Max Mosley: Google Is So 'Arrogant They Do Whatever They Like'
Part 2: 'I Don't Understand Why This Is So Difficult'
SPIEGEL: Google views itself as a neutral distribution platform that solely helps people find third-party content. To what extent should the company be held liable for the illegal conduct of others?
Mosley: That's the big debate. Some argue that Google is only the owner of a wall where others paint their graffiti. Why should the owner be held liable for that? My answer is this: Because Google supplies the spray paint. I am not demanding that Google filters out illegal content on its own. But the company does need to respond if it is given notice about that content. I don't understand why this is so difficult. I also consider Google's concern that it will have to filter thousands of photos to be baseless. We're talking about a handful of cases.
SPIEGEL: Where is the line between the protection of privacy rights and censorship on the Internet?
Mosley: That is very obvious to me: Where there is a clear court ruling.
SPIEGEL: Have you been attacked by Internet activists because they believe you want to censor the free web?
Mosley: A little bit on the Internet. But when I am out onto the street, I often run into people who come up to me and encourage me by saying fighting is the right thing to do.
SPIEGEL: You have the kind of time and money to defend your rights that most others don't have. How can it be helpful to others that Max Mosley has defended his right to privacy against Google?
Mosley: It increases the chances that Google will react more reasonably in the future. One would hope that somebody at Google will now sit down and consider whether it is really a sensible thing on which to spend their shareholders' money and their executives' time.
SPIEGEL: You reportedly sent a letter to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Did you ever get an answer?
Mosley: Prior to the trial, I did offer to talk to him through a lawyer we both know. But I didn't get a positive answer. Maybe I should try again now that the verdicts from France and Germany are in.
SPIEGEL: How much have you spent on the legal fight so far?
Mosley: I'm almost ashamed to say this, I've never added it up. Litigation is less expensive in Germany and France than it is in Britain. I suppose it has been some hundreds of thousands of euros, but certainly not one million. Thanks to my German lawyer Tanja Irion, more money comes in every time websites or newspapers illegally publish the photos.
SPIEGEL: Google has already announced it will appeal the decision in Germany. Are you prepared to carry through to the very end even if Google wins at the next stage?
Mosley: Yes. If necessary, we will take this all the way to Germany's Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice). But perhaps Google will grow up by then.
SPIEGEL: How much of your personal time are you dedicating to the legal fight?
Mosley: Oh, probably less than 5 percent. I spend most of my time trying to ensure that Britain gets a proper press regulation following the Murdoch scandal. In recent months, I've been writing my autobiography. At some point it occurred to me that I haven't even mentioned Google.
SPIEGEL: Do you still use Google as a search engine?
Mosley: Yes. I even use Gmail. I am certain that Google reads all my emails.
SPIEGEL: How does your family cope with the fact that you will probably still be suing years from now?
Mosley: My wife and my two sons were always on my side. Prior to the story with the News of the World heating up, the conventional wisdom in England had been that it's better not to sue because the issue will have been long forgotten by the time it gets to court. A trial makes public again everything that you wanted to keep private. It's actually not very clever to sue, but I said: I'm not going to put up with this.
SPIEGEL: What would you advise people in similar situations to do?
Mosley: I'd say defend yourselves! If people don't defend their rights, they lose them. But it is also clear to me that it is a financial issue.
SPIEGEL: What is privacy worth in times when the NSA is collecting billions of text messages, emails and phone data?
Mosley: The NSA argues that its work protects the public from terrorism. I personally would be prepared to take a slightly higher risk of terrorism if my privacy were respected and my emails were left alone. It's like in road traffic: The danger of accidents decreases when everyone just drives at 30 miles per hour. But that is not want we want. In a democracy, the public should be asked how much security and how much privacy they want for themselves. But that hasn't happened. It is only thanks to Edward Snowden that we know what happened.
SPIEGEL: So you now have to pay for governments' failures with your own money?
Mosley: Yes, to some extent. Governments always act once the damage has been done -- they tend to lag behind developments. Still, you don't necessarily need stricter laws. European governments could, for example, say: If a company doesn't respect European law, then it can't do business here.
SPIEGEL: If you could make a wish for what people should find first when they enter your name in a Google search, what would it be?
Mosley: In an ideal world, I would wish for people to read a story about my efforts to increase road safety. If there is anything in my life where I made a difference, it is to make road cars safer.
SPIEGEL: How would you feel if people instead read: Max Mosley a pioneer in the fight for privacy on the Internet?
Mosley: No. That's what the courts are there for.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Mosley, we thank you for this interview.
- Part 1: Google Is So 'Arrogant They Do Whatever They Like'
- Part 2: 'I Don't Understand Why This Is So Difficult'
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2014
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH
Click on the links below for more information about DER SPIEGEL's history, how to subscribe or purchase the latest issue of the German-language edition in print or digital form or how to obtain rights to reprint SPIEGEL articles.
- Frequently Asked Questions: Everything You Need to Know about DER SPIEGEL
- Six Decades of Quality Journalism: The History of DER SPIEGEL
- A New Home in HafenCity: SPIEGEL's New Hamburg HQ
- Reprints: How To License SPIEGEL Articles