BRASILIA (AFP) — Google on Wednesday handed over data stored by suspected pedophiles on its Orkut social networking site to Brazilian authorities, ceding to pressure to lift its confidentiality duty to its users, officials said.
The US Internet giant delivered 3,261 files to a Brazilian senate commission looking into allegations that illegal images of minors were posted in restricted-access photo albums on the site.
Orkut is the most popular web destination for Brazilians, far outstripping rivals Facebook and MySpace in the country in terms of popularity and activity. Brazil accounts for 27 million of the 60 million members worldwide of the site, which serves to virtually connect like-minded people.
A member of the senate commission, Demostenes Torres, told Globo television that it was "the first time" Google had accepted to divulge the contents or Orkut users.
He stressed that Brazilian officials had received 50,000 allegations of pedophilia in recent years, and that Orkut was suspected of being an online gathering point for sexual predators of children.
Torres said he believed Google's data would incriminate around 200 pedophiles.
"They are exchanging telephone numbers, names of possible victims, the situations in which they live" as well as photos, the senator said.
The state prosecutor for Sao Paulo, Sergio Suiama, last month said 90 percent of the 56,000 pedophilia allegations received in the past few years related to Orkut.
Google representatives met with police, prosecutors and other officials late Wednesday in Sao Paulo to negotiate a wide-ranging deal that would see the US company systematically providing data on suspect Orkut users to Brazilian authorities.
A public relations executive working for Google, Eduardo Vieira, told AFP he believed the deal would be sealed "this week."
He explained that divulging users' information across international boundaries was "not simple" for Internet companies such as Google, but stressed that the company had "no problem cooperating with Brazilian justice" on the issue.
Authorities had threatened Google with criminal and civil lawsuits if it did not comply with opening the restricted online photo albums of users under suspicion.
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