Monday, November 23, 2009

On Trial in Italy

I'm relieved that the Google "privacy" trial in Italy is finally underway. This week, the Milan Public Prosecutor will make his case why four random Google employees should be held personally criminally liable for a video that some high-school kids in Turin made and uploaded to Google Video.

For me, I've lived under this Sword of Damocles for two years now. It began in January 2008 when I was invited to speak at a privacy conference at the University of Milan. I was approaching the University on foot, when I heard someone call my name. I turned around, and saw a guy in plain clothes, who told me to wait a minute, while he spoke into a cell phone, and within seconds, I found myself on the sidewalk surrounded by 5 Italian policemen. I had no idea what was going on. I was scared. I couldn't understand much, but I did understand that they wanted to take my passport, asked me to sign some documents, and wanted to escort me to a judge. I was allowed to put a call into my Italian colleagues at Google, who thankfully were able to rush to the scene and talk to the policemen. I was escorted by the policemen on foot through central Milan, with tourists and locals alike stopping to stare at the scene. My colleagues told the group of policemen that I was supposed to deliver a speech at the privacy conference shortly. After much discussion, it was agreed that I would be allowed to deliver the speech, after providing my passport and signing various documents that were being served on me, and that I would be interrogated by the Public Prosecutor afterwards.

And so, I was allowed to deliver this talk. If I look a little distracted, now you know why. [between us, I had to stop to vomit, but that part has been edited out.]

This whole Italian prosecution has been an ordeal. I just want it to be over soon. After two years, well, it's finally underway.

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