Bev Stayart Sues Yahoo Again For Violating Her Privacy Rights
from the why-levitra? dept
Eric Goldman now alerts us to the news that Ms. Stayart has filed a new lawsuit against Yahoo over a slightly different issue. Apparently (and I checked, this is true), if you are using Yahoo's search engine, and you type in the search for Bev Stayart, Yahoo's "suggested search" feature, offers up "bev stayart levitra" as the option after just "bev stayart." Also, on the results page, Yahoo asks you if you want to try "bev stayart levitra" as a search instead.
Ms. Stayart is apparently offended by this connection between her name and the drug Levitra, and claims that Yahoo is responsible for the content. The lawsuit suggests that Yahoo has no safe harbor because this algorithmically generated content is created by Yahoo itself. In many ways, this reminds me of the recent lawsuits we've discussed in France where Google was sued for what its suggested searches put forth.
While I will refrain from commenting on my opinion of the new lawsuit, I will note that if you actually do click through on the search for "bev stayart levitra" on Yahoo, you do get a clue as to why Yahoo connected the terms. It's because at the top of the results is the court's dismissal of the original lawsuit, which includes the court summarizing the situation, with the following statement:
Stayart alleges that Yahoo! and Overture knowingly connected and continues to connect her name (Bev Stayart) with sexual dysfunction drugs Cialis, Viagra and Levitra on its search engine results for her.In other words, it appears that a big part of the reason for these current results is because of the original lawsuit she filed. And, given that the new lawsuit makes regular use of these terms, you would have to figure that it will remain a commonly combined phrase online. Given all of that, I do wonder if things would have been better off if no complaint had been filed in the first place. All the original complaint did, apparently, was enhance the connection between her name and the drug Levitra in the eyes of Yahoo's algorithm. Now, you can say that Yahoo's suggestion algorithm is weak (it certainly appears that way), but does a bad algorithm violate someone's privacy rights?