Dangerous Ruling: EU Says Google Must Help People Disappear Stuff They Don't Like From The Internet

from the right-to-be-forgotten dept

For years now we've explained why Europe's concept of a "right to be forgotten" is a terrible, dangerous and impossible idea. The basic idea is that if you were involved in something that you're not happy about later, you can demand that the incident be stricken from the record... everywhere. It's a clear attack on free speech -- allowing people to censor others from saying truthful and accurate things about someone.

However, Europe continued to push forward with it, even after a report noted that such a rule was technically impossible. Of course, once it was put into an EU directive, someone sued Google, in an effort to have an embarrassing moment from their past deleted. Mario Costeja Gonzalez sued Google, claiming that a search on his name turned up information on him being forced to sell some land in the 90s to cover some debts, and that since the matter was settled, he wanted it deleted.

We were encouraged, last summer, to see EU Court of Justice Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen tell the court that there is no such right under the European data and privacy directive, and that Google shouldn't be responsible for what it finds. Quite frequently, the EU Court of Justice listens to its Advocate General. Today, however, it chose not to, and issued an all around horrible ruling, in which it claims that Google is in fact responsible for making stuff disappear from the internet, even if that information is accurate. From the ruling:
Article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 are to be interpreted as meaning that, in order to comply with the rights laid down in those provisions and in so far as the conditions laid down by those provisions are in fact satisfied, the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful.

Article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 are to be interpreted as meaning that, when appraising the conditions for the application of those provisions, it should inter alia be examined whether the data subject has a right that the information in question relating to him personally should, at this point in time, no longer be linked to his name by a list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of his name, without it being necessary in order to find such a right that the inclusion of the information in question in that list causes prejudice to the data subject. As the data subject may, in the light of his fundamental rights under Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter, request that the information in question no longer be made available to the general public on account of its inclusion in such a list of results, those rights override, as a rule, not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in having access to that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name.
Got that? Not only must search engines take down any links to such information posted by third parties, the interest of the person who is embarrassed by past actions has his or her rights override the "interest of the general public" in having access to that information.

While some European officials, such as Viviane Reding, claim this is a "victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans", that's not true. This is nothing more than a censorship law which will be wildly abused. As The Guardian's James Ball explains, this creates an impossible quagmire for basically any internet company:
This creates a real quagmire for any company offering up information online: after how long does a bankruptcy ruling become something that should be private? Is that different if the subject is a celebrity or a politician? What if they offered the information voluntarily (or sold their story) in the first place? How about drug use, or prostitution, or murder? What if a person stands for public office a few years after having their search records scrubbed?

If nothing else, deciding such issues on a case-by-case basis will require huge teams of compliance staff in every tech company (and probably most media companies), and will tie up courts on the limits of each provision for years to come.
He further notes how this ruling will have dreadful consequences for both free speech and the tech industry in Europe.
The result is either an eerie parallel with China's domestic censorship of search results, or a huge incentive for tech investment to get the hell out of Europe. Neither, presumably, is a remotely desirable result.
Either way, while we respect the Europeans' interest in protecting privacy, there are ways to protect privacy that do not come with a full out attack on free speech. You don't protect privacy by creating a broad censorship rule, but that's what the EU has done today.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 7:30am

    All good and dandy but Google is not the Internet. The best they could do is to remove very specific search results for specific pages.

    They were screwed the moment they agreed to mess with their automatic algorithms in favor of some specific sector. From the start they should have defended the position that they only index the internet and unless the original content is removed they can do nothing. This would pulverize the fight and make things much more difficult for the moral police and for the censorship-happy morons out there.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:11am

      Re:

      would be funnie if SEO is what doomed SEO.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 1:15pm

      Re:

      I don't know why Google (and several of the other big tech companies-- Twitter, Facebook, etc.) don't just get the hell out of Europe. Just close down their physical offices and leave Europeans to use their web sites over the internet.

      Without a physical presence in the EU, Google would not be required to obey any of these asinine rulings, and the countries involved would be left with only one option: block Google entirely from access within that country-- a solution that would likely result in significant outcry from their constituents. Even more so with sites like Facebook and Twitter. With 15 million people screaming at their politicians because they can't tweet or google anymore, I have a feeling the "right to be forgotten" would suddenly lose its urgency.

       

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    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 8:25am

    Right up until the ***IA or a major biz gets hurt by this...

    Find someone whose parents named them after a star - or one of the guys named "Ronald McDonald" who have a record for something... then have them sue to remove all trace of their name from the web...Is there a "Johnny Cash" out there with a drug bust to hide??? Or a "Prince" ???

    We know how this will turn out - just a matter of how absurd it has to get first...any bets?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    It is absolutely insane to say, as they have here, that the website has a right to publish the information but Google must take down the search result.

     

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    KoD, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:38am

    Wait... is this what ISDS was designed for...?

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 9:47am

      Re:

      Yes, I suppose. But ISDS is still awful. I think better results would be had by Google simply not serving the EU at all. They'd come around pretty quickly.

       

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        KoD, May 13th, 2014 @ 1:09pm

        Re: Re:

        I completely agree, but isn't the best way to get rid of a bad law to enforce it? Maybe if we can get enough companies to bring ISDS claims against nations pushing for them (ISDS), then they could be persuaded otherwise? I know, this is just crazy talk.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 2:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Agreed.
        Once nobody with an EU-based addy can access Google, especially if all they get is a page saying "This new law [law cited here] prohibits Google from serving you to the best of our ability", there will be holy hell to pay...

         

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:38am

    Wikipedia

    You know, Wikipedia has its own built-in search engine. It's also hosted on the US, and has no EU subsidiaries, so it's immune to this ruling.

    This is also a very important case on the Internet freedom front, so it's notable enough to have an article about it on Wikipedia. Obviously, to make it easier to search, the subject's name should be a redirect to the article about the case.

    So, how long do you guys give until someone writes the Wikipedia articles (one for each language) about this ruling?

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 9:40am

    This is what happens when you have people passing judgement on Internet related issues who have no understanding of how the Internet works.

    This ruling sets a very dangerous precedent that has wide ranging implications for blogs, discussion forums, social media etc.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      "This is what happens when you have people passing judgement on Internet related issues who have no understanding of how the Internet works."

      Forget the whole "on the Internet" part of this and look at how bad the concept of "right to be forgotten" is. You have the right to force people to not remember or say bad things about you.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:40am

    those rights override, as a rule, not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in having access to that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name.

    Many a politician will be rubbing their hands in glee at this ruling, and then telling Google what has to be removed.

     

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    madasahatter (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 9:53am

    Public Records

    The EU forgot about sites that allow searching of public records that may be government run. The example of bankruptcy is apt since they are court cases conducted largely in public. There will be a public record in the appropriate bankruptcy court that is likely to be publicly accessible. Also, criminal cases are conducted in public and again there is a record that is publicly searchable.

    The only way the EU directive will work is if the data is never posted online.

     

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      Duke (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 10:02am

      Re: Public Records

      EU law works on proportionality. As the ruling notes, search engines have a major role in letting people find stuff online. If search engines stop linking something that can have a big effect in keeping it from being found, even if the actual sites are still publishing the information. Removing it can be a proportionate response.

      For things like criminal convictions, many systems in the EU already have rules whereby convictions become spent or secret after a while - stuff remaining on search engines would go against this.

       

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        Rummeltje, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:42am

        Re: Re: Public Records

        If the actual site, which is EU based, is still legally publishing the information and there is no legal basis to make the site stop publishing, then making search engines responsible for making the information hard to find seems like a useless restriction of freedom of speech.
        Your argument would make more sense if the site publishing the information was based outside EU jurisdiction, but it's not in this case. It's a Spanish newspaper, and it was ordered to print that information in their paper. Any arguments about privacy expectations is thereby null and void.
        News is archived in a multitude of places. I can go to my local library and look at any newspaper from the past 3 decades. With the advances in computer and communication technologies it's only logical such archives get fully digitized and that they are searchable over the internet.

        - stuff remaining on search engines would go against this.

        Stuff doesn't remain on search engines. Search engines only point out what others publish. If the original site no longer publishes the information, the information will fase out in the search index, and I'm sure very few search results will be found through google for information that was withdrawn years ago, because it's no longer a relevant search result and search engines need to be relevant to remain functional.

         

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        John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re: Public Records

        "Removing it can be a proportionate response."

        But it's not at all. It's shooting at the wrong target. The actual target should be the web sites holding the data, not the search engine.

        "stuff remaining on search engines"

        Search engines don't store this stuff -- they only point to the sites that are storing it. If those sites don't have it anymore, then it's not accessible regardless of what the search engines do.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Public Records

          Search engines don't store this stuff


          Technically they do; they cache the page, and you can normally view those caches. Of course, it's not going to remain in the cache for a significant length of time once the original is gone - a few days maybe. By the time you got a court order it would be moot.

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Public Records

            The caching is not central to the search engine, though. Sites can and do "opt out" of being cached. I would have less of a problem with court orders saying the cached copy should be removed, but that's not what this ruling says.

             

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 9:53am

    Does Bing or that other SE, what's-their-name, ever feel hurt for being left out of stupid rulings? Of not being considered The Internet?

     

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    Duke (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 9:59am

    Interesting to see that many commentators in the UK are quite happy with the idea behind this. I think this is the key section of the ruling:
    It must be pointed out at the outset that... processing of personal data... carried out by the operator of a search engine is liable to affect significantly the fundamental rights to privacy and to the protection of personal data when the search by means of that engine is carried out on the basis of an individual’s name, since that processing enables any internet user to obtain through the list of results a structured overview of the information relating to that individual that can be found on the internet — information which potentially concerns a vast number of aspects of his private life and which, without the search engine, could not have been interconnected or could have been only with great difficulty — and thereby to establish a more or less detailed profile of him.
    People in the EU care about privacy, and search engines go against privacy.

    Another key quote which is missing from most summaries is this one:
    Whilst it is true that the data subject’s rights protected by those articles also override, as a general rule, that interest of internet users, that balance may however depend, in specific cases, on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity for the data subject’s private life and on the interest of the public in having that information, an interest which may vary, in particular, according to the role played by the data subject in public life.
    As with pretty much all EU law, the key concept is proportionality. A search engine is processing personal data, and making personal data available to the public, which may be an interference with a person's right to privacy. If that interference is disproportionate to the end achieved (such as reporting on events, journalism and so on), it is illegal and the person can apply to have the processing stopped.

    Of course, while this proportionality idea sounds great in theory, in practice it comes down to having to work out everything on a case-by-case basis, and as we've seen with copyright, that generally means that Internet operators will do whatever they're asked - at least by rich people who can afford to go to court.


    As an aside; to those saying that Google isn't the Internet or that the CJEU doesn't understand technology, read the judgment. The CJEU deals with these issues - the ruling covers any processing of data - by Google or any other search engine.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      "People in the EU care about privacy, and search engines go against privacy."

      Search engines don't go against privacy. It's the sites the engines point to that the people in the EU who care about privacy should be concerned with.

       

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        Duke (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:51am

        Re: Re:

        But search engines do go against privacy because they process private information. Search engines play a huge role in helping people find stuff online - a site doesn't exist to the vast majority of people if it isn't indexed by search engines. Search engines make it easy for people to find stuff, and if that stuff is private, the search engines shouldn't be helping to make it easier for people to find it. Which is kind of what the first paragraph I quoted is all about.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If that stuff is private, address the root of the problem and get it removed from the site.

          Search engines simply provide an index to what it availible, private or public. Making the search engine responsible for everything there is to index is backwards. Get the sites that are hosting the private material.

          Might as well stick your head in the sand and pretend the world doesn't exist. It's about the same result.

           

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          John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Search engines don't process private information. They process information that has been made public (by being published on a publicly accessible web site somewhere).

          "if that stuff is private, the search engines shouldn't be helping to make it easier for people to find it."

          I disagree. Search engines have no, and should have no, responsibility in this at all. If someone is making private information available to the public, then take it up with those sites. Search engines just tell you what publicly available information is out there.

          This is just an attempt to make an unrelated party responsible for the behavior of others out of convenience. It's immoral at its core.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:46pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          But search engines do go against privacy because they process private information.


          If by "private information" you mean "information which is currently on a newspaper's website, and which was at some point physically published by the newspaper as a matter of public record" then yes. But that's a very strange definition of "private information".

          Search engines make it easy for people to find stuff, and if that stuff is private, the search engines shouldn't be helping to make it easier for people to find it.


          Why not? If the newspaper is legally allowed to keep the information on their website - and they are - then why should search engines not be allowed to return that page in their results? You have the right to a weird semi-privacy where information on you is allowed to be out there but not allowed to be easy to find?

          And how far does this go? Is the newspaper prohibited from having its own site-specific search turn this up? Are links to the article allowed if they aren't part of a search engine? Can Google indicate that the person being searched for is blocking some results?

           

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          Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          But search engines do go against privacy because they process private information.

          Wrong, search engines index data that has been made public by being published. Also this ruling is not about private data that someone published, possibly in error, or with malign intent, but about old public data.

           

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          Zonker, May 13th, 2014 @ 3:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Then by your reasoning, the traditional librarian who directs you to the collection of articles and books related to a person or property you are researching is going against privacy in doing so. Don't bother going after the writers of the articles or books for publishing "private" information, go after the librarian for helping you find it.

          And yet you believe this is a reasonable approach to the protecting privacy?

           

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:07am

    [...] the interest of the person who is embarrassed by past actions has his or her rights override the "interest of the general public" in having access to that information.

    While this will surely prove true in the enforcement of the ruling, it is not what the ruling actually says, and removing the last line of the ruling to make it appear so is somewhat dishonest:

    However, that would not be the case if it appeared, for particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, that the interference with his fundamental rights is justified by the preponderant interest of the general public in having, on account of its inclusion in the list of results, access to the information in question.

    (See also lines 81 and 97 of the judgment)

    Which means: No “right to be forgotten” for information of public interest, e.g. for politicians. It still does not mean that it is a good thing.

    An interpretation I find better and more complete about the ruling can be found on Numerama.com (French).

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:28am

      Re:

      So what happens when a private person sues to get stuff taken down and then runs for office next year? The search engines aren't exactly likely to be keeping track of every person who's requested this.

      You may have a right to have your record officially purged; you shouldn't have a right to tell third parties that they aren't allowed to talk about something that actually happened and was for a time a public record.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:53am

        Re: Re:

        You are perfectly right. My comment was not about how bad the ruling is, but about how bad the report on Techdirt is.

        Commenting on that left-out excerpt is very important, because it is precisely that point that makes the ruling seem right for moderated opponents of the right to be forgotten in the EU.

        The key point I am trying to make here is that it is not the progression of a right to be forgotten in the EU, but the exceptions to that right (and how they are implemented) that are the most problematic part of that ruling. Trying to push a right to be forgotten is business as usual...

         

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    Rummeltje, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:12am

    A ridiculous ruling like this, that is completely opposite to the AG's view makes me wonder.....what would a google search on the judges bring up that they'd rather see removed ?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:30am

    Duckduckgo... much better than it used to be, probably even better than Google now.

    That being said, removing links does not remove content, and anyone who regularly does research knows Google is just plain bad anyway.

    I get the underlying problem, but it's really not that big of a deal of people still think Google is the internet. Those of us that know what the interzweb are, know how to search and how to find.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:34am

    While I think anything you personally post should have a delete button ,anything in the public domain should be left alone.

     

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    Mr. Oizo, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:35am

    Of course

    Google has it coming. It is about damn time people take back control over their data. Good ruling !

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:12am

      Re: Of course

      You do realize that the ruling doesn't let people take back control over their data, right? It's not like the search engines are the ones publishing or storing this data.

       

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      Gracey (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:24am

      Re: Of course

      Really? Howe exactly do they get control over their data?

      Far as I can tell, they have no more control now, than they had before.

      Because, as you can read ... the sites that hold the content in question are still allowed to publish it, which means it is still available to public.

      ... and you aren't given any control over whether someone else publishes information that is publicly available.

      Google isn't the public, and they don't control the entire internet, nor control any websites or what the website owners do on those websites. Including whether they publish public information or not.

      No more privacy now, than before.

      All the ruling does is make it more difficult to find that information.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:51am

    The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

    While I think that technically the idea of right to be forgotten is unworkable on the Internet, especially if you only go after search engines that just find the content, the law is trying to fix a legitimate problem.

    Look at the US, if you have a criminal record it's very difficult to get a job just about anywhere because every employer will ask about it and find out. If you can't get a job, you can't earn money and support yourself. And if you can't support yourself, you're much more likely to resume a life of crime to support yourself.

    I forget what part of the US it was, but a US city passed a ballot imitative to address this problem by banning employers from asking about your criminal record. The unemployment rate among ex-prisoners was extremely high before (over 80 or 90 percent in that city), but was cut in half within a few years of the new law, and less ex-criminals became repeat offenders, which saved tax payers money on law enforcement and court costs.

     

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      Michael, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:05am

      Re: The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

      if you have a criminal record it's very difficult to get a job just about anywhere because every employer will ask about it and find out

      Isn't that happening part of the incentive to not become a criminal in the first place? I know we are a second/third/eleventh chance society, but I am not sure it is a bad thing to make having committed a crime impact someone's future - in the least making them have to explain what happened to a possible employer seems like a reasonable expectation.

      It seems somewhat unreasonable to tell potential employers that they cannot learn if candidates have a history of theft, violence, or substance abuse.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:14am

        Re: Re: The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

        "Isn't that happening part of the incentive to not become a criminal in the first place?"

        People who are likely to commit crimes are not ones who will be concerned about future effects at all, so no.

         

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          DogBreath, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:44pm

          Re: Re: Re: The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

          Besides, all individuals who want factual information removed about themselves would need to do, is these three steps:

          1) Assemble Time Machine (Simple instructions found on Youtube, which is owned by Google, thereby meeting the requirements of the EU Court.)

          2) Go back in time and prevent themselves from doing whatever nefarious activities they did in the first place. (NOTE: If past self is unwilling, may have to eliminate past self, but just meeting oneself might possibly create a time paradox and destroying the entire universe. So, good luck with that.)

          3) If successful in stopping oneself and the universe is still intact, go back to the present in which they never did the thing that they don't want anyone to know about. Problem solved! (NOTE: Individual must also realize that thing they did may have prevented something like Skynet from coming into existence. But hey, at least the individuals bad record will be erased... along with the majority of humankind. It's a small price to pay to feel clean.)

           

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        Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:49am

        Re: Re: The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

        Isn't that happening part of the incentive to not become a criminal in the first place? I know we are a second/third/eleventh chance society, but I am not sure it is a bad thing to make having committed a crime impact someone's future - in the least making them have to explain what happened to a possible employer seems like a reasonable expectation.
        Although not as common as one would hope, some convicted criminals leave prison reformed and determined to live an honest life. Others were convicted on questionable plea deals, accidental crimes, etc. Consider also the typical human lifespan. If a person was legitimately convicted and jailed when they first turned 18, served the lawfully prescribed sentence, then lived an honest life after release and they are now nearing retirement age, do you really think it is fair that they are still punished for their bad decisions at 18? Assuming someone has not changed in 3 months could be fair. Assuming they have not changed in 40 years, in the face of evidence to the contrary, is not.

        Most employers take the attitude that, given a choice between an applicant with a criminal history and one with no criminal history, the non-criminal is an almost automatic selection. I might agree with you if I thought that previously convicted applicants had a real opportunity to make their case to the prospective employer.

         

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          Michael, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

          Most employers take the attitude that, given a choice between an applicant with a criminal history and one with no criminal history, the non-criminal is an almost automatic selection

          I am not sure that generalization is accurate. It certainly is not with me and I have owned several businesses and hired hundreds of people over the years.

          It may just be that I have never been on the other side of this issue. I am sure it is difficult.

          Also while I don't agree that old mistakes should haunt people forever, there is something to be said about rewarding people that didn't harm others. If you have two candidates that are equally qualified and one spent his 20's volunteering at a clinic while the other spent his 20's transporting drugs - is it unfair to reward the first candidate for getting his act together sooner?

          I really don't know the answers to these questions. I think there are a lot of subtleties involved and the situation is very different for some people than others, but letting anyone erase their past if they don't like it does not necessarily seem any more right to me than letting their past haunt them.

           

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            OldMugwump (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 5:51pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The idea is unworkable, but goes after a real problem

            there is something to be said about rewarding people that didn't harm others. If you have two candidates that are equally qualified and one spent his 20's volunteering at a clinic while the other spent his 20's transporting drugs
            I agree with the point about not rewarding people who harm others...but your example of "harming others" is "transporting drugs"?

            How does that harm anybody? If there was ever a victimless crime, surely it's "transporting drugs".

            Heck, I moved three bottles of antihistamine to the bedroom just this morning. (Allergies acting up...)

             

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:52am

    "Right to be forgotten" is interesting in theory, but this goes way too far

    IMO, the right balance would be that:
    - Information you volunteered without compensation (e.g. social media posts) can be retracted from the entity to whom you volunteered it
    - Information you sold cannot be retracted, except if it was sold under a contract that specified retraction terms.
    - Information created about you by a third party (court proceeding, recording in a public venue, etc.) cannot be retracted by this right. However, laws permitting the sealing of court records may afford a similar result if you can convince the court to seal the record.
    - Information repeated by a third party can be retracted only if the original publisher is no longer publishing it and is legally prohibited from resuming publication (due to this right or due to a court sealing the records, as appropriate). This allows you to get cached search results pulled only once you have used this right to eliminate the upstream data. Without the requirement that upstream be silenced first, the whole thing looks silly because the upstream publisher may be re-indexed at any time. This also makes search engine compliance comparatively easy, since any retraction is a cache revalidation. If the upstream publisher resumes publication, the search engine may assume without further research that the resumption signifies that publication is once again permitted. This avoids creating complex whiteout logic in the engine, since anything it can still find is by definition approved for publication.
    - A "good faith" protection for both upstream publishers and information repeaters.

    Compliance in the face of restoring data from backups is complicated, but I think this framework provides most of the good of the underlying idea while fixing the more severe flaws of the version the EU is trying to use.

     

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    Michael, May 13th, 2014 @ 10:57am

    following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person

    It takes a special kind of ignorance to think this is actually going to work. Names aren't unique and new internet content appears all the time. When you add in the fact that news stories about people requesting this be done is going to probably include the terms they are trying to hide, you have a recipe for a game of whack-a-mole that causes three new moles to appear every time you manage to hit one of them.

    Does anyone actually know how the EU expects people to notify search engines that they want something excluded from search results?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:01am

    i'm quite sure that Obama and his lot will drooling over this. i wonder if this is going to be the same when someone like Assad tries to keep his bad deeds hidden from the world? this could mean that all sorts of genocide etc could be committed and hidden from everyone else, meaning those left would still be under the cosh of a dictator. think about the problems that have been brought to the attention of the world because of the Internet. is that all going to stop now? what the hell has gotten into the minds of these judges? they are supposed to be the best of the best!

     

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    Michael, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:08am

    NSA

    I would like a call to arms of all of the Europeans that read Techdirt.

    Since the NSA's systems are basically a big search engine, please send them requests to remove everything they know about you from their search results and let us know how they respond.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:21am

    John Doe

    What is John Doe wants to be removed. how do you know which sites mean the John Doe that want to be removed or another John Doe? or if they use Mr. Doe or J. Doe or ...

    What if someone has the same name as a their leader and want to be removed?

    Or if I change my legal name to NEWS or BBC or EU or... and ask to be removed from the interweb.

    Soon search results would have to show nothing.

     

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    PWGuy097, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    The Links Disappear - Only

    Heard a report on this today from NPR radio. The person discussing this pointed out something - links are the only thing effected and only on Google's search engine.

    Just putting that out there.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Robots.txt

    It occurs to me that the inclusion of a correctly configured robots.txt file in the newspaper's website could easily indicate to Google's crawlers that the article in question should not be indexed. Why is this not the answer?

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 12:10pm

      Re: Robots.txt

      A point I've been making for a long time now. As near as I can tell, the reason it's not the answer is because people want to offload even that tiny amount of time and effort onto someone else so they don't have to bother with it.

       

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        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re: Robots.txt

        I actually did not know about this, but looked it up a bit earlier, and now here it is.

        This seems so simple. One goes to a court to get a determination that something should be blocked. The court says yes, and sends an order to 'the website' to add:

        Disallow: /offensive url/

        to their robots.txt file and send a certified copy to the court. Google, as well as all other search engines will then not index it and the problem is solved. How much effort is that?

         

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          Michael, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: Robots.txt

          One problem you have is websites out of the jurisdiction of the court.

          One of the "conveniences" of Google is they have servers in the EU so they are sunject to it's laws. The EU could send content removal orders to Chinese websites until they ran out of paper and not get anything pulled.

           

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            Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 5:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Robots.txt

            "One problem you have is websites out of the jurisdiction of the court."

            Well, isn't that their problem?

            Can an EU court deny my right as a US citizen to find something via Google? Something I could find with a different search engine (since this is Google, it IS the Internet, right?)?

            I know the US likes to believe that it has domain over the whole world (see Mega Upload case), but it really isn't true.

            Some religious sects believe they have domain over the whole world with respect to some of their beliefs, but that isn't true either (see various depictions of Mohamed (oops, they will be after me now)).

            Is the EU is trying out their hand at world domination?

            Will they go after the Twitterverse when re-tweets of requested take-downs spread back into the EU from the rest of the world (somebody will mockingly take up this challenge, even if they don't read it here)?

            Will some enterprising soul create a website that FEATURES these take-downs and gets funding from one of Googles' competitors to drive traffic to something not hindered by this ruling?

            Will the Internet diagnose this 'blockage' as damage and route around it?

             

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    seedeevee (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 11:56am

    "the interest of the person who is embarrassed by past actions has his or her rights override the "interest of the general public"

    Individual rights are such an 18th Century idea.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    Fuck Google. It's about time privacy trumped their right to compile. Good for the EU.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    This is just one more reason to support YaCy, which is uncensorable.

    YaCy's results are far from perfect and it's a little slow, but it cannot be censored and your searches are not saved on a server somewhere that can be subpoenaed later.

    I currently run two nodes, even though I still tend to Google everyday things.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2014 @ 1:27pm

      Re:

      Interesting. I don't see how the court could possibly enforce any ruling against YaCy - what are they going to do, prohibit its use throughout the country on the grounds that it might index a site which is legal but they don't think people should be able to see too easily?

       

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    AnonCow, May 13th, 2014 @ 4:21pm

    Bias against U.S. college students

    Now European college kids will have an advantage when they hit the job marketing because they will be able to whitewash their online history. DUI? Gone! Date rape? Gone. You're hired!

     

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    lostalaska (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 5:22pm

    What about libraries and microfiche

    So would this be a similar analogue?

    Can i go to a library, look through their microfiche of public documents or old newspapers and if I were to find something referring to me that I don't like could I demand they cut out that part of the microfiche so no one else will see it? If it's considered public knowledge that could be read from a court, state or federal institution or newspaper. Maybe I'm missing some of the subtleties of this law, but it seems ripe for abuse and nearly impossible to implement. What if I can find it still on the internet achieves or the way, way back machine?

     

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    dparadis (profile), May 13th, 2014 @ 7:04pm

    Great news for Dick Cheney

    So under this ruling Dick can force Google to remove all of those search results that come up for "Cheney & War & Crime" ?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2014 @ 5:05am

    Does no-one else appreciate the irony that by lawering up and winning his case, Mario Costeja Gonzalez has ensured that he and his debts will forever be enshrined in EU records for all to see? Not only that, but every time a newspaper, blog or other media outlet write a story on the 'Right to be Forgotten' they will more than likely reference Gonzalez and the repossesion of his house in 1998.

     

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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, May 14th, 2014 @ 5:54am

    It's a clear attack on free speech -- allowing people to censor others from saying truthful and accurate things about someone.

    It's when the comments, etc., are neither truthful nor accurate that the problems start. People on blacklists, for example. The UK Pirate Party says,
    In a world when law enforcement agencies now uses social media data against people in court and employers try to vet candidates based on their social media profiles, users should have the right to remove embarrassing, unwanted or unnecessary pictures, posts, or data held about them. - http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/blog/editor/opinion-cameron-wants-forget-right-be-forgotten


    I understand that having embarrassing data held online can have negative consequences, but one man's free speech is another man's downfall. As I've seen US Liberals say, "Your freedom ends where mine begins."

    I don't think it's a clear-cut matter of stopping people making speech, it's more a case of saving people from being unfairly treated over unfair, inaccurate, or irrelevant items online. Got drunk at a party and were pictured looking the worse for wear? No job for you!

    That said, I don't think it's Google's job to deal with this, you have to go to each of the websites where the information is held and delete it or ask for it to be deleted. Link-blocking should only be a last resort, not the first port of call.

    I believe that, to hold Google responsible for the linked material is to hold the phone book accountable for dodgy plumbers.

     

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    Hey You (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 1:36pm

    Google is makes it all go away...

    PINAC editor Carlos Miller (Photography is nto a Crime) has had some of his youtube videos taken down by Google.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHHt4F3Sd0Q

    Public servants performing a public service in a public place cannot and must not demand that they not be photographed. Transparency is something that Google either supports or does not support. Dabbling in which video takedown requests to honor while allowing others to stand is a serious mistake. Youtube has the potential for positive social change but only if it allows all members of government to be held to the same level of examination and observation.

    As a former state police officer and state employee, I cannot stress how important this is. All levels of government must be put in the spotlight.

     

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    Rummeltje, May 15th, 2014 @ 12:21pm

    Google already getting "right to be forgotten" requests

    And in the mean time, Google gets flooded with requests to have stuff removed from search results, including at least 1 politician and 1 paedophile.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27423527
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/14/us-g oogle-eu-idUSBREA4D0P820140514

     

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    Edna, May 17th, 2014 @ 6:22pm

    EU Ruling on Being Forgotten

    Thank God at last justice and common sense has finally come to bear. What existed before the introduction of internet. People are entitled to move on with their lives and not constantly being harassed with information about things they may have done follow them ion the internet for the rest of their lives. Grow up It is wicked. Google should email all those sites and tell them to remove references of peoples past. This is the right thing to do.

     

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    Julien, Jun 17th, 2014 @ 2:21pm

    "It's a clear attack on free speech -- allowing people to censor others from saying truthful and accurate things about someone."

    What about if it's inaccurate? I had people impersonating me on a forum 10 years ago, and these still show up when I search my name on Google. Needless to say a comment that goes like "Julien gave me a blow job" appearing on the first search result page when recruiters search my name is not helping me.

    People have to stop pushing the first US amendment that guarantees free speech onto the rest of the world. How can you guarantee free speech in the first place when you cannot guarantee the authenticity of the message (accuracy) and its source (who)?

     

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    Ashley Martin, Mar 17th, 2015 @ 3:04am

    Google's Right to Forgotten Ruling

    Google removed some pages from it's cache on basis of Right To Forgotten but still those pages are appearing in google's search result when anyone search on google for the person name.

    do google only removes indexing of pages or completely makes it disappear from search result for particular page.

     

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