Landmark Court Decision Means Canada Has Now Joined The 'Right To Be Forgotten Globally' Club

from the long-reach-of-the-moosen dept

Techdirt has written plenty about the controversial "right to be forgotten" -- strictly speaking, a right to be de-listed from search engine results in general, and from Google in particular. Although most people associate this with the European Union, which pioneered the approach, the idea has now spread to other countries, including South Korea, China and Japan. In an interesting article in The Globe and Mail, Michael Geist suggests that Canada has now joined the club:

the Federal Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling that paves the way for a Canadian version of the right to be forgotten that would allow courts to issue orders with the removal of Google search results on a global basis very much in mind.

The details of the case are rather unusual. They involve a website in Romania that obtained and posted Canadian judicial and tribunal decisions. These were all public documents, but they were not previously indexed by Google, which meant their contents were effectively hidden. The Romanian site allowed its copies to be indexed by Google, which made the decisions and the Canadian citizens involved visible for the first time -- something the people affected were not happy about. They complained to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who ruled that the Romanian site violated Canadian privacy law. The case then moved to Canada's federal court, which ruled that it had jurisdiction over the website in Romania, since it had strong connections with Canada through its holdings. It then went on to make a declaratory order:

The court noted that the declaration could be used to submit a request to Google seeking the removal of the offending links from its search database. While acknowledging that there was no guarantee that Google would act, it was persuaded by the Privacy Commissioner that "this may be the most practical and effective way of mitigating the harm caused to individuals since the respondent is located in Romania with no known assets."

As Geist notes, whether or not it was the federal court's intention, it seems to have created the Canadian equivalent of a right to be de-listed from search results:

While more onerous than a direct request to Google, the court's approach suggests there is now a road map for the global removal of search results of content that may be factually correct, but which also implicates the privacy rights of individuals.

One indirect effect of this ruling will be to strengthen the idea that there is some kind of "right to be forgotten globally," which will itself probably encourage people in other countries to bring privacy cases that seek to spread it yet further.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+


Reader Comments

The First Word

The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

For those folk who always make a point a commenting without reading the source material: "The case – A.T. v. Globe24H.com – involves a Romanian-based website that downloaded thousands of Canadian judicial and tribunal decisions, posted them online and demanded fees for their swift removal."

While there's a substantial difference of degree, the Romanian website's business model is essentially revenge porn blackmail.

From what I can discern, in the 'States, as long as someone is able to make a buck, any activity is considered, uh, legitimate. And anyone who pays you a salary, owns you, like a master owns a slave. This applies also when you're not 'on the clock'.

In Canada, it's a little different. For example, in 2012 the 'Supreme Court rule[d] employees have right to privacy on work computers'. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/supreme-court-rules-employees-have-right-to -privacy-on-work-computers/article4625660/

In fact, there's even a federal officer of Parliament, the Privacy Commissioner, whose job is, well, privacy.

Some people here may remember Jennifer Stoddard, who investigated Facebook, getting them to institute privacy protections for its users. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/careers-leadership/jennifer-stoddar t-making-your-privacy-her-business/article1319261/?page=all

That and, if you've committed a crime and done the time, there is room for forgive and forget - we even allow prisoners, like those actually in prison, to vote in elections.

I know, I know, that sounds like crazy talk! But considering the crime and incarceration rates in Canada vs. those in the 'States, I'll take our system, any day.

So, no, I'm not really surprised about the court ruling, however impractical it is.

—ThaumaTechnician

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:55am

    Sorry

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

  • identicon
    Canuck, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:04am

    Any reason why you left out the fact that globe24h.com is an extortion operation that gathers private information of individuals and posts it to its website, then forces the individuals to pay money to have it removed?

    The courts are saying that Google should do the right thing and not be part of an extortion operation.

    Court website(s) use robots.txt to keep Google out. Google complies. Extortionist crawls website (in violation of robots.txt, I would suspect) and essentially makes a copy of court site(s), but with robots.txt removed. Google indexes extortionist's site. Why should this stand? How would y'all fix this?

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

  • identicon
    My_Name_Here, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:11am

    You guys are getting way to predictable with your "self referencing" opening paragraph. It's pretty spammy and not at all good reading. Perhaps you can file the references at the end of the stories? Oh wait, Googlebot doesn't like that!

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:42am

    One really should compile a list of the most horrific people from the countries pushing right to be forgotten.

    Oh look someone has...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_serial_killers_by_country

    Oh well he only killed and ate 3 people, there is no reason we should let Google still tell people he did that. He's been rehabilitated now and there is no problem with him living in a home next to that school full of his preferred prey.

    Just because that Judge took millions in kickbacks to send children to work camps on trumped up charges, is no reason we shouldn't allow him to force Google to remove all mention of his crimes.

    Stupid people do stupid things and regret them later, and for some reason rather than deal with the consequences they expect the Government to swoop in and change the world to protect them. This needs to stop.

    I've made mistakes in my nym life, but I have no interest in covering them up. I am merely immortal, and I own my missteps. I've done way more on the good side of the scales, and I don't give a shit about those few times I screwed up.

    The biggest problem is at some point googlestalking potential hires and digging into their facebook replaced actually accessing people. Oh there was a picture of him drinking gets blown into hes a huge alcoholic. People now create perfectly mundane fake accounts to get past the cursory search.

    I've said this before and I'll keep saying it.
    Stop googling yourself and fretting about truthful results you dislike, maybe put more effort into actually doing good things to push the bad results down.

    Or rip that door off the hinges and then be shocked, just shocked, when Union Carbide manages to scrub this from the results...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster
    Would you like a world where recalls & disasters can be wiped away because they have a right to be forgotten??

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

  • icon
    ThaumaTechnician (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:22am

    The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

    For those folk who always make a point a commenting without reading the source material: "The case – A.T. v. Globe24H.com – involves a Romanian-based website that downloaded thousands of Canadian judicial and tribunal decisions, posted them online and demanded fees for their swift removal."

    While there's a substantial difference of degree, the Romanian website's business model is essentially revenge porn blackmail.

    From what I can discern, in the 'States, as long as someone is able to make a buck, any activity is considered, uh, legitimate. And anyone who pays you a salary, owns you, like a master owns a slave. This applies also when you're not 'on the clock'.

    In Canada, it's a little different. For example, in 2012 the 'Supreme Court rule[d] employees have right to privacy on work computers'. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/supreme-court-rules-employees-have-right-to -privacy-on-work-computers/article4625660/

    In fact, there's even a federal officer of Parliament, the Privacy Commissioner, whose job is, well, privacy.

    Some people here may remember Jennifer Stoddard, who investigated Facebook, getting them to institute privacy protections for its users. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/careers-leadership/jennifer-stoddar t-making-your-privacy-her-business/article1319261/?page=all

    That and, if you've committed a crime and done the time, there is room for forgive and forget - we even allow prisoners, like those actually in prison, to vote in elections.

    I know, I know, that sounds like crazy talk! But considering the crime and incarceration rates in Canada vs. those in the 'States, I'll take our system, any day.

    So, no, I'm not really surprised about the court ruling, however impractical it is.

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

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:06am

      Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

      1. do not dispute that canada has more humane laws regarding incarceration (in point of fact, just about EVERY country but a few are infinitely more humane in their treatment of prisoners)
      2. but while i am all for giving people a second chance, i dont think that means they csn erase his story to their whims...
      3. as another poster pointed out, our superior korporate 'people' (sic) will simply use this 'right' to erase any and all inconvenient truths they dont like...
      4. you did something fucked up and people found out ? suck it up, buttercup, maybe next time you will hesitate before deciding on a fucked up decision...

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

        > suck it up, buttercup, maybe next time you will hesitate before deciding on a fucked up decision...

        Punishment for life. Nice. How 'bout you put action behind your words and post your identity so we can all research *your* past?

        Yeah, I didn't think so.

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

        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

          Come on now they are on the web, not the sex offender registry.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2017 @ 9:48pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

            Come on now they are on the web, not the sex offender registry.

            And as long as they are on the web they may continue to be punished. So, what's your ID?

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:29am

      Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

      Regardless, taking this to Google is not the answer. It needs to be removed at the source because anybody, including other search engines, can still get to the information. The problem isn't being fixed, it's just being swept under the rug.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 10:10am

      Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

      Also in the US, simply being arrested is enough to get you fired or not hired, and refused housing. Even if you are innocent the arrest alone can ruin your life.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:08pm

        Re: Re: The TD article is missing a crucial fact, where illucidates the Court's ruling.

        Yup, and the school/prison/parole/prison pipeline is working exactly as designed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:27am

    I've had this idea where google and other search engines should just outright implement a preentive "right to be forgotten" filter for a couple days, ignoring queries for any name whatsoever and adding a big banner "in light of the recent bout of 'right to be forgotten' requests we have taken steps to safeguard the privacy of every person ever. Do please ask your local representative/politician what your next steps are to prevent this from happening in the future"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:52am

    Me, I would prefer just the opposite

    For example, a filter for me that would prevent any mention of the Kardashians from ever showing up in the result set of any search I conduct.

    Wait, no, that would actually suppress this post, wouldn't it. Never mind.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:01am

      Re: Me, I would prefer just the opposite

      "For example, a filter for me that would prevent any mention of the Kardashians"

      But think of all the poor 'journalists' that would put out of business.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:17am

    Public Assassination...

    Remember folks, much of this is making headway's due to certain groups with penchants for using public assassination to damage people and their reputations as revenge.

    In many ways public assassination is worse than jail time and requires no actual proof of guilt.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:54am

      Re: Public Assassination...

      who?

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:30am

      Re: Public Assassination...

      Yes, that's an issue, but going to Google doesn't fix it.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:48am

        Re: Re: Public Assassination...

        definitely agree... just pointing out that I think this is a big part of it. With the communications we have available now, it can be very easy to ruin someone with nothing but lies. People are beginning to realize this to some extent and while most of the pushes for right to be forgotten are mainly from bad actors, they are gaining traction by non bad actors that have been burned.

        The whole revenge porn is another parallel to this situation.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:58pm

      Re: Public Assassination...

      I was called a terrorist, a hacker, an identity thief, and more lovely things on the record in several courts & media.

      I'm still me & more respected than those who made the merit-less claims on the record.

      I'm not fishing for a law that will let me remove those claims because if you judge me on what a couple of shitty extortionists claimed to protect their scam... fuck ya.

      No one is owed a good reputation.
      Petty people flip out at the tiniest slight to their online reputation.
      Look at how much time is wasted in trying to police the carefully curated images, and they haven't figured out that if all you see is 5 star reviews you suspect they are gaming the system.

      I'm exactly what I claim to be, an immortal sociopath amused by you hairless apes repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:17am

    This ruling sounds more like...

    ...it decided that the material should have never been indexed in the first place. So, they plan on asking Google to stop indexing it. Wonder what they're going to do about Yahoo and Bing and all the other search engines though. Unless they can force the site operator to add a robot txt, delisting it on Google won't really make the indexing go away.

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

    • icon
      nerd bert (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:51am

      Re: This ruling sounds more like...

      At least the court isn't demanding that Google delete the links. It's requesting it, which is a far different thing and something and honestly, not a bad path for them to follow. Compare that with how France does its right-to-be-forgotten cases.

      Still, I have to admit going to some of the indexes that curate RTBF cases just to see what's "forgotten" so I suspect that the Streisand effect is more prevalent than most petitioners think.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 7:35am

    I run an anime website and community and it's standard policy for me not to remove any content unless it violates the law within the United States. Since my site is hosted in the U.S., there is no way I would respond or consider any request if someone requested content be removed. I find it ridiculous that any country would adopt this law because it has a chilling effect on free speech.

    I should note that I have a very diverse and international community and I grant the right to free speech to every registered member, within reason.

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:44am

    globally?

    How do they expect to enforce this on a global scale? Countries with no such law are under no obligation to comply.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 1:25pm

    It might be right, but what about the consequences?

    For now it is a request so there is still a way to block this site without actually making it so a search engine is doing the bidding of one country.
    It has been mentioned over and over again, making it so any search engine has to follow the laws of a single country globally, would make it so they would have to follow the law of every country globally and not just those you like.
    I wonder what would happen if another country wanted every mention of God deleted from search engines? A pretty likely guess would be that the US (and many other christian countries) would use the courts to tell them that they better put the big guy back... or else.
    What then?
    It might be for a good cause, but the consequences of any law that works globally are just too great.
    If this had been an order and not a request, I see no other course of action for google than to resist, because it would certainly destroy a big part of their business when the internet goes the way of the dinosaur.

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

  • identicon
    Anon, 9 Feb 2017 @ 9:53pm

    Problem is we're stuck between the world where obscurity reigned and the future where all is known. Taking down an extortion site does not get rid of newspaper and online articles blogs or comments. Forcing the right to be forgotten on multinational search engines means the market will fragment into a plethora of regional engines ignoring foreign orders but still indexing foreign crud. Followed by aggregators that will search all those sites. Will aggregators then be forced to ignore foreign indexers? Followed by foreign aggregator services...

    You can't put the genie back in the bottle. From now on, your life is an open book.

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

  • identicon
    nony, 10 Feb 2017 @ 9:41am

    might be missing something

    if canada believes that these documents are tortuous then why are they putting them online? sure the romanian site is evil, but they only can be cause this stuff is publicly available. is the canadian government going to take the offending documents down?

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.