NY Times Warns About Europe Expanding The 'Right To Be Forgotten'

from the good-for-them dept

We recently warned about how the new Data Protection Directive in the EU, while written with good intentions, unfortunately appears to both lock-in and expand the whole right to be forgotten idea in potentially dangerous ways. A big part of it is that the directive is just too vague, meaning that the RTBF may apply to all kinds of internet services, but we won't know for certain until the lawsuits are all finally decided many years in the future. Also unclear are what sorts of safe harbors there may be and how the directive protects against abusing the right to be forgotten for out and out censorship. Unfortunately, many are simply celebrating these new rules for the fact that they do give end users some more power over their data and how it's used.

But ignoring how these new rules will almost certainly be abused for censorship and to hold internet providers liable for the speech of others is a mistake. Thankfully, the NY Times has a good editorial warning about this very issue:

The most problematic measure would expand what is known as the right to be forgotten, which lets people request that businesses delete personal information that they believe is no longer relevant or is out of date.

It is reasonable to allow people to delete some information, like embarrassing photographs they posted on Facebook. But this right has been used to make it harder to find legitimate information, like old news articles. More than 350,000 Europeans have asked Google to remove links to 1.3 million web pages from search results since the European Court of Justice ruled in May 2014 that people have a right to request such deletions. (The company says it has complied with 42 percent of the requests it has received. People can appeal Google’s decision to privacy regulators and courts.)

The proposed law requires Internet companies like Google to immediately take down information while they decide whether a request for a permanent deletion is warranted. Disturbingly, news organizations and other websites would not have an opportunity to object to those immediate removals and might not even have a chance to protest permanent deletions.

The editorial also notes that the proposed rules don't make it clear whether the EU expects these rules to apply globally or just in the EU, and that could make a huge difference. As we've noted France and Google are currently fighting this fight right now. And the new rules don't provide any further clarity, which likely means people will push to use them as a sort of global censorship tool.

The end result is the removal of truthful information from the internet, as well as fewer incentives for companies to create useful platforms for free speech. Yes, we know that the standard line is that Europeans value privacy more than free speech, but that's both too simplistic a response and doesn't even address the real issue. This new directive is going to be a tool that is abused to silence free speech and punish innovation. That's not about protecting privacy at all. It's about out and out censorship.
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Filed Under: data protection, data protection directive, eu, europe, free speech, gdpr, privacy, right to be forgotten


Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Glenn, 23 Dec 2015 @ 9:14pm

    Nothing is irrelevant.

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

  • icon
    CanadianByChoice (profile), 23 Dec 2015 @ 9:17pm

    It's worse than it looks

    This won't only be a tool to "silence free speech" and "punish innovation" - it will be a tool to rewrite history.
    What stops articles about Tiananmen Square or the Holocaust from being removed in the name of the "Right To Be Forgotten"?
    When we manage to do that (forget history), it's certain that we will repeat it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2015 @ 8:36am

      Re: It's worse than it looks

      ...What stops articles about Tiananmen Square...from being removed in the name of the "Right To Be Forgotten"?...

      Go to China and research that. I bet you get educated real quick :)

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 24 Dec 2015 @ 7:53pm

        Re: Re: It's worse than it looks

        What stops articles about Tiananmen Square...from being removed in the name of the "Right To Be Forgotten"?

        Go to China and research that. I bet you get educated real quick :)

        This story is about China getting the right to come here and get you. You got problems with your gov't (or anyone)? Now, you've got problems with all of them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2015 @ 9:50am

      Re: It's worse than it looks

      ...it's certain that we will repeat it.

      Heh, we already do.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 23 Dec 2015 @ 10:59pm

    Europe values privacy?

    Hardly! We've seen Europe's surveillance programs, and they're worse than the US. No such thing as privacy in Europe. TRTBF has NOTHING to do with privacy and EVERYTHING to do with censorship, something else Europe is big on.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2015 @ 1:15am

    Its simple - we don't want our data on the US's riddled servers.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2015 @ 2:50am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw

    Gives the expression jackass new credibility.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2015 @ 5:37am

    Since this is in Europe, will it be error 233 rather than error 451?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2015 @ 10:06am

    What the fuck is wrong with these fucking Europeans?

    I mean, wasn't Orwell a European? Oh, yeah, English, guess that's different.

    So, no we practically have a memory hole.

    This whole firewalling of the internet by countries and regions is going to lead to bad consequences.

    On the one hand, these states are all lining up to sign free trade agreements.

    But, they want to control where information goes and can be stored in the name of privacy?

    There goes the one world state ...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2015 @ 5:12am

      Re:

      You act as though it were exclusively a European government desire to censor the internet, seems a bit short sighted.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 24 Dec 2015 @ 12:00pm

    Let them do it

    I say to let the EU apply their Right to be Forgotten law all over the world, on the one condition that they honor other countries' takedown notices under the same law.
    I don't think it'll take very long until the US and Europe are buried under requests from China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran to take down "imperialistic and capitalist" sites.

    Here's a quick hypothetical: suppose the bin Laden family doesn't want their business tarnished by Osama bin Laden and they file Right to be Forgotten notices. How soon until the entire history of 9/11, Seal Team Six, and "Zero Dark Thirty" are erased. Do the bin Ladens even have the political power to "forget" an Academy Award-winning Hollywood movie?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2015 @ 5:14am

      Re: Let them do it

      Your point is understood, but - not sure why one movie should be more exempt from censorship than another simply due to its "awards".

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

  • identicon
    Ed, 24 Dec 2015 @ 12:53pm

    Does this only apply to electronic data?

    Does the right to be forgotten apply to the written word?

    Will we need to search for, and burn, any books that someone may not agree with?

    Oh yes, bookburning, where have I seen that before?

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

  • icon
    Agonistes (profile), 24 Dec 2015 @ 1:11pm

    The NY Times could do an expose on how water is wet and still find some way to get it unbelievably wrong.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2015 @ 5:27am

    What about my right to remember?

    Am I committing some offense by speaking of things others would rather forget? If so, what are the consequences?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2015 @ 9:48am

    A big part of it is that the directive is just too vague, meaning that the RTBF may apply to all kinds of internet services, but we won't know for certain until the lawsuits are all finally decided many years in the future.

    If it's vague, then it is unjust. Any legal system that would fail to throw out an obviously vague law is itself invalid.

    Just sayin'.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2015 @ 10:22am

    How about the right to remember that they are assholes ?

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 27 Dec 2015 @ 10:16am

    outside Europe

    How could any such law have any legitimate jurisdiction outside of Europe. If the information to be forgotten is on a foreign server, then Europe should have no influence on forcing the administrators to delete the data.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 28 Dec 2015 @ 4:14am

      Re: outside Europe

      "If you do business in our country, then you fall under our laws, which means that if something is ordered removed, then you are required to remove all instances of it. Claiming that it's being hosted in another country will do you no good, as both the foreign branch and this one are owned by the same company, which means an order to your branch here is the same as an order to your branch there."

      About like that. Government will claim that because the company has a presence in the 'home' country that means that all branches are subject to the same orders/rulings/laws, because after all, they're all part of the same company, and if the company wants to continue to to business in that country, then they'll have to comply.

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 28 Dec 2015 @ 8:04am

      Re: outside Europe

      ... then Europe should have no influence on forcing the administrators to delete the data.

      And, force search engines (everywhere) to stop offering a link to it in searches. Australia appears to agree, as does Hollywierd.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2015 @ 1:29pm

    What happens if I use the right to be forgotten on the 'right to be forgotten' law itself?

    Suddenly there is no such law (Google can Google to prove it)..hey presto! no more censorship/takedowns.....

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2015 @ 6:46am

    keep pushing, EU. You're going to be responsible for the Balkanization of the internet.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2015 @ 7:18am

    Crazy question

    If the right to be forgotten goes global Google and other search engines are removing the links from their databases not deleting the information. So what is to stop the average user from using open source spiders and/or crawlers from searching the internet for complete information to their query?

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 6 Jan 2016 @ 5:34am

      Re: Crazy question

      Nothing whatsoever, that's why it's so utterly laughable. However, most internet users are lazy and end up using Google or Bing.

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


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