Google is being accused by a Hollywood lawyer representing several women whose photos were stolen from their Apple iCloud accounts of failing to remove images from its services — with an explicit threat of a lawsuit demanding more than $100 million.
In a letter addressed to Google’s top brass, lawyer Marty Singer of L.A.-based law firm Lively & Singer said that Google not only has failed to expeditiously remove the images from sites including YouTube and Blogspot but also knowingly facilitated the hosting of the hacked photos.
“Google is making millions and profiting from the victimization of women,” Singer alleged in the Oct. 1 letter, sent to top Google execs including CEO Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt. “As a result of your blatantly unethical behavior, Google is exposed to significant liability and both compensatory and punitive damages that could well exceed One Hundred Million Dollars ($100,000,000).”
In response to the letter, Google said in a statement: “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.”
According to Singer, his firm is representing “over a dozen female celebrities, actresses, models and athletes” whose private photos were accessed after their Apple iCloud accounts were hacked. The letter does not identify the women.
The hack attack came to light Aug. 31 after hundreds of nude and partially nude photos from personal iPhone accounts of dozens of actresses and personalities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst and Selena Gomez, were posted online.
Apple, in response to the incident, previously said neither iCloud nor Find My iPhone were breached but that it was cooperating with law enforcement agencies to investigate what it called a “very targeted attack.”
According to Singer, his firm over the past four weeks has sent more than a dozen takedown requests to Google to remove the images of its clients under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But “while responsible providers like Twitter are immediately removing the images and suspending the offending user accounts, Google is perpetuating the despicable conduct of these habitual pervert predators,” Singer wrote, including Blogspot accounts that he claimed have acted as some of the main sources for the stolen photos.
Google says its turnaround on DMCA requests is typically hours — not weeks — and that it has been proactively removing the celeb photos based on terms-of-service violations (such as nudity or privacy violations) on YouTube, Blogger and Google+. The Internet giant also noted that, like other web services, it relies on people to flag inappropriate content or file takedown requests.
In addition to removing the images in question from its sites, Singer is demanding that Google “immediately remove all Google search engine and Goggle image search results for and which display the hacked stolen Images.”
In full rhetorical stride, Singer compared Google’s alleged inaction on expunging the photos from its services to the controversy swirling around the National Football League’s widely criticized handling of recent criminal acts of some of its players.
“Like the NFL, which has turned a blind eye while its players assaulted and victimized women and children, Google has turned a blind eye while its sites repeatedly exploit and victimize these women,” the attorney said in the letter.