EU Commissioner Says 'Right To Be Forgotten' Compliance Will Be Just As 'Easy' As Fighting Piracy

from the either-way,-it-will-all-be-Google's-fault dept

This is interesting. Just a couple of days after Geoff Taylor (the head of BPI -- the UK's RIAA) declared that Google's acquiescence to the "right to be forgotten" proved that it could do more to fight piracy, EU commissioner Viviane Reding delivered a statement that approached the subject from a wholly opposite direction.

If Google can handle the millions of requests it gets to take down content that infringes copyright, it should be able to handle the few requests it gets to enforce the EU's "right to be forgotten", according to Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Reding said that "there are relatively little numbers of requests" to take down information owing to the newly granted right to be forgotten, but that there are "some million requests to take down material because of copyright questions."

"So you see," Reding continued, "this is a small thing as compared to the copyright things. It is possible to handle the copyright question, so it should also be possible to handle the takedown requests on personal data questions."
This opposite take doesn't make it any less wrong than Taylor's extrapolations. There's nothing simple about managing millions of takedown requests and there's nothing simple about post facto reputation management. Both rely heavily on the requester's statements being true.

The DMCA takedown at least contains the notification that filing a false request is the equivalent of perjury (not that this part is ever strictly enforced…). The EU webform simply asks the requester to agree that the above declarations are true. There's no real legal weight behind the form at this point, so the only deterrent is that each submission must be accompanied by a copy of the submitter's legal identification.

As we all know, there are plenty of bogus DMCA takedowns issued every year. Even otherwise legitimate takedowns can be littered with bogus URLs, thanks to many rights protection companies' decision automate the process. (And, apparently, save money by releasing takedowns without vetting them...)

So, while the number of "right to be forgotten" requests may be incredibly small as compared to the millions of piracy-related URLs submitted every day, the same problems will still plague both. Because the processes don't lend themselves to human curation thanks to sheer volume, legitimate content will still be de-listed and infringing/unwanted content will still remain just a search away.

Reding is correct about it being "simple" -- at least in regards to those submitting requests. Both operate via automated webforms, making the barrier to entry low enough that abuse is inevitable. Raising that bar a little would only result in citizens and rights holders complaining that Google has made the job of taking down infringing content/clearing one's name too difficult to be useful.

Both methods can be easily utilized but neither truly solves the problem. Both are games of whac-a-mole. Just as certainly as infringing content will show up somewhere else when sites are shut down and links removed, so will the negative content that European citizens are asking to have de-listed. As Google's webform notes, "we may inform webmaster(s) whose content is removed from our search results as a result of your complaint."

This stipulation pretty much guarantees the content will be reposted/rehosted. Detractors may complain that Google is purposefully inviting this sort of behavior and that notifying webmasters makes the requesters look like the "bad guys." (We've seen this complaint before in terms of YouTube notification screens -- both from musicians and GEMA itself. Both feel it's "unfair" that viewers are notified about who requested the takedown.) But this needs to be in place to provide for any defense of the disputed content. You can't just hand out one-way "rights."

Adding to the problem is the fact that there may not even be a specific party who can file a counterclaim. Or even have that option. The EU's decision specifically states the a person's "right to privacy" outweighs the public's right to know, which seems to indicate that filing a counterclaim may not even be an option if the takedown request is approved. This is vastly different from DMCA takedown notices, which state who's filing the claim and who the takedown request targets. If the claim is disputed, there are established routes to challenge the claim. The way the "right to be forgotten" is currently set up offers no clear avenue for disputes, nor any guarantee that those who have content de-listed will be notified. (Note the word "may" in Google's statement above.)

Reding sees this as an easy win simply because the number of "forget me" requests will always be outnumbered by infringing content takedown requests. But both expect Google to simply accept every request as undisputed fact. Rights holders have been complaining for years that Google doesn't do "enough" to combat piracy, even when it's de-listing millions of URLs every month. These complaints will inevitably be echoed by users of the new webform and proponents of this law in the near future. Perception is the new reality. If it's not fast enough or thorough enough or too many claims are disputed then all blame will be routed towards Google, even if it's the Commission's failure to comprehend the impossibility of what it's demanding. The internet is by no means finite, but Google's resources -- and reach -- are.

Reding is correct about one similarity: the pursuit of the "right to be forgotten" will ultimately be as futile as fighting piracy via takedown requests.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 7:41am

    I have to say one thing...

    As screwy as the U.S. is, Europe makes America look somewhat sane at times.

     

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 9:50am

    So. What's to stop some enterprising hacker-type from submitting forms for just about every bit of public information on Reding? Or on any other politician? I wouldn't mind seeing a few politicians get memory-holed.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      jackn, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:04am

      Re:

      enterprising hacker-type's would know the futility of trying to erase history just by getting delisted from google. Specifically, they know,

      The information is still there.
      There are plenty of other indexes of the internet.

      For fun, Enterprising hacker types could create an alternative index with just the items where a delist was requested. Now that would be fun.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:58am

        Re: Re:

        The hackers wouldn't be trying to erase history. They'd be doing it as a form of protest through what amounts to a Denial of Service attack.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 9:52am

    Dear Google,

    Please remove all references to the following statements:

    "there are relatively little numbers of requests"
    "some million requests to take down material because of copyright questions."
    "this is a small thing as compared to the copyright things. It is possible to handle the copyright question, so it should also be possible to handle the takedown requests on personal data questions."


    I am an asshat for saying them and they need to be forgotten.

    -Viviane Reding

     

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

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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 9:55am

    Just as easy

    They can do this other broken, harmful thing on a larger scale, so they should be able to do our smaller-scale broken, harmful thing as well.

     

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      identicon
      Michael, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:04am

      Re: Just as easy

      They can manage to accomplish this incredibly short-sighted, harmful, useless, and dumb thing that is currently a much larger scale that they have been forced to do by horrible laws that would otherwise open them up to crippling liability, so they should be able to do this other short-sighted, harmful, useless, and dumb thing that has not yet grown to such a large scale.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    There's no real legal weight behind the form at this point, so the only deterrent is that each submission must be accompanied by a copy of the submitter's legal identification.

    That is so reliable that there is a whole illegal industry stealing identification, and creating fake ID documents, and they now have a new market to tap. Submitting identification documents on-line does not validate that the document belongs to the actual submitter; like perpetrators pretending to be their victims to get stories out of search indexes. The right to be forgotten is going to be of more use for those hiding a nefarious past, that those who have a single blemish on their records.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:05am

    This is the very definition of circular logic.

    It's easy for Google to take down piracy because of how easy it is for Google to take down right to be forgotten because of how easy it is for Google to take down piracy because of how easy it is for Google to take down right to be forgotten because of how easy it is for Google to take down piracy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:09am

    and another one in a job that she doesn't understand and knows very little about. how's about letting her try to sort this crap out and see what sort of complete screw up she makes of it! at one time she seemed to have a bit of knowledge concerning the internet but for the last year or so her attitude has changed drastically. perhaps she has a different adviser to the one she had previously, who is really an industries lobbyist? what ever the case, she needs to actually see what is involved here and stop trying to make out that sorting this out is a piece of piss!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:10am

    does anyone know if this applies to google only?> seems to be the only search engine mentioned when talking about this.
    i assume it applies to all search engines, or has google finally turned into the whole internet?

     

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    Michael, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:10am

    Has anyone seen how other search engines are handling this? I know we get focused on Google because of Mike being a Google shill and making everything about Google, but what about search engines that are actually based in the UK?

    It seems to me that this could simply be a way for the EU to be harassing Google and try to drive people to use other search engines. Making Google's search results incomplete could impact who is going to use it.

     

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    Michael, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:15am

    Dear Google,

    My name is: "Mike Right to be Forgotten DMCA Takedown". Please remove your Right to be Forgotten and DMCA Takedown submission forms as they infringe on my rights as an EU citizen.

    Thank you.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:15am

    I literally lol'd hard at the title of this article. When is Viviane Reding's next stand-up special?

     

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:18am

    Stopping piracy, while not really feasible, is easier than enforcing a right to be forgotten. In order to actually enforce such a thing, you would have to actually somehow alter the contents of people's minds, the structure of their brains. There will always be someone who remembers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    It's unfortunate that government officials take so little time to understand the consequences of their legislation. Or maybe it's unfortunate we expect them to.

     

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    Save Me From The Machines, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:34am

    If a person does something foolish, should they be hung once a day for it?

    Just because stopping traffic deaths is technically difficult, we should stop trying?

    No forgetting, no forgiveness, nowhere to hide, so suicide?

    May we protect people, not machines.

    Always put people first, not machines, not corporations.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      If a person does something foolish, they have to accept the consequences for it. Next time they may actually think about what they are doing.
      We should not be shielding people from the consequences of their actions or they will never learn and grow.

       

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

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 11:02am

      Re:

      May we protect people, not machines.

      People like the ones who run Google? People like the ones who use their services looking for particular information? Why don't those people have the right to know what others would like forgotten?

       

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      Michael, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      If a person does something foolish, should they be hung once a day for it?
      Absolutely not, but we should not make it the responsibility of someone else to try to hide it for them.

      Just because stopping traffic deaths is technically difficult, we should stop trying?
      First, we are not talking about deaths being caused by search results retuning factually correct information. Second, what this law is doing is not trying to stop the traffic deaths, it is trying to stop the news from reporting them so we can pretend the deaths didn't happen.

      No forgetting, no forgiveness, nowhere to hide, so suicide?
      Find me ONE SINGLE CASE in which someone has committed suicide over something that could have been prevented by obscuring Google search results.

      Always put people first, not machines, not corporations.
      What machines are being put first?

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:03pm

      Re:

      "Always put people first, not machines, not corporations."

      Precisely. That's exactly why I have a problem with how the "right to be forgotten" is being implemented.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:54pm

      Re:

      "If a person does something foolish, should they be hung once a day for it?"

      So, what was it that you did, anyway?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 4:32pm

      Re:

      The problem with your logic is that this right to be forgotten could extend to people who have murdered, raped, or abused other human beings. Does it serve the possible future victims of a demonstrably bad person if the internet "forgets" that the person did such bad things. Certain things should not be forgotten.

      If Anders Breivik wants to be forgotten online, do we have to scrub the history of all of his victims' deaths from the internet?

       

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  •  
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    David, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:41am

    Expect to see more "forget me requests"

    As a forget me request doesn't have the "I'm the copyright holder" and "under penalty of perjury" clauses and doesn't have the counter-claim process.

    Again, Google should just give the EU a free-for-all delist "I want this forgotten" and let them see how this works. After all, since there is "no right to be remembered", Google doesn't have to list anything, or be responsible for listing something that has been requested to be delisted.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 10:56am

    At significant cost

    Extrajudicial takedowns make things easier for those who wish for particular content to be taken down, but there's no such thing as free lunch. Part of that cost of making things easier for complainants is financial: having people review thousands to millions of requests is expensive. The greatest cost, however, is to society: content is suppressed on the basis of mere accusations, some of which (like allowing access to truthful, published information) shouldn't even amount to an offense.

     

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      vancedecker (profile), Jun 7th, 2014 @ 2:42am

      Re: At significant cost

      The problem is that HR is typically filled with people who have little more than a High School + GED education level.

      Then these tards are tasked with hiring the best and brightest, which now involves, CTRL-F on the resume for keywords, and google.com

      Let's just assume that I don't have anything to hide like money probs or arrests, and am just concerned about perceptions.

      People need tools which will allow them manage that perception by at the very least, removing things which might be taken the wrong way from the top pages of google search results, and pushing them back to page 10 or so, by which point most HR folks metabolic syndrome or fibromyalgia kicks in and they place their stamp of approval upon your candidacy.

       

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        nasch (profile), Jun 9th, 2014 @ 4:26pm

        Re: Re: At significant cost

        The problem is that HR is typically filled with people who have little more than a High School + GED education level.

        Then these tards are tasked with hiring the best and brightest, which now involves, CTRL-F on the resume for keywords, and google.com


        This is not the right solution to that problem.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 11:24am

    Side point about their robots

    "thanks to many rights protection companies' decision automate the process."

    After being repeatedly annoyed by the robots (which crawl much too frequently and don't behave themselves) and by the automated takedown notice (which clearly haven't been reviewed by a human and are therefore invalid on their face), I decided to take action.

    My web servers now drop packets from their robots at the firewall. And my mail servers reject their email. After all, I'm not required to provide web services or email services or DNS services or any other kind of services to anybody absent a valid contract for those services: I provide those to everyone else out of largesse, because I'm a nice person. However, my decision to provide those to some people in no way obligates me to provide them to all people.

    If content owners wish to file takedown notices, they may of course still do so: it'll take a letter and a stamp, though. But surely if there is some horrible, terrible case of infringement that is doing $75K or $1.2M or $12,732.81 worth of damage, they can afford that trifling expense in order to make it stop.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

      Re: Side point about their robots

      "However, my decision to provide those to some people in no way obligates me to provide them to all people."

      That sounds an awful lot like the argument some business owners used to use to refuse service to those of certain races.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 3:17pm

        Re: Re: Side point about their robots

        Yes, but that doesn't mean the underlying argument is wrong. Fundamentally, every business has the right to not serve any specific people they choose. Anti-discrimination laws provide a short list of disallowed reasons (race, religion, etc.), but if the basis for discrimination isn't one of the items in that list, it's perfectly legal and acceptable.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2014 @ 11:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Side point about their robots

          Just the fact that you are complying with the law must be an indication that you are breaking the law!!?

           

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    Tice with a J (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 12:13pm

    Piracy: so easy, even an EU commissioner can do it

    Haven't these people noticed that "fighting piracy" isn't trivial at all? I happen to know that you can get unauthorized copies of books, music, movies, TV shows, comics, console games, PC games, software, porn, scientific articles, and even classified documents off the web, and you can do it without using P2P services, file lockers, or seedy warez sites. The sites that offer these things are fast, free, easy to use, reliable, and safe, and they have excellent selections of material.

    And that's just the easy stuff. If you're a little more adventurous, there are Bittorrent and eMule, private forums and darknets, even meshnets and "sneaker nets". And almost nothing ever disappears; when a search result gets pulled, you can find it by looking through the DMCA notice, and if a site goes down, you can get a backup copy off the Internet Archive, among other places.

    The War on Piracy is going about as well as the War on Extramarital Sex. It saddens me to see people so ignorant of this fact.

     

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      identicon
      RD, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

      Re: Piracy: so easy, even an EU commissioner can do it

      So for the detractors who chime in here about "thieves!!" and "piracy is killing us all!!" I would like to ask a simple question:

      WHY can't I buy or get the X-Files series in HD? And please don't give me any shit about "they didn't make it in HD" because HD copies do, in fact, exist. But you can't buy them anywhere or obtain them in any legal manner. (Likewise dont give me any shit about streaming. That is not OWNING.)

       

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    Daemon_ZOGG, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 12:41pm

    "...Says 'Right To Be Forgotten' Compliance Will Be Just As 'Easy' As Fighting Piracy"

    As the riaa/mpaa mafia groups already know, and the EU Commissioner is about to find out.. Once your pee is in the pool, your not getting it all back. Ever. It's not just the search engines, social media sites, and Billy-Bob's web server somewhere in the world, but your also cached in a few hundred million web-browsers and on personal and commercial harddrives throughout the planet. No matter how many of the above sources you remove yourself from.. somebody, somewhere, has you stored on their system. And they're about to share you with the rest of the planet. All over again. ;-)

     

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    identicon
    TJoyce1971, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    We the willing

    We the willing,
    lead by the unknowing,
    are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.
    We have done so much for so long with so little
    we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

     

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    identicon
    AC, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:15pm

    Simple

    Why does Google and the rest of them just pull out of Europe and move everything to a non EU country and then tell the EU they can go screw themselves.

    Problem solved, and the EU loses taxes due to this decision.

     

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    techflaws (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:15pm

    EU talking heads clueless as always

    "some million requests to take down material because of copyright questions"

    Which actually isn't taken down by Google AT ALL, but simply no longer linked to.

     

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    identicon
    Jay, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

    Can't wait...

    I wonder what happens when there is a scandal involving a prostitute who wants fame and a politician that has the right to be forgotten.

    That should be any day now...

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2014 @ 4:49pm

      Re: Can't wait...

      There are numerous other conflict of interests scenarios possible with this.

      Imagine that two guys in their youth did something stupid together and it got posted online. One of them writes about the experience in a book and speaks about it at speaking engagements because it had some part in his character development (and now his income). The other is in a career where the experience is an embarrassment and he wants it to be forgotten.

      The forgetting of the experience online (including links to Amazon results for book sales, a promotional website for hiring the speaker for engagements, a personal blog, etc.) could constitute a violation of free speech and an unfair suppression of a man's source of income.

      Is the 2nd man's "right to privacy" more important than another man's right to tell the truth about his own past, much less to make money off of it in order to feed himself and his family?

       

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        nasch (profile), Jun 9th, 2014 @ 4:29pm

        Re: Re: Can't wait...

        The forgetting of the experience online (including links to Amazon results for book sales, a promotional website for hiring the speaker for engagements, a personal blog, etc.) could constitute a violation of free speech and an unfair suppression of a man's source of income.

        Every one of these right to be forgotten actions is a suppression of free speech.

         

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    ECA (profile), Jun 6th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    LOGIC and TECH

    Some of these folks just DONT GET IT..
    but we didnt HIRE smart people to help us, we got LAWYERS, and the solution for all things, as a Lawyer, is to SUE.

    Removing a few links so you dont see something, IS NOT removing the data. Might as well Wear Dark colored glasses at nite, to play hide and go seek..

     

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    vancedecker (profile), Jun 7th, 2014 @ 2:37am

    What I find funny...

    ...is how you literally rush to protect corporate interests while screaming and hollering about government surveillance.

    It's funny because I doubt you're getting paid for all your hard work and groveling.

     

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

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      nasch (profile), Jun 9th, 2014 @ 4:30pm

      Re: What I find funny...

      What I find funny...
      ...is how you literally rush to protect freedom of speech while screaming and hollering about government surveillance.

      FTFY

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2014 @ 1:50am

    THIS JOKE MADE MY DAY :)

     

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

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jun 9th, 2014 @ 3:15pm

    What planet does this person live on?

    He seems totally unaware of the fact that Google is NOT the Internet, and the Internet forgets nothing! What a bonehead!

     

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    John85851 (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 5:43pm

    Do these people have no brains?

    Like people are saying, does this ruling affect other search engines, like Bing? Or is Google the only one who has to go through all this? And if Bing is affected, how are they handing things? Why haven't we heard from their spokesperson?

    Second, do the politicians really not know how the Internet works? Asking Google to delist information doesn't remove it. Sure, it makes it harder to find, but people will still find it.
    For example, even if Google removes to a link to a newspaper article about a politician, people can still find it by going to the newspaper's website.
    I would think this would be a huge "duh".

     

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


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