Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Businesses Google Government The Courts The Internet News

Google Privacy Counsel Facing Criminal Charges 242

Posted by kdawson
from the stay-on-the-plane dept.
ProfJonathan writes "According to a story in the IAPP's Privacy Advisor, Google's Paris-based global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, is facing criminal charges in Italy for defamation based upon a user's posting of a video to Google Video. Mr. Fleischer was on his way to the University of Milan for a speaking engagement when he was met by Italian law enforcement officials. As with the 1997 case of Compuserve's Felix Somm and the 2006 arrest in Texas of BetOnSportsUK's CEO during a layover on a trip to Costa Rica, this case once again highlights the risks faced by executives and employees of online companies whose activities may be legal and protected in their own countries, but illegal elsewhere in the world. Troubling, and worth watching."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Privacy Counsel Facing Criminal Charges

Comments Filter:
  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:16PM (#26702203)

    No kidding. [freesklyarov.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That case set a positive precedent. Dmitri and Elcomsoft were exonerated.

      If anything it will be more difficult for this type of thing to be tried in the U.S. because of that case.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:55PM (#26702753) Homepage Journal

        Really? [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

          by ushering05401 (1086795) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:13PM (#26702995) Journal

          The case you are referencing is entirely different. Carruthers and Kaplan attempted to open and advertise direct routes for Americans to circumvent U.S. law. Further more, both made statements publicly that they were aware of the illegality of their actions.

          Carruthers was hung out to dry by his own cronies and Kaplan muscled by his own as well because his past criminal activities were drawing heat to a fast growing online company.

          Neither the Elcomsoft or the Google case share anything in common with the case you referenced.

          • I should add that as a result of the Elcomsoft case the government hinged its case against Carruthers on the use of telephones.

            For a conviction of this sort the infringement must be proven 'willful.' Apparently dialing a country code is sufficient evidence whereas sending an email is not.

          • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by quarterbuck (1268694) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:48PM (#26703429)
            What next ? Playboy employees getting jailed in $MIDDLE_EASTERN_COMPANY ? What about anyone who uploaded racy pictures of themselves on the internet ? After all this could corrupt the morally pious people in the rest of the world!! Bahrain is a common stop over on flights to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand etc. - So would you consider it fair for vacationing Americans to get arrested on flights through the country ?
            Not that I think Bahrain will ever do it - Whenever I stopped there, I found the airport employees to be friendly and ready to help (even if not exactly the best informed), But they do have laws on the books if they ever needed to arrest anyone in USA.
            • If the American in question had directly targeted Bahrainian(?) citizens for the distribution of restricted content then yes, I would expect them to get arrested.

              If the American in question did not target Bahrain for distribution, then there is no infraction.

              That is the difference between these cases.

              • Like whoever posted this [youtube.com] video ?
              • But who gets to define "directly targeted?" The offended party, the offending party, or the magic objectivity fairy?

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by rtb61 (674572)

                In this case, the legal rights of a minor has been infringed, in many ways this crosses international borders as the privacy rights of minors are protected pretty well universally. Whilst it may be very expensive for google to review every video uploaded and have a dramatic affect upon profit margins, that is no excuse to break the law. So some one else uploads it, but google makes money by selling views of it via advertising, basically google and in turn it's executives are screwed.

                Any other old world h

            • by umghhh (965931)

              I think you should not panic too much. This case has more to do with incompetence and stupidity of one country judiciary than with global trends. I find it interesting that it is impossible to prosecute the main country's chieftain and his cronies - maybe public prosecutor's frustration because of this is showing up in this random acts of silliness?

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:45AM (#26706837) Homepage
          And the USA claims that it wants all of that information about who is on airplanes in its airspace so that it can combat terrorism. If they knew about him on a simple stop over then it seems that there is a lot of 'mission creep' on the use of passenger information.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:26PM (#26702355)

      But we already knew about the criminal charges [slashdot.org]

      So here's the story...

      1. Italy announces criminal charges against Google exec.
      2. Google exec goes to Italy.
      3. Google exec gets arrested.

      I'm not sure who is stupider, the Italian prosecutor for bringing this case, or the guy who went to a country where there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I wouldn't call it stupidity. Google has a martyr now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Google Martyr is still in beta.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BrokenHalo (565198) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:37PM (#26703303)
        I'm not sure who is stupider, the Italian prosecutor for bringing this case, or the guy who went to a country where there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

        The latter.

        It's about time Americans realised that the rest of the world is comprised of sovereign states not subject to their jurisdiction. I consider this a bit of a trivial case, but there are much more extreme manifestations of this attitude, such as rendition and detention without charge.

        It's not an acceptable excuse to say "it's OK for us to do it because we're the Good Guys", because much of the world has good reason to doubt that.
        • both are problematic (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Trepidity (597)

          Just because various countries are sovereign states doesn't mean it's inappropriate to criticize them if they're run by hard-right authoritarians (or hard-left authoritarians, for that matter).

        • So you'd much rather the US use it's economic strength to break countries who do this? The US can live without Italy, can Italy say the same of the US?
        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by rts008 (812749) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:50PM (#26704055) Journal

          First off, I agree with you 100% about the 'American' attitude..

          Having said that, I am struck by this, FTFA:
          "It is believed to be the first criminal sanction ever pursued against a privacy professional for his company's actions.
          The video that sparked the investigation was captured in a Turin classroom. Four high school boys were recorded taunting a young man with Down syndrome, ultimately hitting the 17-year-old with a tissue box. One of the boys uploaded the footage to Google Video's Italian site on September 8, 2006.

          According to Google, more than 200,000 videos are uploaded to Google Video each day. Under EU legislation incorporated into Italian law in 2003, Internet service providers are not responsible for monitoring third-party content on their sites, but are required to remove content considered offensive if they receive a complaint about it. Between November 6 and 7, 2006, Google received two separate requests for the removal of the video-one from a user, and one from the Italian Interior Ministry, the authority responsible for investigating Internet-related crimes. Google removed the video on November 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests.[*&*]

          Nonetheless, Milan public prosecutor Francesco Cajani decided that by allowing the 191-second clip onto its site, Google executives were in breach of Italian penal code. "

          *&* "Google removed the video on November 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests." "Google removed the video on November 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests." vv

          Peter Fleischer was on his way into the University of Milan for a speaking engagement January 23, 2008 [emphasis mine] when five law enforcement officials with summonses surrounded him. According to Fleischer, the officers had been waiting for him, but ultimately allowed him to deliver his talk before taking him to a deposition before the public prosecutor.

          Is it too hard to believe (without more info) that he 'believed*' that this was dealt with, or not an issue?

          [*yes, if you have a 'clue', you will check this shite out beforehand...but...]

          This just smells of vendetta to me; maybe I am uninformed and 'just don't know any better'...Is there more to this story than the info we being fed?(I have no clue..just asking)

          They allowed him to give his talk, but only after 'arresting' him. WTF?

          I think that more info is needed here. There seems to be a lot of pieces missing, and I noticed my 'knee-jerk' reactions getting the best of me here...Good Bye for now!

          *&* "Google removed the video on November 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests."

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            Yours is the most informative comment so far. Thank you. It certainly seems as if the law-enforcement officials in this case are overstepping their bounds. If this had happened in the US, I doubt a single person here would be defending the actions of the government.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              "law-enforcement officials in this case are overstepping their bounds"

              This case reeks of political moves. Politicians so often have ulterior motives of say one thing but aiming to do another, but ultimately their ulterior motives are always directed towards one goal. They always seek ways to gain more power over others. When this case is looked at from that perspective, of finding ways to gain power and influence over others, (in this case, gaining influence over a global information gathering company) then

          • by Pope (17780) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @10:29AM (#26708893)

            When did Google remove the video, and how soon was it after receiving the request? It's hard to figure out from your post.

  • by ctaylor (160829) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:22PM (#26702311) Homepage

    Dear Polizia,
    You're a bunch of idiots.

    Thanks,
    -The Internet

    • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous&yahoo,com> on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:38PM (#26702517) Homepage Journal
      The Polizia were just following the orders of a local prosecutor who decided he's going to split hairs on Google's legal status. Apparently "Internet Service Providers" are not responsible for what third parties post on their sites, but "Internet Content Providers" are. While most believe Google qualifies as an ISP (instead of an ICP) under the EU and Italian safe harbor laws, this local prosecutor doesn't.

      Basically an asshole Italian prosecutor trying to pull off a high-profile publicity stunt to get him the name recognition to jump to a higher elected office. This is like Elliott Spitzer, the crusading Attorney General of New York who parlayed a number of high-profile prosecutions into a successful bid to become Governor... then pissed it all away, but that's another story.

      The prosecutor's an asshole, and if there is justice in the world, he'll end up disgraced and out of a job instead of benefitting from wasting everyone's time to aggrandize himself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by auric_dude (610172)
        So far Francesco Cajani has 5,150 citations when searched for via Google. How many he will have by the time this thread ends?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by no1home (1271260)

          Cajani has 5,150 citations

          What amuses me is that '5150' is a police call used for people with mental problems. Technically, it's for someone who is a danger to himself, but is frequently misused (even by the police) for any mental case. {http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=5150}

      • by alain94040 (785132) * on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:13PM (#26702989) Homepage

        Not to split hair, but I don't think Google is providing Internet access to local users, which is my definition of an ISP. Rather, it's storing content (videos) on Google Video. That would qualify them in my book as an ICP.

        Does that justify a lawsuit and an arrest? I disagree with the law on content providers but I can see why some countries don't accept freedom of speech as an absolute value and want to put some restrictions on it (hate speech being an example).

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Lysdestic (1191833)

          Google is another fucking Insane Clown Posse?

          I thought that band finally vanished.

        • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:26PM (#26703171)

          To ensure you don't split that hair you are worried about not splitting, it's not your definition they'll be using.

          The definition I know of is: "operators of electronic communications networks and services". In other words, if you provide a service, such as YouTube. You are an ISP.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          but I can see why some countries don't accept freedom of speech as an absolute value and want to put some restrictions on it (hate speech being an example).

          Why should some countries put restrictions on freedom of speech? As soon as you put restrictions on freedom of speech you start down the path where you will end up being something like china. Hate speech should be perfectly legal, I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Who gets to decide what "hate speech" is, you can define "hate speech" as anything, really. I could say that you saying your opinion on this matter is hate speech if I really wanted to.

      • by barzok (26681) on Monday February 02, 2009 @11:49PM (#26704527)

        This is like Elliott Spitzer, the crusading Attorney General of New York who parlayed a number of high-profile prosecutions into a successful bid to become Governor... then pissed it all away

        Right organ, wrong fluid.

  • by olddotter (638430) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:23PM (#26702329) Homepage

    It sucks for those that get arrested, but eventually things will get to the point where people/companies avoid travel to countries with such restrictive laws. That in turn will cut down on business deals and partnerships, etc. The countries will pay for these laws economically.

    (On a similar note, the US is probably going to suffer based on the increasing issues with travel in the "Post 911 World.")

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by narcberry (1328009)

      The US *DOES* suffer from businesses that avoid our borders due to the patriot act alone. Most businesses are not excited about opening all their data to our government on merit of it crossing a U.S. boundary alone.

      It makes you wonder how much data enters "the U.S." without ever being near it. Would make for a good conspiracy theory, minus the made up stuff.

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:32PM (#26702427)

    ... to remove something like that.

    I know this is my opinion on how hasty one ought be, but its not like Google was condoning the act or promoting the video. It seems that they were not immediately aware, and once made aware, moved quickly to make things right.

    Whats the problem here? Do we all have a duty to right the wrongs of others in nanoseconds if those wrongs are somehow involved in our own publicly accessible properties? What about offensive graffiti? What about belligerent racism on a myspace comments section?

    What if Italy has had a terrorist in its borders for more than 24 hours? Ought we hold them accountable for harboring terrorism due to lack of rapid response?

    Che cazzo, Italia.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mindstormpt (728974)

      Ought we hold them accountable for harboring terrorism due to lack of rapid response?

      That's a really stupid analogy! The answer is no, it's not like you're the arbiter of terrorism, or like your notions or laws on terrorism apply to another sovereign state.

      Other than that, yes, his arrest was stupid.

  • Since the Internet's reach is global, and the communications and transactions that take place on it are global, it only makes sense that a global legal jurisdiction needs to be set up to deal with such issues.

    This law regime needs to trump national laws.

    Its establishment would require negotiation of appropriate universal standards. It is interesting to speculate whether this would have to tend toward the least restricting and punitive law or the most. I suspect that "the least" or some average of the rules

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Microlith (54737)

      That's cute.

      Its establishment would require negotiation of appropriate universal standards. It is interesting to speculate whether this would have to tend toward the least restricting and punitive law or the most.

      This alone makes the idea futile. To give the law any point you would need to err on the side of the most restrictive, because for any one law you could have the least restrictive be "no law at all" and thus your efforts are pointless.

      Which means your laws would effectively be dictated by china and

      • by chaboud (231590)

        This is what treaties are for.

        Since much of the current internet value is based in relatively open western nations, now would be a good time to legally restrict internet connectivity to nations that don't adhere to the treaty... scorched earth, basically.

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          Problem is, the UN and other international bodies have been long on the side of reducing the influence of first-world nations in the name of ending discrimination against poorer, third-world nations. Hence things like putting Iran on the Human Rights Commission.

          Should any international law come in to play, what you would likely see is the US would opt out of it. EU might go along and all of the Third World would sign on. I'd guess Russia would also not sign on. This pretty much makes a mockery of any su

        • Only if we can restrict the US from breeding oxygen unless they sign the Kioto Protocol.

          • by Artifakt (700173)

            All the oxygen around seems to be already bound up in long duration coital pairs or three ways with hydrogen, except for some more promiscuous oxygen atoms linked in various, mostly downright orgiastic molecules, so stopping it from breeding seems like a long shot unless Oxygen atoms are naturally infertile.

    • What will happen when an individual country decides to withdraw and begins detaining expatriates within its borders?
      • the other countries break them out by force. Once anyone involved in detaining individuals outside of jurisdiction knows that they have a 50% of getting a bullet in the head from some special forces, you'll soon see a complete inability of governments to actually get anyone to detain people for them. Especially when the people doing the detaining are not soldiers, but ordinary police officers and prison warders - these people did not sign up for the risk of being placed in genuine danger of their lives.

        • by Ironsides (739422)

          Especially when the people doing the detaining are not soldiers, but ordinary police officers and prison warders - these people did not sign up for the risk of being placed in genuine danger of their lives.

          Last I checked, that was what Police do, put their lives on the line. I'd have to think about it a bit more with regards to prison warders.

          • by phulegart (997083)

            Police do... and in some extreme cases (the bank robbery against the two guys in body armor and automatic weapons) they go head to head against hard forces. However, the police, in general, if they knew a trained military force was coming to oppose them would turn into civilians VERY quickly. A related case in point, when Katrina hit New Orleans, we saw Police turn into civilians VERY quickly, and some joined in on the looting. Others went VERY far, and were hard to track down eventually. And that was j

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      See, I think just the opposite. Something like what you say is likely to happen soon, and it makes NO sense.
    • That's how you get organizations like WIPO. Are you sure that's a good idea?

    • The rest of you just need to declare the U.S. as your sovereign then petition for statehood.

      I'm all for it! Bring the us back into U.S. Then er can rape and pillage ourselves instead of everyone else!

    • ... It's likely to be Sharia law.

      At the moment the various factions of Islam apparently total to more than essentially any other coalition with a common/compatible idea of what "the law" should require and prohibit.

      (Granted there are disagreements on details among the factions - some of them major. But there are also great swaths of common ground.)

  • by butlerm (3112) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:41PM (#26702545)

    First of all, this sort of prosecution is likely to be immensely counterproductive. What kind of businessperson would want to travel to Italy when they prosecute individuals for supervisory responsibility of departments that have made a diligent, good faith effort to comply with the local laws from 10,000 miles away?

    In addition, the modern conception of legal jurisdiction is all screwed up. Traditionally, jurisdiction comes with the territory. Physical presence in the jurisdiction is required when an essential part of the crime is committed. That is why, for example, states cannot force companies who do not have a physical presence in their state to collect sales tax on online purchases for them. The idea that you can prosecute somebody for an ordinary crime when all the relevant actions occurred outside your physical jurisdiction is a very bad precedent.

    So rather than arresting visiting Google executives, if Italy feels so strongly about this, why not just shut down Google's local operations (if any), or create a national firewall and filter Google at the border? Or require ISPs to filter their entries from local DNS servers? Or threaten to do so unless Google pays some civil fine?

    • The idea that you can prosecute somebody for an ordinary crime when all the relevant actions occurred outside your physical jurisdiction is a very bad precedent.

      The video was uploaded inside Italy.
      Therefore, not "all the relevant actions occurred outside [Italy's] physical jurisdiction"

      Or did I miss something between the summary, the article, and your post?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by homer_ca (144738)

      These kinds of criminal prosecutions are a uniquely Italian phenomenon, and I'm not surprised at all. One case I remember off the top of my head was Frank Williams, *owner* of the Williams F1 team faced criminal charges in the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola.

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/formula_1/article1055305.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

  • by BUL2294 (1081735) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:53PM (#26702731)

    What if I'm an anti-Chinese blogger that catches the ire of someone in the Chinese government... Worse, what if my words cause economic harm to China--bad for them but great for my blog... They put out an arrest warrant for me for "defaming"... Now, while I wouldn't fear extradition from the US over my freedom of speech, does this mean that I'm in danger of being extradited to China should I travel to a country that has a liberal extradition treaty with China? Sure sounds like it...

    I agree with another poster--it's time for some basic "global laws." It's too bad the UN is too gridlocked and useless to prevent situations like these from happening...

    • by russotto (537200) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:01PM (#26702837) Journal

      I agree with another poster--it's time for some basic "global laws."

      It's too bad those global laws, if enacted, would likely go the other way (since they're going to be written by politicians) -- you wouldn't be protected from extradition to China; rather, you'd be forbidden from criticizing China on the Internet, and the US would be required to extradite you.

    • by mdmkolbe (944892)

      it's time for some basic "global laws."

      Global laws mean there is nowhere to flee to when bad laws get passed.

  • by Photo_Nut (676334) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:45PM (#26703389)

    If I were Google, I would respond to this by immediately removing access to Google Video and Youtube from all Italian IP addresses, citing the trial. If I were Google and I was vindictive, I would also remove access to Google.com Google Maps (iPhone users are probably influential in Italy) and GMail.

    It would be the over-reacting response to this over-reacting lawsuit which would cause a crisis far greater than necessary, but it would show the world how ridiculous the response would need to be to prevent such lawsuits. I mean - GMail - you can insult someone from there, right? Google.com - you can search insults from there, right?

    So to be cautious, they'd just have to turn off those services while this lawsuit was pending.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Technically it's a prosecution, not a lawsuit. He's facing jail time, not being sued.
    • by Icarus1919 (802533) on Monday February 02, 2009 @11:34PM (#26704421)
      Due to the loss in revenue to Google, this would never happen.
      • by gknoy (899301)

        It might send a message to other nations that you don't screw with them when they've already worked to comply with your laws, though.

        Not that this is the best idea, but yeah. Suspending service for even a few days would get the message across, I expect.

    • by Hairy1 (180056)

      Actually this is pretty reasonable. If it isn't possible for Google to monitor the content being posted the only alternative is to block Italy from accessing the offending services and content. State that you are being responsive to the concerns of Italy, and then watch the Government crucify those responsible for bringing charges.

    • Good idea, but I'd also go all Ross Perot on their asses and send in some mercenaries to rescue the executive.
    • by Mike1024 (184871)

      If I were Google, I would respond to this by immediately removing access to Google Video and Youtube from all Italian IP addresses, citing the trial.

      There's a risk that if a big foreign corporation blackmails a country to release an executive arrested on low-quality charges; that people would infer the big foreign corporation would also blackmail a country to release an executive arrested on high-quality charges for real, serious crimes.

      I mean, the only difference is one violates 'don't be evil' and the other doesn't. I can understand why the Italian government might not want their entire justice system to depend on Google following their motto.

      It seems

    • by Rangsk (681047)

      Your post concerns me because of the far-reaching consequences it implies. What you are suggesting is that a corporation has more power than a government, and can indeed blackmail that government into giving it amnesty for any crime.

      Whether or not I agree with this particular prosecution, the thought that Google would have the power to undermine the efforts of a government scares me. Even more frightening is that many Slashdotters here agree that your suggestion not only would work, but is also a reasonab

  • All he needs is a marker. Visit the prosecutor. Write "Peter Fleischer is a poopie head" on his desk. File a counter suit over the defamatory content written on his desk.
  • With today's technology, why take such risks with meat-meetings?

    Get online, and get with it, man.

All the evidence concerning the universe has not yet been collected, so there's still hope.

Working...