Guy Who Won Original Right To Be Forgotten Case Loses His Attempt To Have New Story About His Past Forgotten

from the inception dept

The whole right to be forgotten thing over in Europe continues to get more and more bizarre. Not too long ago, we wrote about one Thomas Goolnik, who had succeeded in getting an old NY Times story about him “delinked” from his name in Europe. The NY Times then wrote about that delinking, and we wrote about the NY Times article. Mr. Goolnik then succeeded in having our article about his successful right to be forgotten attempt also forgotten by Google. So we wrote about that too. And, once again, Goolnik succeeded in having that story forgotten. As of yet, it appears our final story on Goolnik has remained accessible on European searches for Goolnik’s name, but we have no idea if it’s because Google has realized that it should remain up or if Goolnik just hasn’t made a request.

Meanwhile, it appears that the guy who first convinced the European Court of Justice to enforce this right to be forgotten, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, may have run into a similar situation. As you probably remember, Costeja brought the original case that argued that Google should no longer show results on searches for his name that linked to some stories in the late 90s about his being forced to sell some land to cover debts. The Court eventually decided that since this information was no longer “relevant,” that under the data protection directive, it should be “delinked” in Google’s database as a “privacy” measure.

Of course, as many people pointed out, in bringing that very case, the details of Costeja’s financial transactions suddenly became relevant again. And, apparently that resulted in more people commenting on Costeja, including an article entitled “The unforgettable story of the seizure to the defaulter Mario Costeja Gonzalez that happened in 1998.” And, as you might imagine, he wasn’t too happy about some of the comments, and with this newfound power that he helped create in hand, he demanded that Google also take down links to such comments (most likely including that article linked in this paragraph).

And here’s where it gets fun: Google refused. And so Costeja went to the Spanish Data Protection Authority to complain… and the Spanish DPA rejected his claim, noting that this information is now relevant in part because Costeja himself made it relevant again.

Now the DPA finds that there is indeed a preponderant interest of the public in the comments about the famous case that gave rise to the CJEU judgment of May 13, 2014 ? and expressly reminds that the claimant itself went public about the details.

So, yes, the right to be forgotten has now made the story that was “successfully” forgotten originally so newsworthy that it may no longer be forgotten, and in fact is much more widely known. I think we’ve heard of some term for that before…

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Comments on “Guy Who Won Original Right To Be Forgotten Case Loses His Attempt To Have New Story About His Past Forgotten”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The “Right to be Forgotten” isn’t fault. The law is doing exactly what it should be doing. It’s Costeja, who stirred up the hornet’s nest that created his problem anew. It’s hilarious that the RTBF law doesn’t get rid of the original articles, it only removes the links to those articles from online search engines.

Kind of defeats the whole purpose.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

the RTBF law doesn’t get rid of the original articles, it only removes the links to those articles from online search engines.

Kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Maybe the porpoise could be un-defeated if the EU would pass a law that:
* not only must Google remove certain links
* but for links that Google can keep, those articles, which are not located on Google’s servers, must not be reachable by your browser.

Yes, Google should somehow magically be able to prevent your browser from connecting directly to ‘forgotten’ articles that you find by other indirect means.

Anonymous Coward says:

Spanish Government is the irony

They required the initial news about his debts to be posted by the newspaper, so the newspaper couldn’t take it down.So we have a government demanding information that it requires to be online to also require it not searchable.
The end result is it is still on the newspaper website, and new search engines will keep finding and posting links about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Spanish Government is the irony

…They required the initial news about his debts to be posted by the newspaper…

I missed this in the original posts. In the US this is known as a legal advertisement which is required by law. Publishers are required to post these ads – note that there are no requirements as to where in the publication these ads are posted – for so much time. For online postings the meta-tags can be set for no indexing, but the ad cannot be deleted until the required time expires.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Repeatedly referencing one's ancient quip in vain attempt to NOT be forgotten...

“is the Masnick Syndrome.”

As opposed to the AC syndrome, where a person is unable to read an article without attacking something in the comment section, can’t find any factual or logical errors in the article, so finds an excuse to attack the author instead.

“Perhaps you begin to see it’s ridiculous.”

A phrase was coined, it refers to the situation described and it’s been referenced in thousands of articles elsewhere since them.

Why is it ridiculous? It it because Mike said it, or because you’re desperate for attention yourself?

Anonymous Coward says:

With all of the best intentions, the E.U. passed this law because they thought it was a good law to have on the books. But, as with all things, the good intentions behind that law are now being abused by everyone in the E.U. who thinks they have an entitled right to remove everything that THEY think is outdated and that’s not the way it works.

The way the law stands, it’s being abused by a lot of people and eventually the law is going to be modified with less restrictive rules. Every time a new law is passed, it gets abused on a massive scale because people try to push the envelope and see how far they can get before the politicians modify the law so that it can’t be abused.

We’ve seen examples of this kind of abuse with laws such as filming police in public. The so-called wiretapping laws in many countries, which are often abused by the law enforcement community. The same thing is happening with the RTBF law.

Eventually, the RTBF law is going to be modified in such a way so that there are specific criteria when links can be removed. With the pushback from Google happening recently, even the E.U. courts are starting to push back on European citizens who are demanding links to be removed from the search giants.

Google simply is no longer removing *any* request and that it’s now examining each request to ensure that the information really is outdated.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's backwards

If the EU really wanted to do this right, and very little of what is does IS right (apologies to all of you EU minions), the right to be forgotten has to start with the publisher, not the search engines.

If the Spanish government can order a website to post information about a citizen, it should certainly be able to order the website to delete/hide/obscure the information when it is no longer relevant. This way, if someone clicks on the Google search link, they get a 404 or some other indication that the data no longer exists. After a period of time, the data would get expunged from the search database, and the problem is solved.

Now, the EU wouldn’t be able to force the New York Times, for instance, to delete data from its website, although it could try and sue them in the European Court of Justice (hah, gotta love that name.)

 

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: It's backwards

That was intentional. If they started ordering people to delete the source articles, then they’d have quite the time explaining how what they were doing wasn’t censorship. Remember that the articles that are delisted don’t have to be false or defamatory, they just have to be ‘no longer relevant’, so an article that is entirely true can be removed if someone decides that it’s no longer ‘relevant’.

A private citizen goes to the court, the court orders an article written by someone else removed, for no other reason than the first person doesn’t like it? Yeah, good luck defending that one.

By ‘only’ de-listing it, they get to pretend that what they’re doing isn’t censoring anything, and as a result requires much less in the way of checks and balances, despite the fact that there’s really no difference in practice between an article that doesn’t exist anymore, and one that no-one can find.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: It's backwards

“If the Spanish government can order a website to post information about a citizen, it should certainly be able to order the website to delete/hide/obscure the information when it is no longer relevant.”

If the website is within its jurisdiction and the order doesn’t violate other laws, sure. It’s extremely distasteful, but at least it would be somewhat effective. In theory, at least. However:

“Now, the EU wouldn’t be able to force the New York Times, for instance, to delete data from its website”

Bingo. Google has a presence in the EU, a great many other websites do not. If they order EU-based sites to remove information, the removal would be reported on sites over which they have no power. The resulting story is also worse for the requester’s image than the originating story, since reports not only detail the information that caused the request to be issued, but their failed attempts at censorship as well.

As silly and ineffective as it is, ordering Google around is literally the least they can do to appear to be doing “something”, although everybody knows it’s silly and pointless. Let’s just be happy that, for the time being at least, those who are attempting to censor are so bad at it.

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