Google executives to appear before Milan court
By Vincent Boland in Milan and Richard Waters in San Francisco
Published: June 21 2009 17:20 | Last updated: June 21 2009 17:20
Four executives from Google, the internet search company, are to appear before a Milan court on Tuesday in a trial that could have significant implications for internet privacy and the future of video-sharing websites.
An Italian prosecutor has laid criminal charges against the four, who include David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, and Peter Fleischer, its top privacy executive, after footage of a disabled boy being bullied by other boys was broadcast on Google Video.
The four executives are charged with criminal defamation against the disabled boy and with breaching the Italian privacy code. They face up to three years in prison if convicted. One of the executives, George Reyes, former chief financial officer, has since retired from Google. The fourth is Arvind Desikan, a senior product marketing manager.
The case relates to an incident at a school in Turin in 2006 that caused outrage in Italy. Four boys were filmed teasing another boy, who has Down’s syndrome. A three-minute mobile phone recording of the incident was uploaded to Google Video, where it was seen by thousands of users over almost two months before being removed by Google after the Italian government and police intervened.
The prosecutor, Francesco Cajani, argued that Google should have acted to prevent the broadcast of the footage and that by failing to do so it breached the disabled boy’s privacy. Google maintained that it removed the video as soon as the company became aware of it, and that the group had co-operated with investigators in identifying the four boys involved.