Google And Max Mosley Square Off Over Sex Party Images

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Spank you very much, as Max Mosley slaps Google with a lawsuit over sex party images

Google is at the High Court in London this week as it seeks to halt a lawsuit filed against it by Max Mosley, the former F1 boss.

Mosley had initially filed his lawsuit against Google in late 2011, after he objected to the embarrassing search results the search engine reveals when users do a Google search on his name.

Day In Court

Mosley is perhaps best known as the former president of Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for Formula One and other international motorsports. However, he is well used to the courts as he is a former barrister.

In 2008, pictures of Mosley involved in an orgy was published by the Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World newspaper. Mosley successfully sued the News of the World for invasion of privacy in July 2008 and was awarded £60,000 ($91,290), plus costs.

CensorshipFollowing that, Mosley turned his attention to Google, and has successfully sued the search engine in both Germany and France, arguing that the internet search engine is a publisher and is misusing private information. He has also been an active campaigner against press intrusion and gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry.

Mosley made his appearance in court on Wednesday, and argues the firm is breaching his fundamental right to privacy by allowing users to access the pictures.

Google meanwhile wants Britain’s High Court to rule that it does not have a legal obligation to monitor and limit the flow of data on the Internet.

Online Publisher?

The outcome of the latest case could set a UK legal precedent in enforcing privacy online, according to the Guardian newspaper. It centres over the fact whether Google can be regarded as a publisher of information.

The newspaper quoted Antony White QC, for Google, said that the internet company was applying to have the case struck out. He argued that information about the sex party is already in the public domain and Mosley therefore no longer had any legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to photographs. “The dam has effectively burst,” White reportedly said.

Google’s counsel argued that as the images had been viewed by 435,000 people and 1.5 million had seen the video footage, Mosley could not realistically expect to regain his privacy.

“There are 40,000 searches [on Google] a second and three and a half billion a day,” said White. “To suggest that there is any knowing involvement [in publication] is totally artificial. The index [of searches] is provided wholly automatically by crawling through the web. It an algorithmic operation without human involvement.”

But Mosley’s lawyer struck back. “We say that [Google are] publishers because they continue to make [the photographs] available on the search engine site,” Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mosley, told the court. “The issue is about under what circumstances they are a publisher.”

Google has also fought against the “right to be forgotten” ruling by Court of Justice of the European Union last year.

That ruling allows people to request the removal of hyperlinks about themselves. Google reluctantly compiled, but quickly found itself swamped with ‘right to be forgotten’ requests. Google said at the time that most of those requests tend to come from people wishing to remove links to articles about fraud or scams, or arrests or convictions for serious offences.

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