EU Court Adviser Says Google Shouldn't Have To Enforce A French RTBF Request Anywhere But In Europe

from the jurisdictional-limitation-is-not-exactly-a-novel-concept dept

The "Right to Be Forgotten" -- a European construct that allows people to erase their internet history at the drop of a takedown request -- should only apply in countries affected by the law. That would seem to be obvious but, so far, it hasn't played out that way. There has been insistence by a few judges and governments that delisting orders should cover anywhere Google's search engine can be used, rather than just in the originating country.

The abusable system has led to questionable delisting requests, which almost always results in the person making the dubious request generating even more URLs to target with the next round of takedowns. That's the nature of the internet, and that's why some judges think content delisted in one country should be made unavailable everywhere in the world.

For a while, it appeared the EU was inclined to agree with French regulators who believed they should be able to control the distribution of content worldwide from an office in Paris. Fortunately, it doesn't appear these regulators will get to control the internet. Reuters reports the EU court is probably going to end up siding with Google in this dispute.

Google can limit the “right to be forgotten” to internet searches made in the European Union, an adviser to the bloc’s top court said on Thursday, backing an appeal by the U.S. search giant against a French fine.

Now, this isn't guaranteed to happen. The Reuters report notes the EU Court normally follows the advice of its legal advisers, but not always. The French government doesn't appear willing to back down, despite this recommendation.

France’s CNIL data protection authority said it noted the opinion and restated its view that the right to privacy should apply regardless of the geographical origin of the person doing an internet search.

This "right" should be watched closely and exercised cautiously. Its short history shows this hasn't been the case. Google is compliant with most requests it receives, but there are still a number of bad faith efforts making their way through the system. Just like DMCA notices, some RTBF requests target legitimate and newsworthy content solely for the purpose of making embarrassing or inconvenient facts vanish from the web. Allowing a European country to control the world's search results will do little more than encourage further abuse.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 10:57am

    This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    The "right to be forgotten".

    Forgotten by whom? By people other than yourself.

    Put into the proper active voice, this is the "right to compel others to forget about you." Which sounds ridiculously dystopian, like something out of a Philip K. Dick story.

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

  2. icon
    DannyB (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 11:11am

    The problem

    Censorship isn't as effective as some would like unless the censorship can be enforced everywhere.

    Should every citizen of certain countries get to censor what the entire world can see? What about countries with radically different views? Can a country censor things they don't like which may reflect negatively on certain religions or religious figures? Don't those religious figures have a RTBF?

    What if China wants to censor all events that occurred anywhere in the year 1989? Doesn't the year 1989 have a right to be forgotten?

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

  3. icon
    MDT (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 12:12pm

    Oh the Noes!

    My one consolation for the last two years has been that as bad as our political situation is, I could always count on EU and Britain to do something almost if not more stupid (stupid votes to Brexit, stupid court opinions on link taxes or RTBF, and so forth).

    If they start using common sense, what will I have to console myself with?

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

  4. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 1:07pm

    Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    I generally go with 'right to re-write history', as that's basically what it is.

    Don't want something up anymore, even if it is factual? Sent in a demand that it be removed/de-listed, and presto, recorded history has been changed to suit your whims.

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

  5. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 1:34pm

    The 'Turnabout is fair play' test

    You'd think it would be really easy to explain why this is a Bad Idea, via simply asking them a very short and easy to understand question in a public, recorded setting:

    'Would you accept governments other than your own, say China, Russia and/or North Korea to name a few, having veto power over what content you are allowed to see online, using the very same power you are insisting that you be given?'

    At that point they either get the point and realize that no, in fact, they would not be happy if those other countries had veto power over what they could see, admit publicly that yeah, they'd have no problem with that and all but destroy their ability to be taken seriously, or break out the special pleading about how it's totally different when they do it, even though it wouldn't be acceptable when others did.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 1:41pm

    Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    Put into the proper active voice, this is the "right to compel others to forget about you." Which sounds ridiculously dystopian, like something out of a Philip K. Dick story.

    So let's reverse the question then.

    Why should society remember every little thing you've done for eternity? Why should society as a whole remember what your shit looked like when you were two months old for eternity? Why should society remember who you dated in high school for eternity? What justification does society have for such actions? Why would it be necessary for society to do this? Why should society pay for this?

    No matter how you word it, there is no justification for society remembering everything about everyone for eternity. The only unjustifiable reason that most of you can come up with is: "Fighting terrorism" or "Punishing criminals." But neither of those goals require knowing what someone's shit looked like at two months old, or who someone dated in high school.

    That's what is being argued here. It's not public criminal records, or news publications. It's the photos taken by idiot parents that were uploaded to Facebook, it's the stupid sexting crap that teenagers do. It's the basic things that practically no-one born more than 15 years ago has ever had to deal with beyond the immediate consequences. An expectation that they take for granted and are now denying later generations claiming it as a luxury that cannot be afforded to them for non-nonsensical and unjustifiable reasons. All the while being blissfully uncaring about the real consequences of what they are imposing on younger generations.

    Society has a right to remember, but society does not have the right to constantly drudge crap back up out of the ground because one of them has an axe to grind. What's done is done. If you cannot forgive and forget, then there is no true justice in your society. Only vengeance.

    You have limits on freedom for a reason. As the saying goes: "Your right to swing your fist, ends at my nose." Anything less is tyranny disguised as protecting one's rights. The invention of digital storage and recording equipment does not change that fact, nor should it.

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

  7. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    So let's reverse the question then.

    Why should society remember every little thing you've done for eternity?

    Because remembering things for as long as they're relevant is the default state, as is using technology to improve our performance in essentially everything we do, good, bad, or neutral.

    Just because you believe that something from the past is no longer relevant doesn't mean it's not relevant to me. In fact, I'd submit that an interested party is the least qualified to make such a judgment.

    That's what is being argued here. It's not public criminal records, or news publications. It's the photos taken by idiot parents that were uploaded to Facebook, it's the stupid sexting crap that teenagers do. It's the basic things that practically no-one born more than 15 years ago has ever had to deal with beyond the immediate consequences. An expectation that they take for granted and are now denying later generations claiming it as a luxury that cannot be afforded to them for non-nonsensical and unjustifiable reasons.

    You're kidding... right? Because, as Luke Skywalker famously put it, every word you just said is wrong.

    It absolutely is public criminal records and news publications. Just have a look at past stories on the subject.

    I was born well over 15 years ago, and my wife has embarrassing baby pictures of me. She got them from my sister, who got them from my mom's old photo albums. Older generations didn't need the Internet for that!

    Likewise, being more than 15 years old, sexting was never a thing for me or my classmates. It is now, unfortunately, and it is stupid crap teens do today. It's something they need to learn is a bad idea because it can ruin their life. A lot of people like to claim that teens aren't mature enough to reason about long-term consequences, but this is patently absurd in the light of the vast majority of teens who do in fact manage to make it to adulthood alive and without doing something stupid that screws up their life. (Despite abundant opportunities to do so!) This is just one other thing today's generation needs to be aware of, and forcing other people to take responsibility for their mistakes by cleaning up after them is the exact opposite of the right thing to do in this case!

    But neither of those goals require knowing ... who someone dated in high school.

    I still remember everyone I dated in high school. They make for some great stories to look back on with my wife and laugh about. Why should anyone have the power to erase that?!?

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    I'm impressed that you were able to spend so much time writing a screed that bears no resemblance to reality.

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

  9. icon
    Thad (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    Why should society remember every little thing you've done for eternity?

    That's the wrong question.

    Just because you don't think people should do something is not an argument in favor of legally restricting them from doing it.

    I don't think people should talk on the phone in a movie theater, but I don't think there should be a law against it, either. (Theater policy, sure. Kick them out with no refund. But the law shouldn't force the theater owners to do that.)

    Society has a right to remember

    Well, no. Society doesn't have rights, except insofar as society is an aggregation of people. People have rights.

    And here in the US, those rights include the freedom of speech. We do have privacy rights in this country, but we generally don't have the right to force people to take down true information about us.

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

  10. icon
    nerdrage (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 5:06pm

    Re: The 'Turnabout is fair play' test

    Yep that's my standard too. Let individual countries decide how much they actually believe in free speech. I'd rather stick with the American valuation and not be bothered with how other countries' value free speech. Do your own thing, just don't bother us about it.

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

  11. icon
    Atkray (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 5:09pm

    If the US had a right to be forgotten then Guardians of the Galaxy 3 would be in post production right now.

    Of course Harvey Weinstein would be producing it.

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

  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 6:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    Because remembering things for as long as they're relevant is the default state, as is using technology to improve our performance in essentially everything we do, good, bad, or neutral.

    Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

    Just because you believe that something from the past is no longer relevant doesn't mean it's not relevant to me.

    Oh look, someone who read (maybe) my post and completely missed the point of it. Hi Mr.Vindictive. Is your friend Ms. Self-Importance doing well? Care to tell me the story about how those darned millennials sexting each other on another continent gave you nightmares again?

    I'd submit that an interested party is the least qualified to make such a judgment.

    Says the person who's interest is making sure someone they've never heard of judges them for eternity with impunity. Or is so Self-Absorbed that they have somehow made the entire issue of the privacy violations of the entire world into a perceived personal attack against their "right" to persecute people they've never met.

    It absolutely is public criminal records and news publications

    That is impacted by it yes, but way to over-focus on my misguided downplaying of one aspect of the issue and completely ignore the other impacts of what you are proposing.

    I was born well over 15 years ago, and my wife has embarrassing baby pictures of me. She got them from my sister, who got them from my mom's old photo albums. Older generations didn't need the Internet for that!

    Yes, and you've also highlighted my point. The distribution was very limited, and only covered people in your immediate family. It was not the entire world at the push of a button.

    Your example is an apples to oranges comparison on the terms of scale. Which again proves my point of just how much you take that limited distribution for granted.

    It's something they need to learn is a bad idea because it can ruin their life.

    Why should it be able to ruin their lives? Because they were born in the wrong era? Do you just enjoy kicking people while they are down? And continue kicking them long after they've gotten back up?

    A lot of people like to claim that teens aren't mature enough to reason about long-term consequences, but this is patently absurd in the light of the vast majority of teens who do in fact manage to make it to adulthood alive and without doing something stupid that screws up their life. (Despite abundant opportunities to do so!)

    So are you willing to share that perfect how to raise a child manual that applies to everyone equally and always achieves the same result regardless of circumstances that you've so obviously found with the rest of the world? No? OK then. Quit assuming everyone is either perfect or an irredeemable enemy.

    forcing other people to take responsibility for their mistakes by cleaning up after them is the exact opposite of the right thing to do in this case!

    Society has to actively preserve their transgression, and you say that is "cleaning up after them"?!?!? That's not cleaning or or taking responsibility for anything. That's pure vindictiveness.

    I still remember everyone I dated in high school. They make for some great stories to look back on with my wife and laugh about. Why should anyone have the power to erase that?!?

    Yes, YOU do. There's no reason for everyone on the planet to be able to call that up with the push of a button. Unless you're that masochistic about previous relationships. Even then such masochism doesn't apply to others nor should they be subjected to it.

    Because, as Luke Skywalker famously put it, every word you just said is wrong.

    So your ability to persecute anyone on earth at the push of a button is more important than society's ability to function let alone have a judicial system who's punishments actually mean something instead of being just more badgering? Then why not just kill anyone who steps out of the line you've drawn for them? They'll never redeem themselves in your eyes, and you clearly want them to suffer indefinitely for even the slightest infraction, so why should society even bother with the courts? Why should society even try to discourage crime and provide a path to an unobtainable redemption? Just kill them. So much easier and cheaper right? Oh, I forgot that's the "easy way out" for the "criminals", right? Society is supposed to chastise them for eternity, and make the remainder of their lives a living hell because some asshole said so right? We're also supposed to pay for that privilege right?

    In the words of Spock, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." We all need a society that functions and can resolve it's differences. We all need a society that can forgive transgressions. We don't need a bunch of self-righteous and self-absorbed crusaders making life difficult for everyone.

    You've failed to even remotely counter my argument. If anything you are THE single biggest example to prove my argument, and represent a perfect example for the kind of abuse that is permitted and will happen under your own argument. You are filled with nothing but pure vindictiveness and an undeserved pride. Worse, you've even elevated yourself above the entire world in terms of importance. While simultaneously disregarding the plights of others for your own crusade. Your ego must be the size of Jupiter, and quite honestly I cannot tell if you are just trolling or really are that horrible of a human being. Seek help. You obviously need to talk about something.

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

  13. icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 3:14am

    You know, it's a matter of time other countries start to force stuff they want to apply to you as well and I bet you won't like when it happens France. Think about it.

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

  14. icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    I've already covered this.

    Settle down, AC. The fact that dodgy stuff on you exists doesn't mean it must be erased. I've had to battle people who flat out lied about me and came out the other side with my reputation unscathed. It's not what's up there that matters, it's what you do about it.

    See also: How Your Web Presence Affects Your Reputation Do You Really Think For Yourself?

    You're welcome.

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

  15. identicon
    Drunk Uncle Sam, 11 Jan 2019 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    Off on a tangent rationalizing the imperfect world while attempting to mold the publics perception to match ... what an idiotic pursuit.

    Do you really think your Right To Be Forgotten will save your ass from those who wish to "persecute anyone on earth at the push of a button"? Get real dude.

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

  16. identicon
    Drunk Uncle Sam, 11 Jan 2019 @ 7:28am

    Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    What is your suggestion for the method of memory removal from the brains of people who have been exposed to reality?

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

  17. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    Wow, you are projecting harder than my office equipment! "Vindictiveness" has nothing whatsoever to do with my reasoning on this matter. It actually hews much closer to the principle that you horrendously mangled in an attempt to drum up support for your own side: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. This means that one person does not have the right to force all of society to "forget" things that they find inconvenient.

    We all need a society that can forgive transgressions.

    Yes, I definitely agree. Having said that, the term "forgive and forget" was coined by an idiot, and only another idiot would conflate the two. Any rational adult is perfectly capable of forgiving a past transgression by someone, while still remaining wary that their underlying character is such that they're capable of doing something similar again. And considering how many examples we've already seen of RTBF being abused by unrepentant predatory people, this is not something that should even be "downplayed," to use your own word. This. Is. Why. It. Should. Not. Exist. Because the potential for harm far outweighs the potential for good.

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't use the passive voice

    Well, no. Society doesn't have rights, except insofar as society is an aggregation of people. People have rights.

    Related: except in America, corporations don't have rights. It's possible to give people the right to free speech (ignoring RTBF) while restricting data-aggregation companies. It may or may not be a good idea, but what they do is fundamentally different from an individual choosing to share stories.

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 9:57am

    This would effectively defeat the RTBF.

    Europe could require companies who do business in the EU to adhere to this. Then they aren't controlling other countries, just setting policy for those who want access to the EU markets.

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


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
Close
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
Show Now: Takedown
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.