Google Forced to Respect Max Mosley’s Privacy and Remove Embarrassing Images

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A court in France ruled in favor of former Formula One racer Max Mosley, ordering that Google remove images taken from an orgy from its search results. The ruling may indicate a push toward privacy, especially in Europe.

The photos had originally been published in News of the World, a British tabloid that no linger exists. The tabloid had touted the photos as evidence that Mosley had thrown a “sick Nazi orgy.”

While Mosley had already won a privacy suit against the tabloid, the pictures still appeared in Google search results. Mosley filed a lawsuit in September to have Google remove the embarrassing images.

Carsten Casper, a privacy and security analyst at the consulting firm Gartner in Berlin, told the New York Times, “At this point in time, the pendulum is swinging toward individuals’ privacy and away from freedom of speech.”

Daphne Keller, Google’s associate general counsel, disagreed with the French court’s decision. “This is a troubling ruling with serious consequences for free expression and we will appeal it,” she said. “Even though we already provide a fast and effective way of removing unlawful material from our search index, the French court has instructed us to build what we believe amounts to a censorship machine.” 

Attorney Clara Zerbib, who represented Mosley, called the ruling a “fair decision.”

“This case isn’t about censoring information, but about complying with French law,” she said.

European countries tend to have tighter privacy laws than the United States, and Google is involved in multiple lawsuits over similar issues overseas. According to French regulation, it is not lawful to distribute private photos of an individual unless they grant permission.

Google must now remove nine images of Mosley, and will be subject to a fine of 1,000 euros each time one of the offending images shows up in a search.

Sources: NYTimes, The Globe and Mail