Landmark Court Decision Means Canada Has Now Joined The 'Right To Be Forgotten Globally' Club

from the long-reach-of-the-moosen dept

Techdirt has written plenty about the controversial “right to be forgotten” — strictly speaking, a right to be de-listed from search engine results in general, and from Google in particular. Although most people associate this with the European Union, which pioneered the approach, the idea has now spread to other countries, including South Korea, China and Japan. In an interesting article in The Globe and Mail, Michael Geist suggests that Canada has now joined the club:

the Federal Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling that paves the way for a Canadian version of the right to be forgotten that would allow courts to issue orders with the removal of Google search results on a global basis very much in mind.

The details of the case are rather unusual. They involve a website in Romania that obtained and posted Canadian judicial and tribunal decisions. These were all public documents, but they were not previously indexed by Google, which meant their contents were effectively hidden. The Romanian site allowed its copies to be indexed by Google, which made the decisions and the Canadian citizens involved visible for the first time — something the people affected were not happy about. They complained to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who ruled that the Romanian site violated Canadian privacy law. The case then moved to Canada’s federal court, which ruled that it had jurisdiction over the website in Romania, since it had strong connections with Canada through its holdings. It then went on to make a declaratory order:

The court noted that the declaration could be used to submit a request to Google seeking the removal of the offending links from its search database. While acknowledging that there was no guarantee that Google would act, it was persuaded by the Privacy Commissioner that “this may be the most practical and effective way of mitigating the harm caused to individuals since the respondent is located in Romania with no known assets.”

As Geist notes, whether or not it was the federal court’s intention, it seems to have created the Canadian equivalent of a right to be de-listed from search results:

While more onerous than a direct request to Google, the court’s approach suggests there is now a road map for the global removal of search results of content that may be factually correct, but which also implicates the privacy rights of individuals.

One indirect effect of this ruling will be to strengthen the idea that there is some kind of “right to be forgotten globally,” which will itself probably encourage people in other countries to bring privacy cases that seek to spread it yet further.

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Comments on “Landmark Court Decision Means Canada Has Now Joined The 'Right To Be Forgotten Globally' Club”

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Canuck says:

Any reason why you left out the fact that is an extortion operation that gathers private information of individuals and posts it to its website, then forces the individuals to pay money to have it removed?

The courts are saying that Google should do the right thing and not be part of an extortion operation.

Court website(s) use robots.txt to keep Google out. Google complies. Extortionist crawls website (in violation of robots.txt, I would suspect) and essentially makes a copy of court site(s), but with robots.txt removed. Google indexes extortionist’s site. Why should this stand? How would y’all fix this?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

One really should compile a list of the most horrific people from the countries pushing right to be forgotten.

Oh look someone has…

Oh well he only killed and ate 3 people, there is no reason we should let Google still tell people he did that. He’s been rehabilitated now and there is no problem with him living in a home next to that school full of his preferred prey.

Just because that Judge took millions in kickbacks to send children to work camps on trumped up charges, is no reason we shouldn’t allow him to force Google to remove all mention of his crimes.

Stupid people do stupid things and regret them later, and for some reason rather than deal with the consequences they expect the Government to swoop in and change the world to protect them. This needs to stop.

I’ve made mistakes in my nym life, but I have no interest in covering them up. I am merely immortal, and I own my missteps. I’ve done way more on the good side of the scales, and I don’t give a shit about those few times I screwed up.

The biggest problem is at some point googlestalking potential hires and digging into their facebook replaced actually accessing people. Oh there was a picture of him drinking gets blown into hes a huge alcoholic. People now create perfectly mundane fake accounts to get past the cursory search.

I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it.
Stop googling yourself and fretting about truthful results you dislike, maybe put more effort into actually doing good things to push the bad results down.

Or rip that door off the hinges and then be shocked, just shocked, when Union Carbide manages to scrub this from the results…
Would you like a world where recalls & disasters can be wiped away because they have a right to be forgotten??

ThaumaTechnician (profile) says:

The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

For those folk who always make a point a commenting without reading the source material:
"The case – A.T. v. – involves a Romanian-based website that downloaded thousands of Canadian judicial and tribunal decisions, posted them online and demanded fees for their swift removal."

While there’s a substantial difference of degree, the Romanian website’s business model is essentially revenge porn blackmail.

From what I can discern, in the ‘States, as long as someone is able to make a buck, any activity is considered, uh, legitimate. And anyone who pays you a salary, owns you, like a master owns a slave. This applies also when you’re not ‘on the clock’.

In Canada, it’s a little different. For example, in 2012 the ‘Supreme Court rule[d] employees have right to privacy on work computers’.

In fact, there’s even a federal officer of Parliament, the Privacy Commissioner, whose job is, well, privacy.

Some people here may remember Jennifer Stoddard, who investigated Facebook, getting them to institute privacy protections for its users.

That and, if you’ve committed a crime and done the time, there is room for forgive and forget – we even allow prisoners, like those actually in prison, to vote in elections.

I know, I know, that sounds like crazy talk! But considering the crime and incarceration rates in Canada vs. those in the ‘States, I’ll take our system, any day.

So, no, I’m not really surprised about the court ruling, however impractical it is.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

  1. do not dispute that canada has more humane laws regarding incarceration (in point of fact, just about EVERY country but a few are infinitely more humane in their treatment of prisoners)
    2. but while i am all for giving people a second chance, i dont think that means they csn erase his story to their whims…
    3. as another poster pointed out, our superior korporate ‘people’ (sic) will simply use this ‘right’ to erase any and all inconvenient truths they dont like…
    4. you did something fucked up and people found out ? suck it up, buttercup, maybe next time you will hesitate before deciding on a fucked up decision…
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

suck it up, buttercup, maybe next time you will hesitate before deciding on a fucked up decision…

Punishment for life. Nice. How ’bout you put action behind your words and post your identity so we can all research your past?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve had this idea where google and other search engines should just outright implement a preentive “right to be forgotten” filter for a couple days, ignoring queries for any name whatsoever and adding a big banner “in light of the recent bout of ‘right to be forgotten’ requests we have taken steps to safeguard the privacy of every person ever. Do please ask your local representative/politician what your next steps are to prevent this from happening in the future”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Public Assassination...

definitely agree… just pointing out that I think this is a big part of it. With the communications we have available now, it can be very easy to ruin someone with nothing but lies. People are beginning to realize this to some extent and while most of the pushes for right to be forgotten are mainly from bad actors, they are gaining traction by non bad actors that have been burned.

The whole revenge porn is another parallel to this situation.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Public Assassination...

I was called a terrorist, a hacker, an identity thief, and more lovely things on the record in several courts & media.

I’m still me & more respected than those who made the merit-less claims on the record.

I’m not fishing for a law that will let me remove those claims because if you judge me on what a couple of shitty extortionists claimed to protect their scam… fuck ya.

No one is owed a good reputation.
Petty people flip out at the tiniest slight to their online reputation.
Look at how much time is wasted in trying to police the carefully curated images, and they haven’t figured out that if all you see is 5 star reviews you suspect they are gaming the system.

I’m exactly what I claim to be, an immortal sociopath amused by you hairless apes repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Anonymous Coward says:

This ruling sounds more like...

…it decided that the material should have never been indexed in the first place. So, they plan on asking Google to stop indexing it. Wonder what they’re going to do about Yahoo and Bing and all the other search engines though. Unless they can force the site operator to add a robot txt, delisting it on Google won’t really make the indexing go away.

nerd bert (profile) says:

Re: This ruling sounds more like...

At least the court isn’t demanding that Google delete the links. It’s requesting it, which is a far different thing and something and honestly, not a bad path for them to follow. Compare that with how France does its right-to-be-forgotten cases.

Still, I have to admit going to some of the indexes that curate RTBF cases just to see what’s “forgotten” so I suspect that the Streisand effect is more prevalent than most petitioners think.

Anonymous Coward says:

I run an anime website and community and it’s standard policy for me not to remove any content unless it violates the law within the United States. Since my site is hosted in the U.S., there is no way I would respond or consider any request if someone requested content be removed. I find it ridiculous that any country would adopt this law because it has a chilling effect on free speech.

I should note that I have a very diverse and international community and I grant the right to free speech to every registered member, within reason.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, it’s a lot safer to exercise free speech in the US than elsewhere. But not always because of legal protections

New York Times: One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of F.B.I. Program

An extreme example, to be sure. But given the US’s record of declaring anything it disagrees with to be "terrorism", or its recent history of kidnapping and torturing people just on vague suspicions, there’s a lot to be nervous about.

Anonymous Coward says:

It might be right, but what about the consequences?

For now it is a request so there is still a way to block this site without actually making it so a search engine is doing the bidding of one country.
It has been mentioned over and over again, making it so any search engine has to follow the laws of a single country globally, would make it so they would have to follow the law of every country globally and not just those you like.
I wonder what would happen if another country wanted every mention of God deleted from search engines? A pretty likely guess would be that the US (and many other christian countries) would use the courts to tell them that they better put the big guy back… or else.
What then?
It might be for a good cause, but the consequences of any law that works globally are just too great.
If this had been an order and not a request, I see no other course of action for google than to resist, because it would certainly destroy a big part of their business when the internet goes the way of the dinosaur.

Anon says:

Problem is we’re stuck between the world where obscurity reigned and the future where all is known. Taking down an extortion site does not get rid of newspaper and online articles blogs or comments. Forcing the right to be forgotten on multinational search engines means the market will fragment into a plethora of regional engines ignoring foreign orders but still indexing foreign crud. Followed by aggregators that will search all those sites. Will aggregators then be forced to ignore foreign indexers? Followed by foreign aggregator services…

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. From now on, your life is an open book.

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