Ever performed an “ego search” or “vanity search”? Of course you have. Who isn’t curious about what happens when you plug your own name into Google? But what if the things that pop up aren’t so favorable, like an unflattering suggested query. Would you get upset, look for someone to blame…perhaps even sue over it?
You would if you’re Wisconsin resident Beverly Stayart. She was so aghast that her name was linked to ads and queries for Levitra that she took to the courts over it. Fine, no one likes being connected to a male erectile dysfunction drug, but really — isn’t suing over search suggestions just a little ridiculous?
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agrees. It just struck down a case brought on by Stayart, a poet and animal rights activist who argued that the search giant was guilty of misappropriating her good name, smearing it just for the sake of ad revenue. In doing so, she contended that Google violated Wisconsin’s privacy laws.
But presiding Judge Ann Claire Williams couldn’t get behind this one. After 11 months, the appeals court ruled that the search result was an exception. Says Reuters, the “alleged improper use of Stayart’s name fell within the ‘public interest’ and ‘incidental use’ exceptions to Wisconsin’s misappropriation laws.” But here’s the kicker: Judge Williams pointed out that the matter became one of public interest because Stayart made it so by suing Google. And this isn’t the first time. Stayart had made a similar legal claim against Yahoo. Surprise, surprise, she lost that one too.
Hard to know whether Stayart’s an opportunist looking to make off with some extra cash or a genuinely concerned individual who won’t stop until her complaints are taken seriously. Either way, the courts are having none of this, and Google officially has no blame in it.