While on Italian newspapers, forums and blogs there is a lot of talk about the bill on wiretapping that the government is attempting to pass, along with an array of other “ad personam” bills clearly aimed at defending solely the prime minister’s interests, on the web this bill seems to be already in effect, in a quiet way, without explicitly banning eavesdropping or telephone interception.
We are talking about Google, which has recently updated the list of categories of items that can not be promoted through its AdWords advertising service, in addition to the usual restrictions that prevent from advertising pornography, material which incites to racial hatred or violence, or any other illegal product or service.
A few days ago, the Italian branch of the Mountain View giant has sent a message to some of its advertisers, and more specifically those who produce or market listening devices, miniature recorders, hidden microphones, miniature cameras, listening bugs and all equipment used by law enforcement or detective agencies for their investigations against organized crime, fraud, corporate espionage or marital infidelity suspicions.
Google informs its advertisers that they have changed their advertising rules, and they no longer accept ads promoting products for espionage or wiretapping equipment.
We have already seen how, as it was the case with China, the Big G programmers have turned a blind eye to the surfers’ right to access to free information, setting up the filters that the Beijing government required to grant Google access to the world’s largest market, with its wealth of over a billion potential customers for advertisers.
In this case, we do not have (nor it is expected) a confirmation in this direction, but as the Italian long-running politician and former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti said, “bad thoughts are a sin, but they are often right”, it is not too unlikely that the long-reaching arm of the Italian government has targeted Google and the search engine’s main source of income: advertising.
If we consider that Mediaset, the broadcasting company owned by the Prime Minister have sued YouTube (which, as you know, is owned by Google), claiming a compensation for copyright infringement over publishing of video footage from its channels, the idea of an “exchange” between the lawsuit and a ban on advertising may not sound too unrealistic.
It would be a small and invisible move, but which would make life more difficult not only for those who use listening bugs to fight crime, but also for those who work behind the scenes in this field, manufacturing the bugs that are used during interception operations.
In short, if the Parliament does not pass the bill, in Italy there is always a way to work around that annoying little thing called law, and achieve the planned bill’s main objective: cutting down on telephone wiretapping.