Google Threatened With $100 Million Lawsuit Over Hacked Celebrity Pictures

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2014-10-02 Print this article Print
online privacy

NEWS ANALYSIS: The impact of the hacked Apple iCloud images spreads to Google, but is the search giant actually responsible?

Google is being threatened with a potential lawsuit of up to $100 million over alleged privacy violations related to the recent Apple iCloud celebrity photo hacking incident, which led to the disclosure of private pictures of dozens of Hollywood celebrities.

The legal threat is being levied by law firm Lavely & Singer, which noted in the complaint that it is the legal counsel of "over a dozen female celebrities" who were victims of the recent iCloud attack.

"Although it has been approximately four weeks since we sent our first DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice to Google, and well over a dozen additional notices and warnings have been sent to you since then, many of the images are still available on Google's sites," the lawyer's letter states.

The legal complaint demands that Google fix the situation and do the right thing and remove the images from Google sites and search results.

"Rather than be the transgressor, Google should set the example for all other operators and providers," the letter states. "In Google's own words, 'Don't be evil.'"

Google did not respond to a request for comment from eWEEK about the legal complaint.

The issue of whether Google is responsible for users who are searching for bad things is one that technology experts contacted by eWEEK had mixed opinions about depending on the context. The idea of searching for bad things, including potential security issues on Google, is a common security researcher practice that is often referred to as Google Hacking.

Morey Haber, senior director of program management at BeyondTrust, said that the DMCA has always been a debated piece of legislation, since it can impede free speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

"The idea of searching for a bad thing can easily lead to illegal activity," Haber said.

For example, searching for a movie title and BitTorrent implies the user wants to download a movie, probably illegally, he said.

"Now, if the content itself was obtained illegally, like the recent nude pictures of celebrities, does it make Google an accessory to the crime, since it knows the images where obtained illegally and being hosted in their domain?" Haber asked.

Tom Gorup, security operations center manager at Rook Security, told eWEEK that Google's search engine is just that—a search engine. Google's job is to provide users with access to information they otherwise would never have known about or would have otherwise taken exponentially longer to locate.

"Bad things will be on the Internet, and Google offers a 'Safe Search' function if users would rather not be shown that type of content," Gorup said.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel