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

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

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

And, within weeks, it's already reached the point that Germany is looking into setting up a special court to review such cases and determine what embarrassing histories Google will need to delete, and which embarrassing histories you'll need to learn to live with people finding on Google. Because... this is the ridiculous world we now live in (for those of you in Europe for now). At the very least, to some extent this can be seen as marginally positive. The idea behind creating this is to actually decrease the impact of the ruling, and to limit the ability for people to delete their histories. But, just the fact that you might need to set up a special court for this sounds insane.
Following a European Union court decision this month granting consumers the “right to be forgotten,” the Interior Ministry in Berlin would seek to establish “dispute-settlement mechanisms” for consumers who file so-called take-down requests. If search providers introduce automatic deletion, public information would be at risk, the ministry said.

“Politicians, prominent figures and other persons who are reported about in public would be able to hide or even delete reports they find unpleasant,” it said in a statement. The ministry suggested that the removal of information shouldn’t be left to company algorithms.
It seems some folks in Berlin recognize that public information might be at risk over this situation, but it's still troubling that a court gets to decide what public information is "legitimate" and which is not. And that, really, is the problem with all of this. While defenders of the "right to be forgotten" and the EUCJ decision keep referring to it as a "privacy" right, it is no such thing. If it was about private information, they'd have a point. But it's not. It's about public information.

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

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 4:01am

    'Streisand Memorial court soon to be accepting filings'

    But wait, it gets better!

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 5:06am

    Let's hope they keep thinking Google is the Internet so we can still use other search engines without being affected by this bullshit.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 5:57am

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

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 6:09am

    Honestly, with the retention policy of "The Internet" and most service providers' war on non-account holders / anonymity, I understand the spirit of all this mess.

     

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  5.  
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    Michael, May 30th, 2014 @ 6:25am

    Are the court transcripts going to be public? If so, I hope Google will index them for us.

     

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  6.  
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    DOlz (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 6:28am

    Oh goody

    Another hi court, low court in the making.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 6:40am

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

     

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  8.  
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    OldGeezer (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 7:00am

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

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

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 7:36am

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

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

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

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 7:37am

    Re:

    "the most clever legal minds in the whole of Europe"

    I don't think that they were invited to the party.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 7:40am

    Re:

    The question is, does that mean that "Mario Costeja Gonzalez" will now request every news article about the court case be wiped as well.

    Nobody in the future will know where the law came from???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    "Yeah, well... I'm gonna go build my own Internet, with blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the net! "

     

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  13.  
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    jackn, May 30th, 2014 @ 8:10am

    Google should be flattered by this news.

    What this says is

    Bing, yahoo, etc... are so off the mark, they don't even appear to exist to the average political motivated sleazebag.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    beech, May 30th, 2014 @ 8:13am

    Enter copyright: the day Mickey mouse enters the public domain Disney will argue that they have a right to let the mouse be forgotten so no one else can use him

     

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  15.  
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    Whoever, May 30th, 2014 @ 8:15am

    Passive/Agressive response?

    Perhaps Google should wait for the inevitable request from a major politician and then completely remove that politician from their search response. Google his name, get nothing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 8:51am

    Ugh...special Courts. That never works out well. They usually allow the requests for which the Court was built to verify, go through much more often than a "normal Court" would. See the patent Courts...the FISA Court...etc

     

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  17.  
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    Michael, May 30th, 2014 @ 9:05am

    Re:

    ...tennis court...

     

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  18.  
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    Vic, May 30th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    Yeah, about that right... I'd like for Google to delete all references to Germany between 1933 and 1945 in all web pages. See, one of my grandfathers was kind of German. So I feel really embarrassed about that particular history period. Yes, and also make Bing and Yahoo do the same. Then we'll move on to book publishers...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    mcherm (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 2:39pm

    A question about showing links to private material

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    JMT (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 4:58pm

    Re:

    The ruling applies to all search engines, not just Google.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    JMT (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 5:05pm

    A flood of pedophiles, corrupt and philandering politicians, career criminals, disgraced doctors and over-entitled celebrities is the best possible thing that could happen now. The more the horrible unintended consequences are highlighted, the quicker this nonsense can revealed for the stupidity it is and killed.

     

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  22.  
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    Julian (profile), Jun 1st, 2014 @ 1:36am

    noindex

    I don't seem to have seen much discussion on the right to demand (via the courts) that the original source implements noindex, nofollow for the page containing your data. That might have been an acceptable compromise between the journals right to publish information about public records and making it easily found by search engines.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2014 @ 6:48am

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2014 @ 6:53am

    Re: Re:

    It applies to companies with a legal presence in the EU. If DuckDuckGo is selling ads in the EU, then yes, otherwise no.
    Next question: is this only for the search engine's main page or also for searching through their APIs?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 2nd, 2014 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    " Instead of letting Google and Microsoft individually decide what stays public and what doesn't"

    Google and Microsoft aren't making those decisions in the first place. They do not have any control over what is or is not available on the net.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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