The government of Brazil has threatened to shut down Google Brazil and fine the company for failure to cooperate with a federal investigation against paedophiles abusing Orkut, the social networking site that was bought by Google back in 2004.
Brazilian authorities requested Google Brazil to disclose information about Orkut users to aid an ongoing investigation against paedophiles in the country who have used the social networking site, which was the most visited site in Brazil. The site has allegedly become home to over 1,200 communities of and hosts more than 3,000 profiles of paedophiles.
Its tremendous popularity has attracted a lot of negativity towards Orkut. This year alone, human rights groups in Brazil claim to have received more than 100,000 complaints against the site, which range from human-rights crimes to sale of drugs and guns.
Google Brazil have handed over personal information in the past, as have Yahoo! and Microsoft. This time, however, the Brazilian office of the search giant contends that the information contained in Orkut is actually managed and owned by Google Inc. in the United States.
This issue is quite a double-edged sword for Google. If they hand over personal information, privacy advocates will have a field day criticising their breach of user confidentiality. On the other hand, if Google obstructs a government investigation aimed at halting paedophilia, it will create a storm of negative publicity.
Prosecutor Sergio Gardenghi Suiama said, “Google’s attitude is ensuring the impunity of pedophiles and perpetrators of hate crimes and shows they are only motivated by profits and are ignoring their social responsibility to Brazilian laws and society.”