European Law makes it clear hosting providers are not responsible for monitoring content, and Drummond said the decision on Wednesday sets "a dangerous precedent".

It is not the first time Google has been slammed for allowing the publication of offensive material - last year it was criticised for refusing to remove an image of US First Lady Michelle Obama depicted looking like a monkey, which many said was racially offensive.

Photo WikimediaAnd the court ruling comes after three EU-based companies complained Google's ranking system places competitors lower down the page, arguing that this violates the strict competition laws of the 27 member-state European Union.

Ian Paul, who writes for PC World, carried out his own investigation.

He typed "price comparison sites UK" into Google's search engine and found Foundem - a competitor to Google's own shopping service - was only listed at the bottom of the third page of results.

Google's chief lawyer Julia Holtz is confident the company won't suffer from the anti-trust allegations, saying EU scrutiny "in all likelihood... will not go anywhere.

The Commission has not expressed any hint of guilt."


Marijke Peters
Radio Netherlands

Head Photo credit: clevercupcakes



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