Google has provided the IP address of an anonymous blogger to an Israeli court as part of a defamation case, according to the Globes Online.
The defamation case centers on allegations against three members of the Shaarei Tikva council posted on Blogger, including posts that suggested the council members took bribes, pretended to be disabled to gain tax advantages, and that the councilmen have links to organized crime. The councilmen asked the court to order Google to hand over the IP address details of the anonymous blogger but the court did not order Google to do so. Instead Google entered into an arrangement where by they would contact the blogger and give him or her 3 days to respond anonymously to the allegations. There was no response from the blogger so Google handed over the IP address to the court and plantiffs despite there being no legal requirement for them to do so. (Update: See below).
According to Globes Online, Google had initially said that “disclosing the blogger’s identity violated rulings on the balance between freedom of expression and a person’s right to his reputation,” so what changed? This is the same company that refused to comply with US Government requests for information in 2005, a company that prides itself on privacy and its “Do No Evil” mantra. Perhaps the moral of the story: trust no one on privacy, even Google.
Update: We received email from Google regarding this story:
We wanted to let you know some facts about this case as we are concerned that the story on TechCrunch (like the one on Globes) is not accurate.
1. Google’s approach to providing users’ personal data is clear – we only provide information to third parties (such as law enforcement agencies) when they have been through the proper legal process. This ensures that we are able both to protect the privacy of our users and act responsibly where people may have used Google’s products to break the law.
2. In terms of this case:
· Members of the Israeli Shaarei Tikva Council asked for an injunction against Google – requiring us to provide the IP address of a blogger who had allegedly defamed them;
· Google opposed the injunction. Amongst other things, we wanted to give the blogger a chance to explain in court why his or her IP address should not be disclosed to members of the council;
· On 18 November the court agreed that the blogger should be sent a notice (via the blog) inviting him/her to appear at a hearing on 25 November 2007;
· The blogger failed to appear at this hearing – in his/her absence, and having considered all the various arguments, the court ordered that the IP address (which it was holding) be provided to the members of the council.
3. Google approach to this case has been entirely consistent with the way it handles all third party requests for user data.
4. In terms of Blogger, we have clear terms and conditions, which users agree to when they sign up for the service. These make clear that:
· Certain types of content is against our rules;
· Violation of our terms of service may lead not only to the termination of the users’ account but also “state and federal penalties and other legal consequences”; and
· Google may investigate any violations to “comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request”.
In your comment to M Freitas you say “I’d note that Google voluntarily handed these details over, if the court had ordered them to do so, so be it but if they are serious about privacy they would have pushed it to that level, not just caved in at the first opportunity”. As you can see from the details above Google did oppose the injunction in court, we did not just cave in at the first opportunity and we did argue that the blogger in question should have the chance to make their case. But having considered all sides of the argument the judge ordered that the IP address be handed over.