This week a court ruling in Italy marked a watershed in Internet communications law, and perhaps a worrying step in online privacy rules, as three Google executives were prosecuted of violating privacy and given six month suspended sentences. Their crime? Allowing a video of an autistic schoolboy to be uploaded and present on their video site for 24 hours, despite the fact that it was removed as soon as Google were made aware of its presence.
But aside from the frankly ridiculous statement and worrying precedent that this ruling sets, it is also increasingly indicative of some slight cracks appearing in the company with motto "Don't be evil".
Having raised their heads above the parapets and taken a lead in virtually all aspects of the web world, Google were always going to face a backlash once they became dominant, but such a recoil is perhaps stronger and more concentrated than they might have hoped. They've recently seen a growing press happy to criticise their actions and movements, and their new Gmail social networking addition "Buzz" was largely ridiculed by web commentators on blogs and in the papers. They've faced lawsuits from companies effective crippled by Google's ranking system suddenly punishing their sites. Now the three executives have been convicted of violating privacy and it's all getting to be a bit of a free-for-all for those wanting to take a swipe.
But are Google going to take a step back and hide for a little while whilst all this simmers? You can pretty much bet your bottom dollar not. For now we're all still slaves to the Google monster, and we can only play our servile role in their arbitrary court. SEO is only going to get more important in 2010...hurray!