Tag Archives: Reuters

Viacom Wins Appeals Court Reversal Against Google

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Uh oh, looks like Google might be in a bit of a mess. Remember that epic legal battle between Viacom and YouTube a few years ago? Well, it’s being given new life.

Back in 2007 Viacom sued Google for knowingly allowing users to post copyrighted material on YouTube. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for over a billion dollars and the video-sharing site was founded in 2005. Viacom, along with other companies, believe that YouTube wasn’t doing enough to take down their content and sought over $1 billion from Google. However, Google always believed that it shouldn’t be held responsible for what its users do and the company says that it takes down copyrighted content when notified.

Viacom and Google fought over this issue for several years until June 2010 when a lower court ruled in favor of Google. The court agreed with Google’s argument that it shouldn’t be held responsible if its users infringe copyright. The court upheld an interpretation of the 1998 federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that protects companies from liability for what its users do online. It was seen as a big victory for Google at the time.

Fast-forward almost two years later and this issue is back to give Google some headaches. Viacom filled an appeal in October 2011 saying that the dismissal of their lawsuit was “fundamentally flawed”.  Today, a panel of judges at an appeals court agreed with Viacom and reversed the decision of the lower court saying that it’s quite obvious that YouTube knew about the copyrighted content being uploaded but did nothing to stop it.

Viacom is obviously thrilled by the reversal and released a statement:

“This balanced decision provides a thoughtful way to distinguish legitimate service providers from those that build their businesses on infringement. The court delivered a definitive, common sense message to YouTube – intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law. We are confident we will prevail when the merits of our case are heard”

This also opens the door for several other companies who have issues with Google’s video-sharing website. It includes several sport leagues, music publishers, artists, and news agencies. They are delighted by the appeals court decision and will seize their chance to protect their material.

Viacom seems to have a love-hate relationship with Google. Viacom has a reputation for being quite litigious and so it suing Google is to be expected – but the two of them have also been working with each other. Viacom now has YouTube channels set up and receives revenue from it. And just yesterday it was announced that a deal was made so that online users could rent Paramount Pictures (a subsidiary of Viacom) movies from YouTube’s rental store.

Awkward….anyway, we’ll see what happens between these two as they get ready to rehash this old argument.

For more information:

The Guardian, “Judge reanimates Viacom’s $1bn copyright suit against YouTube” – click here

CBSNews, “Revived Viacom suit spells trouble for Google” – click here

The Register, “Viacom’s anti-Google copyright case rises from the dead” – click here

Reuters, “Viacom wins reversal in landmark YouTube case” – click here

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Frenchman Sues Google For Violating His Right To Urinate In Peace

 You would think that it is a simple request to ask for a bit of privacy when nature calls and you have no other option but to urinate outdoors. However, a man from a small rural village of about 3000 people in a northwest region of France found out that this was too much to ask of Google.

Now, the man is suing Google for making him a laughing stock and the subject of ceaseless ridicule. Google’s intrusive and controversial Street View service took the photo of the man urinating and published it on their website. After being made fun of by fellow villagers, he investigated what could be causing him so much grief.

He discovered a slightly blurred photo of himself on Google’s site as he was relieving himself on his property. Needless to say, he was absolutely mortified – and in a small village word sure does travel fast. The man says that despite the slight blurring of the photo, villagers were still able to recognize him. The man’s lawyer, Jean-Noel Bouillard, is quoted to have said:

“He discovered the existence of this photo after noticing that he had become an object of ridicule. My client lives in a tiny hamlet where everyone recognized him”

He went on to say that everybody should have the right to a degree of privacy, even in the outdoors. Google’s omnipresence online and offline the Internet is something that is rubbing many people the wrong way who feel that Google has absolutely no respect for the privacy of individuals.

The man was caught urinating in November 2010, from behind a close gate. But Google’s “All-Seeing Eye” ball was attached on top of their Street View equipped vehicles and has about nine cameras looking out in every direction as it records everything it sees. The All-Seeing Eye is designed to not miss a thing.

Google’s Street View service has been available in France since 2008 and was initially launched the year before in the United States. It isn’t the first time Google’s cameras have caught people in compromising situations. The cameras have caught women sunbathing in the nude, couples having sex, people naked through a window in their own home, and countless other examples of embarrassing moments in people’s lives.

In May 2010, it was revealed that Google’s Street View cars also collected unencrypted Wi-Fi data when the cars passed by houses and buildings. This caused major controversy for the company at the time and sparked an investigation.

France’s data privacy regulator imposed a record fine of €100,000 ($142,000) on Google last March for collecting private information while compiling photos for the service

Despite all this, when asked to comment on the Frenchman’s lawsuit, a lawyer for Google said that lawsuit against the company is “implausible“. 

A French court is expected to make a judgment later this month.

For more information:

AFP, “Peeing Frenchman sues Google for making him ‘laughing stock’ ” – click here (article hosted on Google’s site)

Reuters, “Frenchman sues over Google Views urination photo” – click here


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The EU Justice Commissioner Says Google’s New Privacy Policy Breaks European Law

The European Union’s Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, told BBC Radio Four that Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy breaches privacy laws that are meant to protect European citizens. She made this judgment public on the World At One program the same day Google fully implemented its new privacy policy and two days after a French data protection agency released a report finding Google’s new privacy policy ‘deeply concerning’ (for more on this – click here).

The European Commission is in the process of overhauling their privacy rules so that it can address important issues of the 21st century. They recognize that a greater number of people are spending more time on the Internet. With so many of us spending significant amount of our time on the web, it obviously means that we are in desperate need of greater protections. The Commission wants to streamline privacy rules across all of Europe.

Google announced that they were going to toss out all their privacy policies across all their different services to combine it into a singular policy that would apply to all. Of course, this means now that Google can track you more easily all over the web and make it more efficient to sell your personal data to advertisers.

Europeans are very protective of their online privacy and they were immediately concerned about Google’s announcement, which the company made in late January. European regulators asked Google to delay their new privacy policy until a full investigation could be completed. Google outright refused.

Now, Google has to face the music for its arrogance and lack of respect for the legal process. Google commented several times that it was confident that it was abiding by laws and behaved as if the company knows European law better than the people who made those laws in the first place. They obviously do not and, despite warnings, Google went through with changing their privacy policies.

Google was basically asking for it by ignoring the EU privacy regulators when those regulators asked the company to halt their new privacy policy. It’s as if Google immaturely said to them: “make me!”

Ms. Reding was asked in what respects has Google broken EU laws. She said,

“In numerous respects. One is that nobody had been consulted, it is not in accordance with the law on transparency and it utilizes the data of private persons in order to hand it over to third parties, which is not what the users have agreed to. Protection of personal data is a basic rule of the European Union. It is inscribed in the treaties. It is not an if, it is a must”  

She even went on to say that many people are in dark about the full implications of using Google’s services. The company fails to fully tell users to what extent their information will be stored and to whom it will be shared with. People don’t know what they are getting themselves into:

“Seventy percent of users rarely, or never, use terms and conditions which very often are written in small print, very complicated, not understandable for the normal user, and users are worried. Eighty percent of British citizens say they’re concerned about what is going on now”

She said that companies like Google, which make over 90% of their revenues from advertising, have a business model that leaves users completely vulnerable to violations of their privacy. However, the EU will not sit back and watch Google exploit innocent people who are often times unaware just how much damage is being done to them:

“We know data is the bloodstream of these new industries … but at the same time there are basic European rules … which have to be applied, and unfortunately we always see that those rules are just not observed, and illegality is taking over”

Google – it looks like you’re about to be made.

For more information:

BBC, “Google privacy changes ‘in breach of EU law’” – click here

Reuters, “EU agencies say Google breaking law – commissioner” – click here

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Are You Sure You’re Fully Protected Against Google’s Tracking?

 Are you protected on the Internet? What can you do to better protect yourself? What browsers do the best job in protecting your personal data? What is the government doing to proactively introduce laws to protect you?

With so many social networking websites out there and since more of us are spending more of our time on mobile devices than ever before, we need to make sure that we are fully protected from people who want to harvest our personal data.

Google’s social networking site, Google Plus, and its mobile device software, Android, use applications developed by outside companies. When you choose to load these applications (apps) to your profile on Google Plus or to your Smartphone it will allow these apps to gain access to your personal information. These apps can gain access to your phone address book, to your photos, pinpoint your location, retrieve your friends’ contact information, etc. There is a treasure trove of personal data that these apps companies get a hold of – and goodness knows what the heck they do with it all. It’s bad enough that Google is monetizing our personal data without our explicit consent – but it can go further than that.

“Last year, a study by Stanford University graduate student found that profile information on an online dating site, including ethnicity, income and drug use frequency, was somehow being transmitted to a third-party data firm. The data that third-parties collect is used mainly by advertisers, but there are concerns that these profiles could be used by insurance companies or banks to help them make decisions about who to do business with.”

Many people don’t realize what they can get themselves into when they agree to let these companies access their personal data – and Google couldn’t care less about making sure to protect you. Google leaves advertisers to self-regulate themselves and it is often the case that these apps do not even need to ask for permission to access your information. As long as Google can cash its check, it’s happy. You, on the other hand, are left to fend for yourself.

This is why it is critical you arm yourself with knowledge and then take the necessary steps to protect yourself – do not depend on Google to do it for you. Google does not see you as its customer, you are Google’s product! Yes, YOU are Google’s product. Your personal information is gold to Google.

“Personal information is the basic currency of an Internet economy built around marketing and advertising. Hundreds of companies collect personal information about Web users, slice it up, combine it with other information, and then resell it.”

Google’s browser, Chrome, is the only browser that does not block tracking. Google wants your personal data exposed to spying eyes because Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising!

If you use Google’s browser, you are the most vulnerable of all. However, we have already seen this past weekend how Google deliberately exposed Apple’s and Microsoft’s users to tracking too by circumventing the browser security of Safari and Internet Explorer. Both Apple and Microsoft have now taken further steps to protect its users from Google.

If you want some information on tracking cookies and how to protect yourself, CNET has an article on this: click here

So, what is the government doing to protect people from these companies?

“United States has no overarching restrictions. Websites are free to collect personal information including real names and addresses, credit card numbers, Internet addresses, the type of software installed, and even what other websites people have visited. Sites can keep the information indefinitely and share most of what they get with just about anyone. Websites are not required to have privacy policies.”

Americans are the most vulnerable, which is why Americans need to take online privacy more seriously. Contact your representative in Congress and ask them to introduce comprehensive laws to protect your personal data. I have discussed on this site before about several bipartisan members of Congress and the Senate who are especially concerned about Google and want to introduce tougher legislation to protect your privacy.

The Europeans have it much better, though. European regulators have stringent laws to protect its people and they are in the process of establishing a “right to be forgotten“. This right will give users the power to demand companies like Google to delete all their personal information when requested. This is so important.

Of course, Google has been devoting a lot of time and resources in lobbying against this “right to be forgotten”. Google spends millions on lobbying now than it ever did before. In 2011, Google spent $9.7 million on lobbying – nearly double the amount it spent the previous year.

For more information on all this, Reuters published an article yesterday: click here

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Parents Don’t Let Google See The Photos Of Your Children

 The other day, while on YouTube, (and yes, I go on Google’s YouTube to keep an eye out for what Google is up to and what gets posted) Google decided to use its video sharing website to advertise another service the company offers. Right on the front page of the website, there was a video uploaded by Google itself and so I clicked on it.

The video is titled “Google+: New Dad” and it features a new father with his newborn son. The video is in high definition, has light soothing music in the background, lots of shots of the baby, and a man’s voice throughout the video. The video is obviously intended to make us go “awww” and pull on our heartstrings – but after you snap out of the cuteness spell Google put you under, it’s time to face the ugly facts.

The video Google uploaded is advertising its social networking site called Google Plus – more specifically, the photo-sharing capabilities on Google Plus. The video ad tries to lure people to upload their photos to Google Plus by telling people if you lose your mobile phone, which has all your precious photos on it, you shouldn’t worry. If you uploaded those photos to Google Plus, it will still be on there. So if you lost your phone, you can always have access to those pictures from any device.

Now, that might seem all wonderful and all, but let’s examine what this really means for you and your pictures. This is what Google says it can do for you:

“With Google+ Instant Upload, every picture you take on your phone is instantly backed up to a private Google+ album. It’s a simple way to make sure you never lose another memory. Download the Google+ app on your phone “

Private? Hmm, not so fast!

Let’s now look at Google’s privacy policies, shall we? After you….

“If you upload a photo or video to Google+, we will store that content in a Picasa web album and enable the Picasa Web Albums product for your Google Account if you haven’t already used Picasa. The Picasa Privacy Policy will apply to your use of Picasa, in addition to this Google+ privacy policy. If you do not want us to store metadata (such as photo details) associated with your photos and videos, please remove that data before uploading the content.”

Please delete metadata? HA! As if people are actually going to do that – I can bet you that the vast majority of people who will forfeit their pictures to Google do know that their photos have a wealth of information stored into them and wouldn’t even know how to get rid of it. Google says,

“The information that’s displayed along with your photo may include attributes such as camera model, exposure, ISO, aperture, focal length, location data and the time and date the photo was taken.”

In addition, when you use Google’s photo service, these are only things they admit they record of you:

“account activity (including storage usage and number of log-ins), data displayed or clicked on (including UI links); and other log information (including browser type, IP-address, date and time of access, cookie ID, and referrer URL).”

Remember, when you upload those photos – you essentially forfeit those photos to Google to use them indefinitely. Here is something else that should freak you out: Google says that your photos “may also be indexed and discoverable in third party services, such as search engines”!

Felix Salmon of Reuters said that Google can tell:

“where and when photographs were taken, and an advanced facial recognition feature that allows Google to identify individuals it has seen in one photo in any photo in the user’s digital library. Integrating just these three services with Google’s core search function could allow Google to locate individuals in virtually any digital photograph on the internet, and so derive where each user has been, when, with whom and doing what. Add YouTube to the mix, or Android smartphones, or whatever other database Google develops or buys – the implications are breathtaking.”

Whoa, talk about Big Brother – or should it now be Big Google?

Fathers, and mothers, keep the adorable photographs of your precious children to yourself and don’t give it away to Google. It isn’t worth it.

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