EU Thinks It Has Jurisdiction Over The Global Internet: Says Right To Be Forgotten Should Be Global

from the because-of-course dept

Back in May, of course, a troubling ruling by the EU Court of Justice said that search engines had to disappear links on searches for certain people’s names if that information was somehow no longer relevant. This, of course, kicked off a “right to be forgotten” craze in Europe, where thousands of people sought to have embarrassing stories about them removed from Google’s results on their names. In July, we noted that EU regulators were suggesting that this “right to be forgotten” should apply globally, rather than just in Europe, as Google had currently implemented it. Google pushed back on this idea, but apparently without success. Last week, the EU’s data protection officials released new “guidelines” [pdf] that argue the right to be forgotten should apply globally.

Specifically, it argues that if a person’s privacy rights are violated by having results show up in search engines in Europe, then those same rights are violated if they show up in any non-EU search results as well (all emphasis in the original):

The [data protection working group] considers that in order to give full effect to the data subject?s rights as defined in the Court?s ruling, de-listing decisions must be implemented in such a way that they guarantee the effective and complete protection of data subjects? rights and that EU law cannot be circumvented. In that sense, limiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the ruling. In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains.

Under EU law, everyone has a right to data protection.

The key line here is not actually bolded in the original. It’s the “this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains.” Basically, if it can be reached from Europe, it has to be blocked. Or, in even shorter form, “EU regulations apply around the globe online.” That’s a really, really, bad idea. Because now how will the EU respond to other countries pushing their own silly censorship efforts globally? Russia can claim that anything about homosexuality must be blocked globally. China can argue that anything about Tibet or government corruption can be blocked globally. And how will the EU respond?

This is so troubling that even folks who actually support the original ruling are speaking out about how troubling these new guidelines are. Even GigaOm’s David Meyer, who regularly has supported the right to be forgotten (which he argues is an unfair description of “the right to be de-linked”), says that this is bad:

I can understand Falque-Pierrotin?s logic, but even I ? someone who finds value in the concept of the right to be de-linked ? think this is an awful decision.

It?s part of a worrying trend, taking place around the world, for local or regional internet-related rules to apply everywhere. Again, it is understandable why regulators want to do this ? the internet is a global medium, and it?s near-impossible to geographically limit effective regulation ? but the result is layers of overlapping jurisdictions.

Even if Europeans believe strongly in this right-to-be-forgotten idea, they should be, as Meyers is, troubled by the idea that an EU ruling can impact the global internet. And yes, as Meyers points out, the US is often guilty of pretending that its laws apply to the global internet as well, and that should be equally troubling.

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Comments on “EU Thinks It Has Jurisdiction Over The Global Internet: Says Right To Be Forgotten Should Be Global”

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94 Comments
Michael (profile) says:

Under EU law, everyone has a right to data protection.

Fantastic.

Under China Law, everyone has no rights to anything not deemed acceptable by the government. So, as far as applying your laws to non-EU citizens, I have the same response that I have for China trying to apply their laws to the entire world:

STFU you pedantic asshats. If you want to f*** up the internet for your people, go ahead, but leave mine alone.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Under US law, Holocaust-deniers and Neo-Nazis have just as much right to freedom of speech as anyone else — whereas in Germany, such things are actually crimes.

If a sovereign nation can issue global orders to a multinational corporation, then someone ought to sue Google in a US court for blocking Nazi content in Germany, and get a court order compelling them to unblock it.

The EU can hardly complain when their own precedent is applied, can they?

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Regs

This sort of hyper-regulation will just lead to Google and other American search engine companies abandoning all physical presence Europe altogether. Any company that has no physical presence there can basically tell the European Union to screw off with all this nonsense, which will leave the EU with no remedy other than blocking those domains from access within Europe. And when millions of EU citizens are suddenly cut off from things like Gmail and Google Docs, which they’ve come to rely on for both their business and personal affairs, the EU commissioners can enjoy the monumental backlash it generates.

And if the big companies like Google are too entrenched in Europe at this point to abandon their physical facilities, a new space will open up in the search engine business market for one that isn’t physically located in Europe and subject to these laws. If I knew that such a search engine was out there and its results weren’t purposely skewed and censored, I’d certainly use it over Google, which I would know is giving me back less than complete and accurate results.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Regs

“And if the big companies like Google are too entrenched in Europe at this point to abandon their physical facilities, a new space will open up in the search engine business market”

This is what I’m waiting for. Google has already degraded their search a LOT in an effort to comply with governmental desires. Just a little bit more and a competitor that doesn’t come from a major corporation because feasible.

Remember, when Google first entered on the scene, the conventional wisdom was that it didn’t have a chance because Yahoo, Lycos, and AltaVista had the market locked up. A couple of years later, everyone forgot about anything that wasn’t Google. The fortunes of these companies can turn completely in no time at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: EU law cannot be circumvented.

“…EU law cannot be circumvented.

Well, it’s obvious that when someone chooses to live somewhere other than the EU it’s just a transparent attempt to circumvent EU law. This circumvention cannot be allowed to stand! What good is the rule of law if it can be so easily circumvented? I’ve heard there are now even whole countries trying to use this loophole!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Attacking the symptoms, not looking for a cure

Does anyone engaged in censorship ever think of it as such? Usually they try and justify it as ‘Protecting [group not in need of protecting]’, I imagine it would be fairly rare for them to actually admit that yeah, their actions are most certainly censorship.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Attacking the symptoms, not looking for a cure

Usually they try and justify it as ‘Protecting [group not in need of protecting]’, I imagine it would be fairly rare for them to actually admit that yeah, their actions are most certainly censorship.

The PRC probably say they’re protecting the Chinese people, when they’re really protecting the regime. They don’t need to be honest about what they’re doing, just spin it that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear EU,

Something, something, jurisdiction.

Look, if you want to make policy in other nations you need to do so within the laws of that nation. AFAIK, non European nations have not agreed to, nor joined the EU – so piss off.

I realize that corporations are attempting an end run on this concept but that has not yet been successful and hopefully never is.

spodula (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blackout

I Wouldn’t hold your breath for that. This is the same organization that brought in EU-wide regulations on the Straightness of bananas, despite LOTS of people pointing out how stupid that is.

The Average EU Bureaucrat thinks “Screwed up” only applies to other people. If there are problems, its just people interpreting the regulations wrongly. (The interpretation varying between was happens to be politically wise at the moment)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Blackout

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euromyth

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_Regulation_(EC)_No_2257/94

I think the name of the first URL says it all without having to visit the link, but there are lots of silly things reported about the various EU legislation.

Many of the rules regarding produce are to reduce waste at the consumer or retail level. For example, there are some problems with selling “misshapen” vegetables, so they often go unsold by the retailer. There are also some concerns about maximizing shipping efficiency.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Blackout

Think about what you are saying:

The UK people are going to read something, care enough to contact their representatives, their representatives are going to care about the people they represent, these representatives will have enough power to enact change, and they will make a meaningful change that will not f*** things up further.

It may be easier to just hope REALLY REALLY hard that this fixes itself.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blackout

Yes, a move like that would cause backlash against Google, but at times I think because of their dominant position in the market they have a responsibility to protect the internet.

I also think that them not making a firm stand will hurt them more in the future. If they make a stand they will get some angry politicians yelling, politicians who will likely be sightly afraid of doing much. If they keep rolling over to demands like these though then Google will loose its user base.

Reading these stories just makes me more and more interested in projects like Yacy. Peer-to-Peer search that cannot be tampered with at the whims of Governments. All it will take is one project like that to get real traction and Google would quickly loose dominance as search provider.

techflaws (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Blackout

I’ve been wondering from day one why they haven’t been fighting back harder and now it sadly looks like it’s going to cost them. Problem is, for too long they trusted German politicians to show some common sense and the fact that these politicians will still be screwed over by the media despite having made sure they got their precious Leistungsschutzecht is only a cold comfort.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Blackout

Google’s position is market based, they earned their position. No one screams about the mainstream media and their abuse of their monopolized position and their position is unjustly government granted. Yet the mainstream media had a long history of posting pro-IP propaganda while censoring all of the law buying that went on behind the scenes to get all sorts of bad laws passed (ie: taxi cab medallions, etc…).

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Blackout

If they changed their homepage in Europe to a page explaining what is happening, also stating the effects.

Google should change the results page to say EU insisted they forget the following results (not providing links to them), then list the EU based search engines which would provide them.

Augment that with links to the asshats who demanded such perversity, and their contact pages.

Said EU asshats should just stop listening to EU celebs, politicians, bureaucrats, & etc. They’re no-nothing whiners who should do less alcohol fueled foolishness, not complain when people remember the silly things they’ve done.

Chris Meadows (profile) says:

Another way Europe thinks it can legislate the global Internet...

Have you heard about the new VAT MOSS regs, which state that everyone who sells to an EU consumer, even if they’re located outside the EU, is required to collect and remit the proper VAT from the consumers, as well as hold onto two non-contradictory sources of information concerning customer location for each order, for ten years? What’s more, in order to do that and comply with EU privacy regs, their business servers have to be located in the EU.

Ridiculous. And unenforceable, unless the operator of such a business should decide to visit the EU somewhere down the road.

John says:

Re: Another way Europe thinks it can legislate the global Internet...

Chris, tax collection can be enforced because of some of the tax treaties that have been signed.

I know when I lived in the US (as an Aussie) the tax treaties allowed me to pay my taxes in the US system and avoid paying tax back in Oz. Without the treaty, it was explained that I might be liable to pay income tax in both jurisdictions.

If the US and EU have signed a treaty regarding tax cooperation, then the VAT collection may be valid and the EU could be able to force collection through the US courts.

Jeff Green (profile) says:

As I understand it this is not a court decision (as yet anyway) merely a bureaucrat’s idea of what should be done. The original decision isn’t a ood one, but isn’t actually anything like as bad as originally painted, in fact if implemented correctly it would merely substitute one imbalance for another. This new ruling on the other hand is incontrovertibly bad, not only China and North Korea have terrible laws that could close the Internet, US anti-gambling laws, Islamic anti-drinking, Ugandan or Russian anti-homosexual and many more.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“but isn’t actually anything like as bad as originally painted, in fact if implemented correctly it would merely substitute one imbalance for another.”

So far anyway, it’s totally as bad as originally painted. And you say “merely substitute one imbalance for another” as if that’s benign. I don’t think that it is (and the original imbalance wasn’t as bad as the new imbalance.)

Mora says:

This is the point...

This is the point where I think Google should actually consider splitting off the search engine into a separate company, headquartered conveniently in some tax heaven then let it run massive losses.

Not only they would then give a giant middle finger to German newspapers, but also blackhole all the “right to be forgotten” demands, due to “insufficient manpower”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is the point...

That’s what the EU legislators want actually. And it’s not what Google’s users want. If the search engine is split from the other services, then users have to start paying for the other services or Google has to use some other, likely more overt method of getting revenue.

Google is able to provide its users with free services because of the search and advertising revenue.

DannyB (profile) says:

Everyone should have this right

Think about how wonderful the world would be.

You should have the right to be forgotten whenever someone submits the proper notification to Google that you should be forgotten.

Google should have a simple machine callable API so that automated programs from the RIAA / MPAA can submit “right to be forgotten” requests without human intervention.

Sites suspected of piracy could be forgotten.
Embarrassing stories about copyright maximalists infringing others’ copyrights could be forgotten.
Stories of bumbling clown circus copyright trolls could be forgotten.
Stories which suggest wrong thinking, or modes of thinking contrary to established political policy could be forgotten.
Unfavorable stories about Internet Service Providers and Mobile Wireless Network operators could be forgotten.

Such a tool would make the world a wonderful place. 🙂

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Geographic Split

Well, the obvious solution is that Google splits into two companies, one in the United States, and one in Europe. The American company gets the Google-dot-com name, and the European company gets Google-dot-eu, Google-dot-de, Google-dot-fr, etc., probably including Google-dot-uk. Google-dot-ch is a different matter. Switzerland maintains its own sovereignty against the EU, cooperating only on a case-by-case basis, and there is no reason that the American company should not have a Swiss subsidiary, and place sufficient servers in Switzerland to supply all of Europe. Switzerland has made money by not enforcing other countries’ laws for a long time, notably in banking, and I doubt if they are going to stop now. Both companies would start off with a full copy of the common data, and would cooperate with each other to the extent that their legal regimes permitted. I imagine that most of Google’ employees in Europe are advertising salespeople, and they can surely be spun off on an agency basis.

Anonymous Coward says:

The ultimate solution!

They can “cut the cord” at it’s borders and do whatever in it’s own little fiefdom if it pleases. We will be relieved of their constant whining about stupid shit they don’t like. We could also do the same and achieve the same effect or Google could delist the entire EU, leaving control of access to the Net externally entirely in their control. The EU has wasted far to much time contemplating their navel, deeming it a thing of beauty and power, which causes delusions of world wide power and control. Just STFU you whiny little brats and go sit in corner until you grow up and act like an adult or take control and isolate yourselves. You get get one of two choices, control OR partake in the global community. Choose one, the NET doesn’t care!

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Geolocation

Very few courts have taken the matter of geo-location very seriously. One that did was a French County Court against the defendant Yahoo! Inc. [1] In that case the Court heard evidence that estimated the certainty of being able to identify a browser location. Perhaps 70% of users could realistically be located with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

One example of a common glaring error was those users who used the American AOL as a service provider, where the geo-location software pinpointed them as physically being in Virginia, USA.

1. League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA), French Union of Jewish Students, v Yahoo! Inc. (USA), Yahoo France, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (The County Court of Paris), Interim Court Order, 20 November, 2000

Mary Ann Ludwig (profile) says:

Right to be forgotten

So, would this mean that any negative story about a politician (especially a Democrat), whether that politician is currently in office or is just thinking about running, would need to be censored? What about historical figures? How about Hollywood folk? Would any embarrassing stories need to be “forgotten”? (That would pretty much kill any entertainment news…) What if you were trying to find out everything you could about a person that was a part of a prominent news story? This makes no sense at all. Most “private” individuals might feel that the truly embarrassing story about the Thanksgiving dinner boo boo from ten years ago ought to be deleted. After all, the arrest record was later expunged. (It could be argued that they should never have put those photos on their Facebook page if they were going to be pissy about it later.) But all public figures and historical events are fair game.

Anonymous Coward says:

you cant critisise countries for having no civil rights, freed om and privacy, then start doing the same as them. these countries will expect to have the same opportunities to censor etc outside of their borders as the EU is expecting to have. it wont work and although they are trying to get the exact same thing, the USA will be the first to protest and put barriers up!

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oops.

> Advocate-General of Minnesota: “Persons outside
> of Minnesota who transmit information via the
> internet knowing that information will be disseminated
> in Minnesota are subject to jurisdiction in Minnesota
> courts for violations of state criminal and civil laws”.

Oops, indeed. Minnesota can pass such a law, but it has no authority under our federalist system of government to enforce it, or to bind citizens in other states or countries to whatever spews forth from its legislature. I don’t live in Minnesota, I didn’t vote for the people passing laws there, and I’m not subject to their jurisdiction.

Merely putting a website up on the internet doesn’t subject me to any jurisdiction other than the state where I’m actually located and the federal government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Look up extradition.

Don’t need to. Extradition is only available in my state for crimes committed in the requesting state’s jurisdiction. I could easily defeat any extradition request from Minnesota by simply showing that I was not in Minnesota on the date and time when the alleged crime was committed.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

That would be up to the court to decide …
> in Minnesota.

No, it wouldn’t. You don’t really have any idea how extradition works, do you?

Any attempt at extradition would require a judicial hearing in my state first, and all I would have to do is show the judge in my state that I was not in Minnesota on the date and time when the alleged crime was committed, and extradition would be denied to Minnesota.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There isn’t much they can do about people o/s the eu seeing the results, even if they want to.

That’s not really true. Remember that companies like Microsoft and Google are officially based in Ireland, and move much of their money through the Netherlands, for tax reasons. European court cases can therefore cause them a lot of trouble.

Anonymous Coward says:

The arrogance of the E.U. Someone needs to remind the E.U. that their laws only exist within the E.U. Their laws do not apply to other countries nor do they apply to websites operating in other countries.

Last I checked, the E.U. is not a global world government body. Only the E.U. would be so arrogant to think it actually was.

This is why I do not respond to any ‘right to be forgotten’ requests involving my website.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Last I checked, the E.U. is not a global world
> government body. Only the E.U. would be so arrogant
> to think it actually was.

No, the American government has a long and rich history of believing its laws apply everywhere in the universe as well. One only has to look no further than the Kim Dotcom case to see that. Even when American laws conflict with the actual laws of a foreign country, American authorities have insisted that the country ignore its own laws in favor American laws and turn its citizens over to the U.S. for prosecution.

The EU is just taking the American example and embracing the suck.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: The EU was a last bastion of hope for some of us Americans

When our government decided to arbitrarily attack and then force extradition of Kim Dotcom from New Zealand, meanwhile arbitrarily shutting down a cyberlocker, unlawfully seizing data that belonged to countless third parties and arbitrarily deleting some of it, I realized US DoJ had done such an injustice to the integrity of the cyberlocker industry as a whole, and cloud computing as a practice, that would need to pay dearly as recompense to the damage it has done to the world economy.

Since then, the internal corruption and perversion-of-purpose of the US DoJ has continued to reveal itself, and I’d come to the conclusion that it is a lost cause until destroyed and re-established again anew.

I had hoped the EU would be more sensible when it came to trying to regulate the internet (e.g. don’t. You will not succeed) until its own censorship and IP-related troubles started surfacing.

Now I can’t help but think that any institution that thinks it’s big enough to control the internet can’t help itself but try to reshape it into its own image.

Beta (profile) says:

“The [data protection working group] considers that… de-listing decisions must be implemented in such a way… that EU law cannot be circumvented.”

No matter how many times I read this, I can’t make any sense out of it. These “data protection officials” don’t seem to know the first thing about law or computers, and their whole philosophy seems to be “do what we meant and don’t bother us about details”. Is that a hiring requirement at the CJEU?

ECA (profile) says:

Interesting

Is it funny that politicians are the MAIN ones trying to do this, for themselves?

YOU really have to wonder about this idea. HOW are the cops going to TRACK people if they arent shown on the net?
Right to be forgotten, on Youtube, MSN, Yahoo, EXCITE, G+, FACEBOOK,…,…, every newspaper..
HOW can you be invisible..

All this is going to do, is give people a way to HIDE.
Like being an idiot at a party, at the beach, getting Drunk, beating your wife, your KIDS being stupid..

This all started over a Politician and a news paper..and google having it linked.

NOW think about that..A LINK to another site would be illegal..
HOW many sites, can give you LINKS to videos, music, and Other GRAY area’s..
Anyone wish to turn off, LINKING for a day?
Every search engine would go DOWN.
Every Ref. link would go down.
Every News aggregator would GO DOWN.
Every link in TD would go down..
AND in the BASIC structure..DNS is a Link program.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

The internet won't bow down to its new insect overlords.

I assume this right-to-be-forgotten notion is from corporations and important figures who would rather their embarrassing pasts would disappear, less so individuals who had only proximal association with some scandal who’d rather not be associated with it, yes?

If so, then this just looks like a bunch of control-freaky bigs being a control freak about how they cannot control the internet.

You know, doesn’t forgive, doesn’t forget, doesn’t rules, doesn’t legion, etc.

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Use GEO IP location

Sigh. I’ll post it again.

Very few courts have taken the matter of geo-location very seriously. One that did was a French County Court against the defendant Yahoo! Inc. [1] In that case the Court heard evidence that estimated the certainty of being able to identify a browser location. Perhaps 70% of users could realistically be located with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

One example of a common glaring error was those users who used the American AOL as a service provider, where the geo-location software pinpointed them as physically being in Virginia, USA.

1. League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA), French Union of Jewish Students, v Yahoo! Inc. (USA), Yahoo France, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (The County Court of Paris), Interim Court Order, 20 November, 2000

Dave Cortright says:

If the EU is serious, then they should start blocking .com

@btr1701 hit the nail on the head. If the EU regulators are truly serious about this, they should STFU and start blocking access to .com and all other sites not under their control that won’t kowtow to their censorship.

Even better: I’d love to see Google go ahead and do it for them. Put up a big banner on .com for all EU visitors: “Sorry, but your stupid government thinks your lives are better off without Google products. If you disagree, click here to send them a message.” I would love to see their email servers melt down from all that traffic.

Zonker says:

EU, your claimed right to be forgotten is violating my actual right to remember. This is not about data protection as the data you seek to protect is already public information, not private.

Shall we all be forced to forget Napoleon’s failure at Waterloo? Shall we forget the treason, exile, and debauchery of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester? Or how about Guy Fawkes? Shall we forget his treason and never remember the fifth of November?

How much history will you lose when no one is allowed to remember what is already known?

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