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Google Privacy Security The Almighty Buck The Courts

Google Threatened With $100M Lawsuit Over Nude Celebrity Photos 225

Dave Knott writes A Los Angeles lawyer representing over a dozen female celebrities, is threatening to sue Google for $100 million US over nude photos leaked online from personal iCloud accounts. The law firm Lavely & Singer accuses the web giant of "accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating" the distribution of the photos when it failed to remove the images from its search results. The stars involved in the law firm's action were not named, but the law firm alleges many of their photos still exist on Google sites like BlogSpot and YouTube four weeks after the firm ordered them taken down.
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Google Threatened With $100M Lawsuit Over Nude Celebrity Photos

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  • Makes Sense (Score:5, Funny)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @05:53PM (#48051791) Homepage Journal
    These photos were leaked on the Internet, and Google is like King of the Internet and can control and censor every last thing that happens on it.
    • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:04PM (#48051887) Journal

      The flip side is the rights of say Blogger users. If I post photo X as a blogger user, it should be up to me to decide if I want to take it down or not, not Google (except maybe in extreme cases, of which this doesn't seem to fall into).

      The Blogger user (poster) should be the legal entity responsible for a given blog's content, not Google. Sue the Blogger user if you don't like their content, not Google.

      • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sir1real ( 1636849 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @09:18PM (#48053043)

        They're suing Google because that's where the money is. Random bloggers don't have 100 million dollars.

        • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @11:48PM (#48053623)

          But if I do something illegal, you don't go and sue the nearest bank just because they have money. You sue the person responsible.

          Claiming Google is responsible for all of the content posted on the entire internet is stupid.

          • by gtall ( 79522 )

            These are lawyers; of course they go where the money is. Yachts are not cheap, and the glory of screwing Google would do wonders for their law firms.

          • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @05:56AM (#48054467)

            The problem Google has it's that it's not just acting as someone's bank, it's profiting from the content via ads, and that opens up a fair argument of complicity.

            I'm not about to judge as to whether that means it deserves to bear all responsibility for content- certainly I think it's unrealistic that it should have to scour all it's servers and make a judgement on whether every bit of content is or isn't there legally, but I don't think it's unreasonable that if someone points it to a specific bit of infringing content, that given that it both hosts the content, and profits from the content, that it should have to take it down, else I don't really see how Google can argue against the suggestion that it's knowingly profiting from illegal content at that point - if it's hosting the content, providing access to the content, and the content is known to be illegal, and it continues to host and provide access to it, then surely it's pretty clear cut that it's intentionally profiting from illegally provided content?

            But I think that's the key thing here, it has to be knowingly doing so. That puts the onus on the alleged victim to put the effort it and make it clear to Google that the content is not being legally distributed - and even there Google should have recourse to get the courts to rule if it's not certain and should be protected until the courts have decided, but it most definitely should not put the onus on Google to try and figure out what content is illegal.

            Your analogy would be better phrased as someone having stolen money from you, stored it in a bank and the bank is profiting off that cash by investing it, and continues to do so and refuses to hand it over even when it's been made clear to the bank that that money has been obtained illegally. In that case yes, I think the bank absolutely can no longer pay the innocent party - once it's been informed of alleged or proven illegality then it has a responsibility to investigate and act.

            As for the demands of $100m? well, that's a different issue - that's just the US' stupid sue everyone for everything culture.

            So as for this particular case, if they've given Google specific URLs and Google hasn't acted then apart from their stupid financial demands then I don't think they're really much in the wrong. If they've just blanket told Google to scour every inch of their server and make arbitrary judgements on legality then these folks should be told to go screw themselves or to come back when they have something more concrete.

            So all in all, I think this sounds like it's probably a stupid case, but that doesn't mean Google should necessarily be given a get out of jail free card from knowingly profiting from illegally hosted content- there has to be at least some degree of responsibility held by them to act if genuinely and reasonably informed.

        • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @03:08AM (#48054119) Journal

          The problem with suing people who have lots of money is that they can afford good lawyers - and it shouldn't take a very good lawyer to get something this stupid thrown out of court. Typically when people do this, they want to have an out-of-court settlement, where Google agrees to pay $1 (cheaper than a few minutes of lawyer time) and neither side is allowed to disclose the terms of the settlement. They can then go to the next company and say 'Google didn't feel able to fight this in court and agreed to a settlement where they paid us compensation, you have less money to spend on lawyers than them, so you should pay us compensation too'.

          A big part of IBM's legal policy of millions for defence, not one dollar for tribute, is that they used to be the company that everyone went to for this kind of (not legally binding, but useful for marketing) precedent. Once you get a reputation for fighting every case and countersuing if you win, then fewer trolls bother you...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by AgNO3 ( 878843 )
        Umm you have no rights as a user of Googles stuff. Its their stuff. If they don't like your stuff they can delete your account and send you hate mail and there is jack all you could do about it. You don't own your blogs server space GOOGLE DOES and they can do what they like with it. Don't like that HOST IT YOURSELF.
      • by julesh ( 229690 )

        The flip side is the rights of say Blogger users. If I post photo X as a blogger user, it should be up to me to decide if I want to take it down or not, not Google (except maybe in extreme cases, of which this doesn't seem to fall into).

        The Blogger user (poster) should be the legal entity responsible for a given blog's content, not Google. Sue the Blogger user if you don't like their content, not Google.

        Unfortunately, the DMCA only extends immunity from such actions to Google if they take the content down on receipt of a properly formatted request. That is, legally speaking, an ISP is only considered a common carrier as long as nobody has asked for it not to be. The Internet needs stronger protections of hosting providers, but unfortunately the IP industry has too much lobbying power to let that happen.

      • The flip side is the rights of say Blogger users. If I post photo X as a blogger user, it should be up to me to decide if I want to take it down or not, not Google (except maybe in extreme cases, of which this doesn't seem to fall into).

        Uhm, no. That's not how it works, and this isn't a new problem either. Every author in the history of mankind has faced a choice on how to publish their work.

        Blogger is the publisher of the blog posts, and can decide to publish them or not. This includes

    • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:37PM (#48052103)

      These photos were leaked on the Internet, and Google is like King of the Internet and can control and censor every last thing that happens on it.

      This is more true than it should be. There's a whole generation of people using the Internet who literally don't know how to browse to a website directly. They don't know how an address bar works, and go to google to look up whatever they want. Even when they have the URL.. That's like going to a reverse phone book to look up a person by their number -- to find out how to call them..

      The biggest problem (that is often ignored) is you're now putting control over your access to the Internet in Google's hands by doing this. If Google doesn't want you to visit a website for business reasons, or political reasons, all they have to do is remove the sites from their search index. Unless you know how to actually browse to the site or think of looking on a search engine other than your usual, you're effectively blocked from it.

      For these people Google does, in practice, have the ability to censor the Internet.
      And browser makers increasing trend to monkeying with the address bar's function only makes it worse.

      • by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:52PM (#48052223)

        Ah well, at least that older generation is dying off and being replaced by the web-savvy youngsters. :)

      • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @07:16PM (#48052385) Homepage

        While they might not know how to use an address bar they do know how to follow links, so to send a site down a black hole Google would also have to blacklist all the sites linking to it. Besides, I doubt Google would like to be so blatant as the Great Firewall of China, if you search for a particular site you'll find it. If you're only vaguely close though it might end up on page 10 instead of page 2. Google needs to appear neutral, they're just an action house selling off adwords to the highest bidder while displaying whatever search results their robots have found. If they start messing with that image though obviously taking sides they'll lose far more business than they gain. Google is now to online marketing what lawyers are to lawsuits, no matter what side wins they always get paid. They'd have to be really, really dense to mess with that.

        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          I doubt Google would like to be so blatant as the Great Firewall of China, if you search for a particular site you'll find it. If you're only vaguely close though it might end up on page 10 instead of page 2.

          This is all they have to do really. I know I said Google could remove the listings from their index, but they could also bump them way down the list just as easily. Of the people who depend on Google to find everything for them, how many do you think are patient enough to look through more than the first couple pages of results? There might as well not be more than three pages of results displayed. Same result -- but plausible deniability ("We didn't remove the site. It's still there, see? Right on page eig

      • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @07:49PM (#48052597)

        This is more true than it should be. There's a whole generation of people using the Internet who literally don't know how to browse to a website directly. They don't know how an address bar works, and go to google to look up whatever they want. Even when they have the URL.

        Maybe but Google is no more at fault for that than the phone companies are for texting while driving. The internet has been around for a lot longer than Google, and will probably be around a lot longer.

        Besides that, when all things are considered, Google never at any point did anything to pressure users into using their search engine instead of hitting the pages directly. They didn't make themselves cheaper and they didn't use any existing muscle to force users over (they HAVE used their search dominance to expose themselves to other markets, but that isn't relevant to this discussion.) Not only that but they weren't even close to being the first search engine. People just liked them and they became popular; that's all there is to it. Bing can't even make that claim as Bing even offers money incentives to use their search engine in addition to making it the default search engine of their currently market dominating web browser, yet Bing still only manages to have a tiny (and money losing) search share compared to Google.

        • by AgNO3 ( 878843 )
          I think what they are saying is that the content exist on Google's services not just in the search results. Its still on youtube and blogspot. Both owned and operated by Google. Since they do have control over their property they are required to remove illegal things like stolen data.
      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        "This is more true than it should be. There's a whole generation of people using the Internet who literally don't know how to browse to a website directly. They don't know how an address bar works, and go to google to look up whatever they want."

        To be fair, that's actually in part Google's fault. On my Android phone now Chrome has completely merged the Google search box with the URL bar, they are now one and the same, there is no longer an explicit distinction there between entering a URL and searching on G

    • Re:Makes Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @07:41PM (#48052551) Journal

      These photos were leaked on the Internet, and Google is like King of the Internet and can control and censor every last thing that happens on it.

      These "Celebrities" should be very careful what they ask for, imagine if the URL to every photo, and every article written about them just fell into the great bitbucket; if you don't nuke'em from orbit, you'll never be sure.

    • Re:Makes Sense (Score:4, Informative)

      by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Thursday October 02, 2014 @10:53PM (#48053435) Journal

      The way google has behaved in the past 24 months that post doesn't seem to be untrue to me, they certainly seem to think they are king of the internet.

    • by golodh ( 893453 )
      You're probably speaking in jest, but unfortunately it's true.

      If Google focuses on filtering content rather than providing it then it can certainly comply quicker and more completely with all such take-down orders.

      The question of whether Google can " control and censor every last thing" is totally irrelevant, as the suit is addressed to Google on basis of what you can find using Google ... as opposed to what you can find "on the Internet".

      It's simply a matter of where you put your priorities. Which in

    • by thej1nx ( 763573 )
      So Apple fails to provide sufficient security of photos uploaded to its iCloud service, and Google is the one that gets sued. Lawyers at work!
      • So Apple fails to provide sufficient security of photos uploaded to its iCloud service, and Google is the one that gets sued. Lawyers at work!

        Any evidence for the first part? Any evidence that any photos were taken from iCloud by a person who didn't have the credentials that the account holder required?

    • You've been modded funny but unfortunately what you've said is true. :-(

  • Girls (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 02, 2014 @05:53PM (#48051795)

    You're nudie pics ain't even worth a million. Seriously, your bodies aren't that hot. Get over yourselves.

  • Not named? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ClaraBow ( 212734 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @05:54PM (#48051807)
    Can you sue without naming whose bare ass is online?
  • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @05:54PM (#48051813)

    Ford sued by families of hit-n-run victims, Colt sued by families of suicide-by-cops, and McDonald's sued for making kids obese.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:31PM (#48052081)

      Are those actual news items or made up? ...

      I can't tell any more.

    • Ford sued by families of hit-n-run victims, Colt sued by families of suicide-by-cops, and McDonald's sued for making kids obese.

      In a country where you can find warnings like this (from http://www.dumbwarnings.com/ [dumbwarnings.com]

      This product not intended for use as a dental drill.
      Dremel Electric Rotary Tool

      In this context, it is unrealistic to expect Ford or Colt to be sued for the incompetence or malice of their customers?

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Ford sued by families of hit-n-run victims, Colt sued by families of suicide-by-cops, and McDonald's sued for making kids obese.

      Um...
      http://articles.latimes.com/20... [latimes.com]

  • by jdastrup ( 1075795 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @05:55PM (#48051823)
    Considering celebrities are often all about their image, this isn't going to make them look good. First of all, it's stupid. It's almost biting the hand that feeds them. They gain popularity through Google, and now they want to sue Google? And it's obviously not Google's fault, so they look stupid. Also makes them look like they are out just for the money. Really stupid move.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MitchDev ( 2526834 )

      Google's not hosting the pics, only finding who does have them.

      If anything, these stupid, worthless, fucking primadonnas should be praising Google for helping find the people actually hosting the pics....

    • Is this a deliberate attempt to invoke the Streisand Effect?

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      This is the strange part of everything.

      Why would you even want to have private nude pictures of your favorite celebrity? If you have more than three working brain cells, you know that in real life they look nothing like what you expect from movies, magazine covers and photoshops^H^H^Hshoots.

      Maybe the real reason they're upset is not that they're naked, but a combination of "there's pictures of me that I didn't get paid for" and "people need to keep their false image of me, not understand that half of them l

  • maybe there is justice, after all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 02, 2014 @05:56PM (#48051835)

    Seems like apple is the only one really worth going after since they failed at brute force protection.
    but hey lets just shotgun sue and see if we can get way the fuck richer.

    fuck you hollywood whores

  • Suspicious law firm? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pkinetics ( 549289 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:04PM (#48051875)
    Claim to be filling on behalf of "celebs" in hopes of actually drawing celebs to actually sign up. Throw a number so large out there the celebs will think "Hey, I can benefit from this."

    Law firm may not have even a single client yet. Threatening to sue is not the same as actually filling.

    • Very suspicious... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have no idea what clients they do or do not have, though I did find it odd that none were mentioned specifically. The writer of the article might be at fault for that, though.

      I believe that they're making lots of noise to get Google to settle quietly. Google did respond to their DMCA requests, according to the statement I saw from this lawyer, but they claim this wasn't "fast enough" and other nonsense. Expecting them to police the internet is also nonsense, but they clearly are sharks looking for a pa

    • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @08:36PM (#48052855)

      Real Celebrities don't do anything. They call their agent (actually they have their assistant call their agent). The agent or their staff generally has a few brain cells to rub together and does something sensible then tells the celebrity they did something about it and the issue goes away because the celebrity has the attention span of a hyperactive 2 year old who just ate a pound of candy.

      Occasionally the celebrity is a primadonna or insists on doing things themselves or forces their agent to do something the agent advised against. Those cases usually end up being like when Streisand tried to have pictures of her home removed from the internet and coined an entire phrase for what happens when you try to use a court to censor the internet (namely the Streisand effect). Usually after doing something like this a couple times the celebrity learns to trust that their agent is smarter than them and starts listening to them and then they become like the rest of the celebrities.

      As you said, lawyers who run around tossing around 100 million dollar figures and talk about suing Google (who has the money to drag the case out for a decade, just for spite) don't actually represent real celebrities, though they may represent some hack. Lawyers that represent real celebrities are hired by the agent and are totally professional. They'll send nice nonthreatening letters and ask to meet with the Google executives. Being the smooth talking devils they are they will likely convince Google's execs to do something even if it's nothing that will affect it. They will then bill the celebrity about $100K and say they did all that's legally possible and if the celebrity wants to do more they need a million dollar retainer and a contract and that they'll probably lose the case and cause a ton of bad publicity (which the Agent will tell them is totally stupid).

  • Google is supposed to reject all search strings that include the word 'nude'

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Google is supposed to reject all search strings that include the word 'nude'

      And that's the bare and naked truth.

      Honestly, it would be better if they filtered out everything with the word "celebrity", including this post.

    • Well I just googled "Nude celebrities" and got lots of hits, clicking the images button isn't exactly "Work Place Safe" either, maybe you have "safe search" turned on.

      • Google's chief way of restricting adult search terms is to deactivate autocomplete, so their engine will suddenly stop suggesting anything as the user types in certain cases. You can see this by slowly typing in "Linda Lovelace" - at some point the engine will be suggesting terms like "Luna Lovegood" that assume you may have misspelled something, but simply won't take the logical guess as you get closer to the end. This is not a system that is constantly updated with every new name in porn or every adult

  • Why not Apple? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hilather ( 1079603 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:12PM (#48051937)
    I'm pretty sure there is more of a case to be made in pointing the finger at the company that had the weak security controls which allowed this breach to happen. Just sayin...
    • You mean Apple should sue the celebs? Hmmm....
    • Re:Why not Apple? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:39PM (#48052127)

      Well in part, because Apple devices were only the source of some of the images, around 40% (and iCloud would be a subset of those devices). The images have been aggregated over a period of at least 5-6 years from a wide variety of sources by multiple parties.

      Also, in part, because from Apple's perspective, correct credentials were presented, and there's no evidence of a problem Apple's side other than it was only using a single authentication factor to access that data. (and that is defiantly a serious issue, and since this came out Apple has enabled it on more iCloud services than they had done previously. There's the second issue that Apple's two factor is opt in, with very likely a low take up rate. Its not clear if ANY of the people whose photos were leaked had 2 factor enabled on iCloud)

      The speculation that brute forcing against Apple occurred is unconfirmed speculation, that Apple has denied. Given the laws in the US around disclosure, it would likely be illegal for them to deny if it was actually the case. (the fact that the vulnerability existed does not mean it was actually used in these cases)

      Google's role here is more akin to being a fence, directing people to known stolen goods, after being specifically requested to cease such activities.

      • There's the second issue that Apple's two factor is opt in, with very likely a low take up rate

        For basic accounts, please name a major cloud provider that has 2-factor auth as default. Google definitely doesn't, and neither do Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon.

        2-factor auth is simply a pain in the ass - especially for the non-digerati out there.

        • For basic accounts, please name a major cloud provider that has 2-factor auth as default. Google definitely doesn't, and neither do Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon.

          The problem with 2 factor auth, or any scheme trying to make it harder for hackers to get in, is that it is harder for the legitimate user to get in, and in some cases impossible. And since there was a case a year ago where someone got access to someone else's account by socially engineering Apple staff, that is made impossible. Problem is that if it is made impossible for Apple to give access to your account to a stranger who very convincingly pretends to be you, then it is also impossible for Apple to giv

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      If you had actually read that EULA that you signify agreement with, you would have noticed that it says they are not liable for errors, bugs or basically anything else. Just like any EULA ever written.

  • Google prepared to throw away 10 billion dollar to crash said lawsuit.

  • Google has what amounts to unlimited resources, which they would assuredly use to defend this case because settling or losing would set a precedent that would cost them a lot more money in the long run.
    • by zr ( 19885 )

      why would a lawyer ever threaten a company with no cash? talk about unprecedented..

      • Less cash means the company has more to lose if it fights and thus would be more amenable to greenmail. Plus there are insurance policies.
  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @06:36PM (#48052101)

    The response from Google:

    "We understand your concern and want to help! Unfortunately due to the technical limitations of... well... reality, we cannot eliminate these photos from existence. But still, we refuse to take part in this invations of your privacy and after much diligence we think we've found a solution to this problem. Hereafter searching for the names of any person found in this lawsuit will result in nothing. The term "Jennifer Lawrence" will be ignored in all searches hereafter as well as every other actress named in this suit. Thank you and happy Googling!"

     

    • by mccoma ( 64578 )

      To get the true impact correct, I think you need to change the last couple of lines to: "All pages containing the name of every actress / actor named in this suit will not be indexed and we will not pay Google Ad revenues on those pages so we don't financially benefit from any possible images. Thank you and happy Googling!"

      I do sympathize with each and every actress and this must be a nightmare, but with all the security breaches on the internet (cards, SSN, etc.), how can you think your pictures would

      • Re:We understand (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @09:46PM (#48053171)

        I do sympathize with each and every actress and this must be a nightmare

        It probably is a nightmare for them. But really the problem is our own society. For some reason we decide to attach shame to the human body. In some countries a woman might be punished (often by her own family) for the shame of displaying her face in public. I'm sure many of those women actually do feel the shame they were intended to feel by their societies. Should they?

        It is absolutely wrong to invade people's privacy. The level of shame you decide to feel after some of your body parts are seen *can* be up to you. This is not meant to exonerate the perpetrators or blame the victim. I feel like this attitude could be empowering to the victim.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      FYI, here is Google's actual response:

      "We've removed tens of thousands of pictures, within hours of the requests being made, and we have closed hundreds of accounts. The Internet is used for many good things. Stealing people's private photos is not one of them."

  • Better to get them all via TPB or isohunt or some other torrent site.
  • ... why is it always Google? Momma always did like Google, best.

    Where's all the OTHER search engines?

  • IMO, as soon as those photos are on ANY Inernet-facing device ('phone, WiFi-equipped camera, "cloud", ...) they are already published. You want to keep some private "momentos", take them on a non-WiFi camera, or better yet, film, and store the data in a lockbox, sharing it only to also not-Internet-connected devices.

    If it is accessable from the 'net, as all smart cameras, in-home on-line cameras, and the cloud are known to be, then you have already published them to the world.

    • I wouldn't say this is technically true, but it is probably a good idea to act is if it were, like treating every gun as if it were loaded.
  • link to the pics or it didn't happen

  • Once items are on the net they are next to impossible to eliminate. So google has people who upload photos faster than they can be found and taken down. Google should sue in retalliation as any suit that requires an impossible action is obviously a defective claim.
  • 100 Millions for pictures of human bodies?
    Don't they get free publicity, something those people crave for desperately.

    Maybe it's the augmentation - shaved on various places,, silicon-filled, painted over and perhaps photohopped.

    Strange...

  • Big deal, they will be on Freenet forever.

    Too bad they really weren't very attractive pictures!

  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Thursday October 02, 2014 @10:34PM (#48053371) Homepage Journal
    Pictures or it didn't happen!

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