Germany Considers Setting Up A Special Court To Determine Who Can Demand To Have Embarassing Histories Deleted From Google

from the because-that-will-end-well dept

We recently wrote about a ridiculous decision in the EU Court of Justice, which accepted the bizarre concept of a “right to be forgotten” and ordered that Google had to delete links to old news stories about Mario Costeja Gonzalez even though those news stories could stay online. And, of course, this has set off a frenzy of folks seeking to have their embarrassing histories deleted, because, really, if you had an embarrassing public history, why wouldn’t you?

And, within weeks, it’s already reached the point that Germany is looking into setting up a special court to review such cases and determine what embarrassing histories Google will need to delete, and which embarrassing histories you’ll need to learn to live with people finding on Google. Because… this is the ridiculous world we now live in (for those of you in Europe for now). At the very least, to some extent this can be seen as marginally positive. The idea behind creating this is to actually decrease the impact of the ruling, and to limit the ability for people to delete their histories. But, just the fact that you might need to set up a special court for this sounds insane.

Following a European Union court decision this month granting consumers the “right to be forgotten,” the Interior Ministry in Berlin would seek to establish “dispute-settlement mechanisms” for consumers who file so-called take-down requests. If search providers introduce automatic deletion, public information would be at risk, the ministry said.

“Politicians, prominent figures and other persons who are reported about in public would be able to hide or even delete reports they find unpleasant,” it said in a statement. The ministry suggested that the removal of information shouldn’t be left to company algorithms.

It seems some folks in Berlin recognize that public information might be at risk over this situation, but it’s still troubling that a court gets to decide what public information is “legitimate” and which is not. And that, really, is the problem with all of this. While defenders of the “right to be forgotten” and the EUCJ decision keep referring to it as a “privacy” right, it is no such thing. If it was about private information, they’d have a point. But it’s not. It’s about public information.

It is silly to argue that public information should be forced to be made private after a certain point, and even more ridiculous to then put the burden on a third party to make that public information private. At the very least, having a special court slightly limits that burden, but just the fact that such a court would even be thought necessary should show how ridiculous and dangerous the original ruling is for public discourse.

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Comments on “Germany Considers Setting Up A Special Court To Determine Who Can Demand To Have Embarassing Histories Deleted From Google”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Streisand Memorial court soon to be accepting filings'

But wait, it gets better!

Because unless all records involving the court are sealed, simply checking them will give people a fairly good idea of who is trying to wipe their past and any evidence of it, leading to even more interest, and more scrutiny, where there otherwise wouldn’t have been any.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'Streisand Memorial court soon to be accepting filings'

All you would need to do is create a website that scrapes the courts records and you would have a nice list.

I wonder if they would then apply to have the court documents removed from the newly create search engine (kind of like the recursive DMCA/Chilling effects requests).

Anonymous Coward says:

the EU should put up a special court to see how the hell the most clever legal minds in the whole of Europe could come out with such a ridiculous ruling in the first place! it has only been done to try to stop people from finding out about the goose stepping so-and-so ‘i’ve got too much money that i dont know what to do with so i’ll waste some forcing people to not know what a stupid fucking idiot i make of myself, while also allowing the most ardent of criminals and child molesters erase their past prosecutions so as to be able to get at the next victim!’ what a complete twat!!

Anonymous Coward says:

The law of unintended consequences will bite hard with this. The only way a search engine can ‘delete’ the links is to build an explicit database of links to be dropped from its search indexes, as it needs to forget them every time that it re-indexes sites with pages it should not show. In trying to be forgotten people are building databases of great interest to police and spy agencies, who will be sure to gain access to them as required.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

I like what John Oliver said about Mario Costeja Gonzalez when he covered this ruling. ” The only thing I know about this guy is the one thing he doesn’t want me to know about him.”

A little honesty about myself. 20 years ago I used drugs and ended up with 3 misdemeanors on my record. I have been clean ever since. I have had to disclose them on every job application since then because any employer could do a background check in public records and find out. I checked with a lawyer about having them expunged and he said that in these days that would do little good. Even though he could likely get them sealed in all government records there are many private companies that employers use that have scooped up past public records and there is no way to remove them. If you Google my name this doesn’t appear but many ads will show up from these private companies offering background checks on anyone for a price.

Even if there were Google links about my convictions and I could have them removed there is no way my record could be “forgotten”.

mcherm (profile) says:

A question about showing links to private material

I have a question for the European court. Your ruling explains that Google must remove links to information under certain circumstances — such as links to a newspaper article about a bankruptcy from many years ago. Is this a law only for Google, or does it apply to others as well? Does DuckDuckGo need to remove those links? What about the Internet Archive? How about the newspaper themselves… do they need to remove the links to their own articles from their archives? What if I have old paper printouts of the links (or even old newspapers sitting around with the original article)… do those need to be destroyed?

Anonymous Coward says:

I think this is a great solution to a sucky problem. Instead of letting Google and Microsoft individually decide what stays public and what doesn’t, the inevitable appeals courts should get the case first, and then it’s much easier to forward the verdict to all applicable search engines. All EU countries should have such a court. They need it anyway since everybody rejected by the search engines will want to appeal. Germany is definitely doing this right, even if would be better to not have to do it at all.

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