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Google Inc. (GOOG) Not Liable for Vanity Search Results, Court Says

It’s time for an installment of offbeat news this Wednesday morning, and this came across our desk regarding Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG). As Google is a search engine, should Google be held accountable in its indexing of Web pages for developing search results that may tarnish an individual’s public image?

We take you to Wisconsin, where a Beverly Stayart of Elkhorn sued Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) – and in a separate suit, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) – over a suggested web search term that she claimed did damage to her “wholesome” image. She discovered that when trying a “vanity” search of “bev stayart” on Google wound up creating a suggested search parameter of “bev stayart levitra,” which produced results that linked to and showed ads for purchasing Levitra, a prescription drug that treats sexual dysfunction.

Google Inc (GOOG)After a federal judge rejected Stayart’s claim that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) violated state privacy law by using her name without her consent for the purpose of generating advertising revenue, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling, saying that Stayart was not able to “substantially” determine that Google used her name to gain revenue. Stayart said connecting her name with a sexual-dyfunction drug went against her “wholesome” image as an animal-rights activist, published poet and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

In the ruling – which came 11 months after oral arguments – by the three-judge panel, Judge Anne Claire Williams wrote that this case was within the public interest and incidental use exceptions in the Wisconsin privacy law, stating that Stayart herself made the search issue a public interest issue by this lawsuit and the prior one with Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), and Stayart was not able to demonstrate a “substantial” connection between her name and Google’s suggested search terms generating revenue for the company.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about whether Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) should in any way be responsible for its search results produced by certain parameters.

DISCLOSURE: I own no positions in any stock mentioned.

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