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Celebrities stand up to Google in stolen photos case

Los Angeles: A law firm representing a dozen celebrities affected by the theft and recent publication of private photographs online has threatened to file a lawsuit against Google if the company does not delete the material, including nude images, from the web.

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Pic courtesy/Google

In a letter published by the US press Thursday and sent to Google the day before, the firm Lavely & Singer claimed that Google could face legal charges that could cost it around $100 million "as a result of its blatantly unethical behaviour".

"Google is making millions and profiting from the victimisation of women," the lawyers said in the letter in which they explained that for four weeks they have been trying to make the company take measures in order to prevent intimate images obtained by hackers from appearing on sites owned by Google, such as Blogspot and YouTube.

"If your wives, daughters or relatives were the victims of such blatant violations of basic human rights, surely you would take appropriate actions," said the letter, which accused the technology firm of giving priority to its income over people's rights.

"But because the victims are celebrities with valuable publicity rights, you do nothing, nothing but collect millions of dollars in advertising revenue from your co-conspirator advertising partners as you seek to capitalise on this scandal rather than quash it," it added.

A Google spokesperson Thursday said in a statement to Spanish news agency Efe that the company deleted "tens of thousands of photos as soon as it received the petition of the lawyers" and that it had closed hundreds of accounts.

"The internet is used for many good things. Stealing someone's private photos is not one of them," a Google spokesperson said.

Efe has been told that Google is deleting leaked pictures by going against its own guidelines on nudity and privacy violation on YouTube, Blogger and Google+, and that the company has a policy to act immediately when it receives warnings of intellectual property violation.

On average, Google acts on such requests in a matter of four to six hours.

However, the company requires notification by a third party to detect banned content and delete it which implies that if internet users continue uploading images to the web, they will once again be in circulation until relocated and deleted again.

The lawyers' letter does not name their clients, but the list of celebrities affected by the hacking in late August includes Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna and Arianna Grande, among others.

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