French Privacy Regulator Says Google Should Censor Global Internet Over EU Right To Be Forgotten Requests

from the nope dept

It's been just over a year since the ridiculous and dangerous ruling in the EU that said that there was a form of a "right to be forgotten" for individuals who don't like the Google results on their names. We've spent plenty of time discussing why this is such a bad ruling, so we won't necessarily repeat them now. With no other recourse, Google began implementing it, but for Europe only. Since then, there's been an ongoing push by some to say Google needs to enforce it globally, even in the US where such an interpretation of the law is clearly unconstitutional. Last July, soon after the initial ruling, there were rumblings that EU regulators wanted Google to expand the enforcement globally (and to stop telling publications that their links had been flushed down the memory hole). And, in December, the EU's "data protection" group made a similar argument.

Now we can add France's top privacy regulator to the list as well:
France’s privacy watchdog on Friday called on Google to apply a European data protection ruling to its global domains or face financial penalties.

[....]

French authorities are now increasing the pressure on the American company, saying that Google must apply the ruling across all of its domains in the next 15 days or face penalties including a one-off fine of up to 300,000 euros, or almost $340,000. Last year Google was fined €150,000 for failing to adhere to the country’s rules in a separate privacy case.
This, of course, comes right on the heels of the terrible Canadian ruling last week saying that Canadian courts can also censor the global internet.

The idea that courts in various countries now think that they have the right to determine what is "acceptable" for search engines to show in their results should frighten everyone. It will be interesting to see how far Google pushes back on these moves. While the classic response that many suggest whenever these issues show up is to say that Google should just stop working in those countries (and see how quickly citizens demand a fix), Google has generally avoided going that far. The few exceptions are much more narrowly tailored, such as when it shut down Google News in Spain after Spain passed a law requiring aggregators pay sites they link to.

What is still quite amazing is that supporters of such a "right to be forgotten" don't seem to ever care to think through the consequences of what they're advocating for. They all seem to think that deleting links to certain web pages is a no brainer that is obvious -- and never even seem to acknowledge the dangers of having the ability to simply delete factual history. Still, it's unclear what Google can do in this situation. If the company ignores the demand and France starts issuing fines, then what? Does Google pull its operations out of France (where it has many employees)? That would be a major step. But acceding to France's demands that the global internet be subject to the whims of angry Europeans who want to hide true events from their past, should be a total non-starter as well.

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  • icon
    rw (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 6:47am

    A fix?

    Not to be an advocate for it, but the Corporate Sovereignty provisions in TTIP might cure this nonsense. Unfortunately, even that "bright" spot is enough to make those trade agreements worth the costs.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:38am

    I'm guessing whoever at Google that thought bullying artists would be ok, and not ultimately cost them in PR and goodwill... should be fired.

    What a complete dumpster fire this company has become.

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

  • identicon
    Any Mouse, 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:39am

    A fix would be to pull all personnel out of affected countries and close down the country specific site.

    You leave the global site up and claim that you're no longer operating in X country, then you ignore said country and at every legal hearing claim you don't operate in their country and thus they have no jurisdiction.


    This idea probably has many issues, but it would be neat to see someone try it.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 6:54pm

      Re:

      A fix would be to pull all personnel out of affected countries and close down the country specific site.

      Google doesn't own these people. These are people living in France and working for Google. They could offer to transfer them to other locations, but for many it would be a bad situation either way - move away from the home where they want to stay, or lose their job. It's not a step to be taken lightly.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:34pm

        Re: Re:

        ...for many it would be a bad situation either way - move away from the home where they want to stay, or lose their job. It's not a step to be taken lightly.

        Then I would suggest they make a change in their government.

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Then I would suggest they make a change in their government.

          Yeah, because that's fast and easy.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah, because that's fast and easy.

            Not usually. So the sooner they get started, the better. In fact, they should have already started some time ago.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:43am

    Google has few choices here. They can pay any fines (although that's quickly going to become unfeasible.) They can lobby for a change in the law (which likely won't work.) They can leave the country entirely (the country here being the entire EU.) Or they can obey, and censor information everywhere to obey court orders in Europe.

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

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:45am

      Re:

      I'm surprised they haven't pulled out of countries where such laws are passed. I doubt it would take long before public pressure against the governments in question would have the laws overturned.

      Or that Google hasn't moved it's legal headquarters to some micronation like Sealand to get around such idiocy.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re:

        "I'm surprised they haven't pulled out of countries where such laws are passed."

        I'm not. Google's primary interest is maximizing profit. I'm certain that they have crunched numbers and shown that they'll make more money by staying in.

        So far, anyway.

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

        • icon
          Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 12:20pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I understand the number crunching. But as VPN's are becoming more and more popular (as are other forms of proxy routing), I suspect the numbers need "recrunching". If Google says "Ok, we'll pull out of Elbonia", they KNOW that the bulk of Elbonians will simply access them via VPN, the same as they're doing to get a decent Netflix or the like lineup.

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 6:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If Google says "Ok, we'll pull out of Elbonia", they KNOW that the bulk of Elbonians will simply access them via VPN, the same as they're doing to get a decent Netflix or the like lineup.

            While this is true, pulling out of Europe or even just France is far from a simple operation. I imagine that would be treated as a measure of last resort.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      They could also spin off the European branches into a subsidiary owned by Google. The subsidiary adheres to whatever nutty laws go into effect there, and Google can offer searches that haven't been degraded by those laws to the rest of the world.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 6:56pm

        Re: Re:

        The subsidiary adheres to whatever nutty laws go into effect there, and Google can offer searches that haven't been degraded by those laws to the rest of the world.

        That would buy them some time, until the EU amended the law to apply to parent companies. Then they would have to completely sell the subsidiary.

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

        • identicon
          Pragmatic, 16 Jun 2015 @ 5:41am

          Tinfoil Hat

          'Scuse the tinfoil hat, but I can't help thinking that the degradation of the search results is the object of the exercise, the idea being to perhaps push a European competitor forward, or something.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:50am

    "global domains" would seem like google.com. Just delisting an item in google.fr is nonsense since most will use google.com anyway and they do understand english in France last I checked. I am unsure what the technical specifics of the demands are: If it is delisting for french IP-ranges only, it is not that much of a problem since it can be circumvented and other countries won't be affected.

    I don't agree with the secrecy of delistings, but if they want french-only delisting to avoid people stumbling over it by accident, I don't mind.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:50am

    Two questions:-
    Why do the courts not get the Information taken down?
    If it is legal to leave it up, what grounds are there for getting Google to delist it?

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      This is the huge, glaring insanity of the whole thing.

      The reason they targeted the search engines instead of where the "offensive" information exists is because they were trying to sidestep accusations of censorship.

      Which is a level of cognitive dissonance that is utterly amazing. If the information is so offensive that it deserves to be censored in search engines, then it should be censored at the source.

      It's censorship either way, but doing it to search engines is less effective and places the burden on entities that aren't responsible for, or even holding, the data.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re:

        Putting snippets of two of your posts together really tells the whole story:
        I'm certain that [Google has] crunched numbers and shown that they'll make more money by staying in... If the information is so offensive that it deserves to be censored in search engines, then it should be censored at the source.
        Censoring the source of the information would simply result in its removal. Fining the indexer of the information results in a reliable source of income.

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

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 12:29pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm old enough to have actually taken a class in Library Science as a kid, and I can't help but put these various Google threads into that model.

        Rather than burn the books, these governments want to fine/kill the librarians to prevent people from being able to locate the (still extant, still in the stacks) books.

        If they pulled that on a physical library, the response would be to ship the books out to a "friendlier" place. It shouldn't be any different with electronic access.

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

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:03am

    So, then, China can demand that the rest of the world censor everything as they've done? Where does it stop? F the EU and F France and everyone else who wants to censor. Just FU.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:14am

    If fine < ad revenue, France can eat Google's Vienna Sausage.

    The Vienna Sausage being the fine amount, figuratively.

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

  • identicon
    Adam V, 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:15am

    As a test...

    Why not start censoring random results in searches originating from France and Canada, and displaying a message that says "sorry, [a court in / the government of] a different country has decided you can't view this result. Don't appreciate it? Your country wants to do the exact same thing. Click here to yell at them."

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

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:29am

    Google (and the net in general) really have little choice before they aew subject to an untold number of foolish laws.

    If the French want the right to be forgotten, then the whole country should be forgotten from every search engine. This kind of thing worked with a special tax in Germany, and it will work everywhere else.

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

  • identicon
    DigDug, 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:33am

    France can barely wipe their own political arse...

    Why the Frak would anyone listen to them about something that is outside of their jurisdiction.

    Here's how I would fix it.

    Disconnect France from the internet. There - all done.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 6:58pm

      Re: France can barely wipe their own political arse...

      Disconnect France from the internet. There - all done.

      It seems to be challenging for them, maybe they should just go back to Minitel.

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

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:37am

    And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. "Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. "Reality control," they called it: in Newspeak, "doublethink."
    ...
    This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.
    George Orwell, 1984

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:41am

    These people must be aware that Google is not the only search engine on the planet--basically this is like Security Theater where you give the illusion that you're doing something when effectively, it's completely ineffective and totally easy to get around. It's just a search engine, not a magic way to delete content from the internet.

    I use three or four other search engines to supplement Google all the time and I'm sure there are dozens in other languages that I'm not even aware of. Do they go after and sue these other search engines to force them to censor, too? It seems odd to go after Google when people in the know can easily zip around the law and use Duck Duck Go or whatever.

    You can argue that Google is the primo search engine that everyone uses, and I'm aware that currently it totally dominates, but how long before that's no longer true?

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 9:51am

      Re:

      "You can argue that Google is the primo search engine that everyone uses, and I'm aware that currently it totally dominates, but how long before that's no longer true?"

      I share this thought. Google has been voluntarily degrading the quality of their search results for years now anyway, to the point where I needed to start using other search engines to make up for it. Giving in to demands to make the results even worse only accelerates this trend.

      Nowadays, I mostly use DuckDuckGo. In part for privacy reasons, but mostly because it draws its results from multiple search engines, saving me a few steps.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 10:55am

    Let's start by censoring all occurrences of THIS story.

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

  • icon
    Blaine (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 11:04am

    Or...

    Maybe this is really a sneaky way to give a leg up to european search engines.

    If they get google to block europe, the local search engines fill the void. No BS anti-trust attack needed.

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150414/13235130658/eu-official-says-time-to-harm-american -internet-companies-via-regulations-hours-later-antitrust-charges-against-google-announced.shtml

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 11:25am

    Wait, isn't France one of those countries who constantly whines about the US pushing its laws on other countries?

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

  • identicon
    Shadow Firebird, 15 Jun 2015 @ 11:44am

    Some Small Sympathy

    …for this law, although not US-compatible, in cases where (for example) someone tells the entire internet about the Embarrassing But Legal Thing I Did.

    I mean, I can prosecute under UK libel law for that, too, and I know which *I* think is the stupider idea…

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 12:42pm

    I wonder what could be legally done.

    Can google do anything radical without breaking some major laws and invoking anger?
    Could they for instance block any french users from reaching google search(without blocking services such as Gmail)?
    I would feel quite tempted to have them do that, simply to show that if the french government can't play nice with others then they should be barred from the playground.
    I know that it could bite them in the back, but someone with enough power needs to show that it simply isn't acceptable.
    What would Google do if another country accuses them of censoring content and they had done it based on this ruling? Would they be stuck paying fines to one or the other in perpetuity?
    France is far from the biggest country, so you gotta wonder what would happen if another country like China, India or eh... the United States of America, wanted to block all critical articles worldwide? What objections could anyone even raise?
    This is one grand mess and a so called free democratic country have opened up for the greatest censoring craziness in history.
    I am ashamed to even live in Europe.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 5:14pm

    Right to be forgotten...

    There were never any European religious persecutions.
    There were never any European crusades.
    There were never any so-called Inquisitions.
    There were never any Nazi's.
    Europeans have never done anything to be ashamed of.
    Any information to the contrary must be eliminated.
    Make it so.

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

  • icon
    Gary Mont (profile), 15 Jun 2015 @ 10:16pm

    Utopia is not Mytopia

    "and never even seem to acknowledge the dangers of having the ability to simply delete factual history..."

    Actually, factual history is considered to be one of the most dangerous of all written works, to those families who have actually caused the real events that make up the unrecorded history of humanity.

    Consider if you will for a moment, if history were written by the losers and victims of the events that make history.

    How would criminal families make ends meet if the populations of the world had a written record of the real criminal operations and real evil deeds of their corrupt leaders throughout history, and could scan through a concise data base of their "tried and true" methods for exploiting populations for fun and profit, while making that same population think they were the good guys through propaganda and social engineering.

    Real History, composed of real events, could quite easily lead to a real Global Popular Utopia.

    Such a thing cannot be allowed to happen.

    /s

    ---

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 11:47am

    "If you have nothing to hide, you don't have nothing to be forgotten."

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


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