[AfrICANN-discuss] Google lawsuit has implications for CEOs

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Jul 3 12:58:21 SAST 2007

Google lawsuit has implications for CEOs

  02.07.2007 -   A lawsuit being taken by a London businessman against
Google would mean the search giant could be held liable for the
content of its 11.5 billion web pages.    It also carries implications
for CEOs around the world who fail to prevent libellous information
from being posted on company websites or elsewhere.

On Friday it emerged that London businessman Brian Retkin, managing
director of domain name registrar dotworlds, is suing Google in a
landmark legal action for defamation after the search engine directed
users to web pages making damaging and groundless allegations about
his business methods.

Internet experts warned that if the action was successful it would
mean that Google could be held liable for the content of 11.5 billion
web pages.

The businessman alleges the search engine directed users to web pages
that he claims contained deeply offensive and commercially damaging
material about his business.

In one posting on an internet discussion forum Retkin was wrongly
accused of cashing in on the 9/11 attacks on the US by offering the
free registration of domain names that took advantage of patriotic
fervour in the US around that time.

In other anonymous postings Retkin is groundlessly accused of
conducting a fraudulent business.

Chris Palmer, a principal consultant for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and
Africa) with Computer Associates (CA), believes that if the lawsuit is
successful it will cause shockwaves through the information industry,
not just in terms of internet service providers, search engines and
forums but also in the corporate world.

"This goes way beyond SOX legislation which is focused on the flow of
information within an organisation and means businesses will have to
become much more aware and responsible for the flow of information
beyond its boundaries.

"If libellous comments or documents leave an organisation then the
company as well as the facilitator of that information flow becomes
liable and this should be a big concern for organisations. It
dramatically raises the importance of information governance
technology and security measures around how information, whether
digital or physical, can be disseminated and to whom.

"It also raises the issue of information posted on the company website
and links through to other sites. If you have a link to another site
which is deemed libellous, then you are as liable as they are. In
short, the approach to information management needs a much higher
level of importance and scrutiny," Palmer said.

Palmer said that Google's "keep everything, forever" model, without
knowing the value or consequences of that information, is exposing the
search giant to increased risk of litigation.

"A lot of CEOs in the commercial world are probably reading this news
with a great deal of anxiety. They'll be concerned that they have a
huge amount of information they don't know about which could be
particularly damaging from a regulatory, compliance or litigation
standpoint and is costing them a fortune to store as well."

To avoid such issues arising Palmer said organisations need to know
what information they have across the whole enterprise, irrespective
of format or media, and manage it properly according to its value to
the business

"[They need to] have the confidence to be able to delete information
that has no value or whose value has expired, not just through 'old
age' but because the event to which it relates has expired in legal
terms," Palmer added.

By John Kennedy

Anne-Rachel Inne

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