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European Commission Spokesman: Google Removing Link Was "not a Good Judgement"

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the we've-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia dept.

Google 210

An anonymous reader writes in with this article from the BBC about Google's recent removal of a news story from search results. "Google's decision to remove a BBC article from some of its search results was "not a good judgement", a European Commission spokesman has said. A link to an article by Robert Peston was taken down under the European court's "right to be forgotten" ruling. But Ryan Heath, spokesman for the European Commission's vice-president, said he could not see a "reasonable public interest" for the action. He said the ruling should not allow people to "Photoshop their lives". The BBC understands that Google is sifting through more than 250,000 web links people wanted removed."

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210 comments

Well, duh... (5, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | about three weeks ago | (#47382309)

...but that's exactly what the ruling does. The original case was a businessman objecting to Google links to newpaper stories about his life. This is no different.

Fact is, the court that issued this ruling screwed up big time. Perhaps, if Google can find a few more egregious deletions to make, the European Parliament will correct the error.

Re:Well, duh... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382339)

No it doesn't, it's based on existing judgements. People didn't have the right to photoshop before, and they shouldn't now.

This is a social right and so the right to be forgotten should only be applied if most people would agree it can be forgotten. It's always been the case that if you're a well known person you're SOL.

It's supposed to be used by random John Doe's who got listed for something that is now completely irrelevent. The more well known you are, the less becomes irrelevent.

Ironically, the richer you are the more relevent your history becomes and the less you can protect.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382399)

It's not ironic that rich people need to be less protected, they own much over protection in other ways, it's just, indeed.

Justin Deed (3, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about three weeks ago | (#47382733)

Justin Deed was a Streisand fan,
Doo dah, doo dah,
Saw her Effect [wikipedia.org] and had a plan,
Oh da doo dah day,
Scrapin' screens all day
Scrapin' screens all night
Tried purge the whole Internet
'Cause he won't too bright.

Re:Well, duh... (5, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about three weeks ago | (#47382443)

in this particular case, the guy the article was about didn't make the 'forgetme' request, it was some Joe Schmoe who was objecting to a comment he posted in the comment section under it.

I don't know if the guy's comment is irrelevant now, I doubt it as it was just some feeble comment he wrote - not an article directly about that user. It could be he wrote something he is now embarrassed about, but more likely it is just some dick who wanted to try the system out.

Re:Well, duh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382737)

We need more dicks like this, then, to point out the absurdity of the system. I hope Google responds to all such requests, and that they leave a gap on their search page with a message "This link has been removed in support of the right to be forgotten" in its place.

Re:Well, duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382699)

"People didn't have the right to photoshop before, and they shouldn't now."

According to what law exactly is it illegal for people to 'photoshop' the way (information about) their lives are presented online?

And if people are not allowed to 'photoshop' their personal information, then what about companies and corporations? When a company claims to be the 'Most Innovative Tech Company' in their commercials, are they legally required to provide evidence of such claims? And when they leave out the fact that 10 people killed themselves due to bad labour conditions at the FoxConn plants that assembles their products, are they guilty of 'photoshopping' their public persona?

What exactly constitutes 'photoshopping' in this context anyways? And why should it be against any law?

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about three weeks ago | (#47382763)

Companies should be legally required to provide evidence of such claims. Not saying things is not Photoshopping their public persona. It's just not showing all of their public persona. If they encouraged news sources to hide/delete/not report that information, then yes, they would be.

photoshopping is a misused term anyway. We should be using manipulation. Photoshopping, as /. should know, is modification/manipulation of a digital image with Photoshop (by Adobe), a term that later simply meant manipulation of images with appropiate software and is now being extended to things that are not digital images, but shouldn't. Just as we shouldn't extend "to google"'s meaning to "search anything anywhere".

Re:Well, duh... (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about three weeks ago | (#47382347)

The original case was a newspaper notice of a personal bankruptcy of a pretty obscure person, while this is a story about a very public CEO resignation. The decision is a bit of a mess, I agree, but this case pretty clearly falls outside its scope, which explicitly says that stories involving public roles are excluded (which resigning as CEO of Merill Lynch certainly counts as).

From the explanatory summary (pdf) [europa.eu] that accompanied the decision, explaining when search-engine operators may turn down removal requests:

The request may for example be turned down where the search engine operator concludes that for particular reasons, such as for example the public role played by John Smith, the interest of the general public to have access to the information in question justifies showing the links in Google search results.

Re:Well, duh... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382411)

"pretty obscure person" vs "very public CEO" is a matter of *your* perspective. If you're looking to go into business with the "pretty obscure person" then it's highly relevant for you. In both cases they are public articles by newspapers.

What should happen is these requests should be put to the newspapers themselves, except then everyone would realize that it's censorship. And that's exactly what it is. So instead we have the silliness of asking a rich search company to do contortions to do filtering instead.

Re:Well, duh... (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about three weeks ago | (#47382545)

Yeah, the big practical problem with this decision is that it requires case-by-case analysis, which is probably impractical at Google's scale. This particular case is really pretty clear-cut: it's the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, and it's a story about his CEOship. If Google did case-by-case analysis, it would be easy to reject this takedown request as easily within the scope of the "public role" exception. However they probably (for understandable reasons) don't want to do that kind of case-by-case decision making.

Re:Well, duh... (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47382467)

The original case was a newspaper notice of a personal bankruptcy of a pretty obscure person, while this is a story about a very public CEO resignation.

And yet, that is completely and utterly irrelevant because either way, the public interest is harmed, not served, by permitting someone to hide facts. That will never make the world a better place.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Megol (3135005) | about three weeks ago | (#47382503)

Right. So those teenagers that sent pictures of themselves to a boy/girlfriend and now have those same pictures available on the Internet with name and addresses? Yes public interest is served by removing those!

But if you insist you are free to post nude pictures of yourself with name address and other facts attached.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382603)

But if you insist you are free to post nude pictures of yourself with name address and other facts attached.

*sigh*

Saying that censorship is wrong once information has already been put up is 100% different from saying that individuals should themselves upload all this personal information.

You hypocrisy-seekers (tu quoque is a fallacy, by the way) should do a better job of looking for actual hypocrisy.

Re:Well, duh... (2, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about three weeks ago | (#47382619)

And yet, that is completely and utterly irrelevant because either way, the public interest is harmed, not served, by permitting someone to hide facts. That will never make the world a better place.

In Europe we aim to rehabilitate people who made mistakes. People who make financial mistakes, broke the law or just generally did something stupid in public are given the opportunity to move past those mistakes and have them forgotten. The law enforces that to a reasonable degree - it can't erase old newspaper articles, but it does allow a person not to mention certain criminal convictions or hide historic bankruptcies from the bank after a period of time.

I understand it is different in the US. Criminals in particular are branded for life, no matter what their crime or what kind of life they live after being punished. We don't do that here, and consider it in the public interest to give people these opportunities so that they can be productive members of society again.

Re:Well, duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382637)

In Europe we aim to rehabilitate people who made mistakes.

Can a CEO of an investment bank ever be rehabilitated?

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382747)

Hold on, let me

1) Reply to your comment as an identified regular citizen (my name is Joe Brown of Wilcoxshirehamster, England), and

2) Now I feel my reply was foolish and I'd like it to be forgotten. I'm going to have to ask Google to remove its link to this page, which includes my comment.

I guess I have the right to make YOU forgotten by proxy?

Re:Well, duh... (4, Insightful)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about three weeks ago | (#47382707)

The original case was a newspaper notice of a personal bankruptcy of a pretty obscure person, while this is a story about a very public CEO resignation. The decision is a bit of a mess, I agree, but this case pretty clearly falls outside its scope, which explicitly says that stories involving public roles are excluded (which resigning as CEO of Merill Lynch certainly counts as).

From the explanatory summary (pdf) [europa.eu] that accompanied the decision, explaining when search-engine operators may turn down removal requests:

The request may for example be turned down where the search engine operator concludes that for particular reasons, such as for example the public role played by John Smith, the interest of the general public to have access to the information in question justifies showing the links in Google search results.

I don't believe you understand why google's pissed.

They're a for-profit American corporation. They make money selling information to people. They keep costs low but refusing to use actual humans to do any of the work, when computer algorithm will work fine.

But this ruling specifically assumes they have an actual person sitting around, with nothing to do but read these requests, and then spend an hour trying to figure out if Jose Juerez in this story is a nobody who can use his right to be forgotten, or he's a Jose Juarez who is a figure of public interest. Moreover the guy has to know every EU language, every EU minority language (so Sorbian with an 'o' counts, because German citizen Sorbians are also EU Citizens), prominent local non-EU languages (such as Serbian, with an e), and probably also at least a smattering or major world languages like Russian and Chinese.

Since that person does not actually exist, they either have to hire a staff of several dozen, or they have to hire a couple really good lawyers who know the more prominent EU languages (ie: a Frenchmen, an Englishman, a German, maybe a Scandinavian because most of them can at least BS their way through all four of those languages, etc.), and then pull poor Nicolo Popescu from his team in analytics when a Romanian has a request. Then you have to hope Nicolo (hired for his ability to see patterns in data, not his communications skills), and the EU-fluent-lawyer he's talking to can communicate some very sophisticated legal concepts to each-other.

So even if they only have 50k requests, as the BBC reported, this is not a cheap program for them to administer. They're paying something on the order of $150-400 an hour per person they hire because you need multi-lingual lawyers, they need to bring in the random dude who happens to know Gaelic once a month, they need to do some pretty strong googling of their own to confirm the complaints aren't BS generated by Yahoo bots specifically to fuck over their bottom line, etc. 50,000 complaints times $150 is $7,500,000 so even if each one only takes an hour (and it'll be more like five, especially for EU languages that aren't world languages like Italian or Portuguese), 250k complaints (as in this summary) is nearly $40 million assuming that they only take an hour. It's probably gonna be closer to the $250 million range by the time they actually get done investigating. And that's in seven weeks. Over a full year this is is is almost certainly gonna cost them $1-$2 Billion.

So in other words google has two option. Agree to hire it's own Eurocrats for roughly $1 Billion a year, or make an algorithm that automatically accepts any request. As an American corporation they are loathe to spend that money on regulatory compliance until the actual regulators actually rule they actually have to have staff costing an actual $1 Billion. Note that, in general, each use of 'actual' in that last sentence requires at least one court ruling. American corporations really, really, really hate spending money because the government told them to. Just as important, in America it would literally be unconstitutional to force google to remove these links. The strong right to free speech means any "Right to be Forgotten" would require a Constitutional Amendment. Since Americans tend to conflate liberty with our Constitution (as amended), not only did the Europeans rule google has to spend an assload of money on regulations, they also (from Amero-centric google's point of view) also ruled that google has no freedom. They'll go with the cheap algorithm, that almost always grants the request, every single time.

If the EU wants google to actually do this it has two options: 1) spend years litigating, 2) send EU-paid Eurocrats to Silicon Valley to look at the requests themselves.

Which is a long-ass way of saying:
What the fuck did you European Idiots expect? They're fucking google. If you want them to do something that involves looking at data they won't have an actual person do it, because they're fucking cheap, they'll have a computer do it. Since you just ruled they must respect a request to be forgotten they'll tell the computer to honor all requests to be forgotten, no matter how ludicrous.

Re:Well, duh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382357)

I rather suspect that was the point. Google is deliberately waving around the stupidest example of the implementation of the law they could find in hopes that somebody will notice what a bad idea the law was.

It doesn't even take activism to inspire this, what business wants to pay someone to sort through people requesting that the picture of them kissing the fat chick while drunk be taken down?

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382397)

The kind of business that takes government money to do government censorship...

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382439)

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023849447_citylightbrandxml.html
City Light hires online results firm to polish its CEO’s image

Re:Well, duh... (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about three weeks ago | (#47382565)

Is Google actually being compensate for this though? Perhaps the EU should start their own Ministry to censor what people should just forget and cut out the middleman.

Re:Well, duh... (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about three weeks ago | (#47382589)

I think the main issue I have is that this EC spokesman is expecting Google to make decisions regarding the public interest rather than erring on the side of caution and removing everything - the moment they do make decisions regarding the public interest, you can bet your arse they will be hauled back into court and have to justify themselves.

So by going to the extreme and implementing the ruling across the board (barring obvious requests that can be rejected), Google is protecting themselves and showing what a stupid ruling it is in the first place. There is no alternative approach that Google can take that doesn't open them up to further legal action.

Re:Well, duh... (4, Interesting)

Frobnicator (565869) | about three weeks ago | (#47382361)

...but that's exactly what the ruling does. The original case was a businessman objecting to Google links to newpaper stories about his life.

The whole concept of the law applying to everybody is surprising sometimes. ;-)

Anybody can request that data about themselves can be deleted. The law also allows links to be removed. The business can comply, or claim they have a reason outlined in the law, such as a business need for record keeping. If they fight it the person can fight it through the courts. If enough people fight it the company will suffer the pains of thousands of lawsuits.

While the news stories themselves can remain under the terms of the law, it is no surprise that people absolutely will try to make things hard to find. That's the entire point of the law. It applies to not just convicted criminals but also to politicians and prominent figures. ANYBODY can request that data be deleted under the terms of the law.

The law is to allow things to fade from the collective memory and makes it difficult for them to be found.

Removing the link to unsavory things IS the purpose. This IS what the law was designed for.

The expressed right to be forgotten includes forgetting about news stories.

I suppose next people will be upset when links to all negative stories related to upcoming politicians will suddenly vanish under the requests.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382437)

No, it does not work as you said. We, in Europe, are not under Common Law as US people are. Here it works differently, we're based on a written law that needs to be read before applied, and the single sentence from the European Court does not rule anything in fact. It just rules out the need for a new ruling that the parliament writes and approves AFTER the sentence of the Court (that only rules the ammend by Google to the victim). Simply, the ruling was written and approved very fastly and then we have a ruling for other people. You cannot base your decisions on the single sentence, in Europe (even if you can do that in England).

Re:Well, duh... (1, Flamebait)

jellomizer (103300) | about three weeks ago | (#47382483)

European legal system is a big scam and shouldn't be listened to. Got it.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Megol (3135005) | about three weeks ago | (#47382511)

jellomizer is utterly retarded. Got it.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

khallow (566160) | about three weeks ago | (#47382595)

Here it works differently, we're based on a written law that needs to be read before applied, and the single sentence from the European Court does not rule anything in fact.

Ok, how is that relevant? Common law is written law too.

Re:Well, duh... (0)

Carewolf (581105) | about three weeks ago | (#47382771)

In common law a ruling by a court is legally binding, just as strongly as a new law. In the rest of the world precendence is only an indication of what a new court case may decide, not something they need to follow or heed.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about three weeks ago | (#47382755)

What law? There is no new law here. Only existing national laws. All that is happening now is that Google has to obey existing national laws that forbid republishing certain facts. So which British law required them to remove the link? Or is it Google that are just making up rules as they go now?

Re:Well, duh... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382423)

google is in a no win situation here. The sheer volumne of material they have to sift through makes it impossible to hire enough people, but the decisions require personal attention. If Europe wants to specify every link google can and cannot make available then they need to let google know in a timely manner. They want it both ways.

Re:Well, duh... (3, Informative)

sg_oneill (159032) | about three weeks ago | (#47382429)

It all strikes down to why law can be so complicated. When done right, laws are subtle things.

Ideally we'd like a "right to be forgotten" that means when I ask Facebook to delete my account, then by delete I mean "not a single bit of my accounts data remains". What we DONT want however is if I go raping or beating people I can get news articles about me supressed. Distilling those distinctions into laws however can end up quite tricky because of all the edge cases.

That requires legal expertise, and unfortunatlely whatever law results is going to be complicated and full of edge cases.

Which, of course means nobody is going to understand the bloody thing.

Re:Well, duh... (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | about three weeks ago | (#47382627)

What we DONT want however is if I go raping or beating people I can get news articles about me supressed.

Why? That's silly and wrong. What we DONT want suppressed is the court records of that guy's conviction. He has been convicted of a crime, right? It's not just some news article that claims, nudge nudge wink wink, that there's been raping and beating of people, right? It's not just some search engine that collects that news article automatically, without reading it, and recommends that everybody should go read it when they search for the word grape ("did you mean rape? Here are some links for you").

Requiring the removal of unverified data from private third parties is perfectly reasonable . That says nothing about requiring the removal of verified public record data from the courts and official public information sources. Let's not confuse the issues.

Re:Well, duh... (3, Insightful)

jabuzz (182671) | about three weeks ago | (#47382657)

Requiring the removal of incorrect data anywhere is perfectly reasonable. The problem is that now links to 100% factually correct data has to be removed if the person involved no longer likes it.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about three weeks ago | (#47382703)

Sure, but not all true facts should remain in Google's index either. For example, half of all slashdot readers argue regularly that disclosing true documents to the public was traitorous as soon as Snowden did it, and that Google shouldn't link to them. Or think of this: disclosing the true address of a battered wife can lead to her husband finding her and beating her up, or worse. I'm sure you can find lots of examples yourself if you apply your mind to it.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about three weeks ago | (#47382715)

I think it would be best if we disclosed that her husband has been beating her up to the police. However, in the land of imperfect solutions, not disclosing that information is good starting point. But instead of a "right-to-be-forgotten", shouldn't that be something along the lines of screaming "fire" in a full theater (or otherwise enclosed space with lots of people)?

Re:Well, duh... (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | about three weeks ago | (#47382751)

f you want to call it something else, like the-right-to-prevent-undesirable-information-from-being-copied-and-published, I have no objection. It's a mouthful though. And there are so many different possible reasons someone might have to request a removal, that it wouldn't be reasonable to make special rules for all of them.

Moreover, it may in fact be none of anyone else's business why. Does the battered wife really need to tell some Google employee that she let her husband beat her up for years, just so she can justify the removal of a link to her address? It's kind of nobody's business. And if the husband goes around telling everyone she stole some money from him, how many people are going to assume she's a scumbag who's trying to wipe her slate clean?

Re:Well, duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382671)

The "right to be forgotten" is an excuse for building censorship infrastructure. It's abhorrent.

You have a right to remember. You have a right to free speech. Those two cannot survive in a world with a "right to be forgotten."

Re:Well, duh... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about three weeks ago | (#47382719)

Eh? Nobody's stopping you from remembering. That would be very difficult, and I suspect it would possibly involve trepanning [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Well, duh... (1)

ray-auch (454705) | about three weeks ago | (#47382667)

What we DONT want however is if I go raping or beating people I can get news articles about me supressed.

But that is exactly what the ruling does. Someone got into legal trouble, some time ago (over 12yrs), and complained to the court that it was unfair to have his legal troubles still come up in search results - and the court agreed.

As an offline example, as long as your raping and beating didn't get you more than four years in prison, in UK law your conviction would be "spent" after at most 7 years after release, and you would then not have to disclose it to employers etc. In such a case, it seems perfectly clear that this ruling would then apply to search results covering your conviction - after all, not much point in saying you don't have to put it on the job application if it's on the front page when your prospective employer puts your name into Google.

The issue (as the GP says) is that the law applies to _everybody_

- people who are good and just made a mistake a long time ago and want a level playing field with those that didn't make a mistake
- people who were bad but are now reformed and want a level playing field with those that were good all along
- people who were bad, still are bad, and don't want you to find out easily

Who is going to determine what sort of person the complainant is ?

Re:Well, duh... (5, Insightful)

Zocalo (252965) | about three weeks ago | (#47382451)

Fact is, the court that issued this ruling screwed up big time. Perhaps, if Google can find a few more egregious deletions to make, the European Parliament will correct the error.

Fact is, the European Parliament passed a law that was so full of holes that it was inevitably going to be abused before it was passed and, despite this being pointed out frequently, they went ahead and passed the law anyway instead of maybe taking a bit of time to plug some of the holes and clarifing under what circumstances is could and, more importantly, could not be used. At least it's starting to look like some members of the EC are starting to realise that the EP messed up, but somehow I doubt that they are going to be able to convince their colleagues to do anything about it because that would entail them effectively admitting that they messed up.

Re:Well, duh... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47382499)

Fact is, the European Parliament passed a law that was so full of holes that it was inevitably going to be abused before it was passed and, despite this being pointed out frequently, they went ahead and passed the law anyway instead of maybe taking a bit of time to plug some of the holes

you can't plug the holes in a fishing net designed to catch as many fish as possible. at least, not without a whole lot of dolphins

Re:Well, duh... (1)

xelah (176252) | about three weeks ago | (#47382629)

The directive is from nearly 20 years ago so I doubt there are many MEPs or commissioners who couldn't blame their predecessors if they wanted to, or point out that few people were really expecting Google and the Internet as it is now. Besides, it's been working OK for a long time (except for continuing poor enforcement). It was written to stop companies selling on your data as sales leads, credit reference agencies giving out inaccurate data you're not allowed to see or correct, employers keeping irrelevant or inaccurate records about you or keeping it far longer than they need it, organizations asking for your data for one reason and then using it for another, employers keeping (or 'obtaining') lists of union members/activists, and so on.

The difficult bit is keeping all of that whilst handling search engines appropriately.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about three weeks ago | (#47382633)

Fact is, the European Parliament passed a law

The problem is that they didn't pass a law and are simply relying on the older Data Protection rules that were written in the mid 90s. Member states have not been able to agree on updated rules that would clarify this issue, so the courts must rule based on existing ones.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about three weeks ago | (#47382727)

Politician's ability to change their minds is remarkable.

Most of the members of the US House who were there under GW Bush voted for everything he wanted. Now almost all of them identify him as an un-conservative deficit-spending big government hypocrite. Paul Ryan is the best example.

In this case it would be fairly simple to solve the problem: send a couple dozen of their multi-lingual lawyers to a google campus to go through the requests with google. That actually does not require that they change their minds at all, it just requires that they decide to spend money. If they get embaressed enough they'll find the4 money, blame the cuts/taxes/etc.. on Google, and watch their poll-numbers skyrocket.

Re:Well, duh... (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about three weeks ago | (#47382463)

agreed... the eu had a stupid ruling that is having predictably stupid consequences.

Re:Well, duh... (5, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | about three weeks ago | (#47382473)

...but that's exactly what the ruling does. The original case was a businessman objecting to Google links to newpaper stories about his life. This is no different.

Fact is, the court that issued this ruling screwed up big time. Perhaps, if Google can find a few more egregious deletions to make, the European Parliament will correct the error.

I think the big problem here is that Google are expected to be the judge, jury and executioner and are getting smacked down when someone thinks they made the wrong judgement call. This stuff should be going to an independent judge instead of expecting Google to uphold a new law that has a fairly vague scope.

Re:Well, duh... (4, Informative)

Frobnicator (565869) | about three weeks ago | (#47382497)

I think the big problem here is that Google are expected to be the judge, jury and executioner and are getting smacked down when someone thinks they made the wrong judgement call. This stuff should be going to an independent judge instead of expecting Google to uphold a new law that has a fairly vague scope.

Yeah, that would work.

The article states that Google alone is getting over 1000 requests per day. How many other companies are getting requests, and at what rate?

While it would be ideal for some humans to look at the tens of thousands of requests made daily and carefully judge the merits of the request, it won't happen.

It won't happen for the same reason real people don't look at the DMCA takedown lists.

There are too many, and it is easier to just automate the system than to validate that every single line item is an actually infringing item. It won't take long before the requests become fully automated much like the DMCA lists are. People will download a simple tool that scours the interwebz for your name, then submits takedown requests for every match. There will be many incorrect matches made as the plebeian masses use the simple automated tools.

Re:Well, duh... (1)

pjt33 (739471) | about three weeks ago | (#47382705)

"A new law that has a fairly vague scope"? It's a law which dates back to 1995, and its scope is fairly clear. See the ECJ's Factsheet [europa.eu] .

Re:Well, duh... (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about three weeks ago | (#47382585)

...but that's exactly what the ruling does.

No, it isn't. It wasn't even the guy mentioned in the article who requested the removal, it was someone who wrote a comment on the article. If you search for "Stan O'Neal" the article still comes up, it's only searching for the commenter's name that has been censored. The commenter is not a public figure, just a random internet user.

This morning on the radio a spokesperson from Google was quite clear that they would not allow public figures to use the right to be forgotten in this way. They only acted because the comment writer is a non-notable member of the public and there is no public-interest angle.

So... (2)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about three weeks ago | (#47382315)

The important question for me personally is this: As someone living in Europe, how can I ensure that I see the US search results? Does switching to google.com suffice? Or do I have to use a proxy or VPN?

Re:So... (2)

Andtalath (1074376) | about three weeks ago | (#47382341)

Google.com redirects you to the appropriate country.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382425)

Learn to freaking read, idiot. That wasn't his question.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382559)

It looks like the answer to the question to me, but do I see how the answer can be read in different ways. Here's how I understood it, rephrased to be more explicit:

Q: As someone living in Europe, how can I ensure that I see the US search results? Does switching to google.com suffice? Or do I have to use a proxy or VPN?

A: No, switching to google.com would not suffice, because google.com redirects you to the country it deems appropriate for you. It may indeed be necessary to use a proxy or VPN.

Re:So... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382717)

Wrong, at least at the moment. You can turn off the google national redirect by simply appending "/ncr" to the url, i.e. http://www.google.com/ncr [google.com] will take you to the USA site even if you are in Europe. However whether Google is forced to take that option away given some of these stupid EU and national court rulings is another matter.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382775)

I honestly didn't know about "/ncr". Thanks for sharing that. I assume it stands for "no country redirect", right?

Re:So... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about three weeks ago | (#47382345)

Use TOR and select an US exit-relay. Very simple to do, for example with the TOR-browser bundle. Start, select "verify TOR", select Altlas, select new identity, if the exit-relay is not in the US. Repeat until US exit relay is obtained.

But be aware that using TOR puts you into the NSA's "extremist" database...

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382381)

And be tagged extremist by NSA for the rest of eternity }:->

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382527)

There is also a configuration options in Tor that allows you to specifiy exactly which exit nodes you want to use. So select a few US exit nodes and modify the config.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382365)

Google built the tools to filter their searches when China demanded it, once in place, do you really think it isn't used in the US but in a less open manner?
Anyway, the results are already filtered based on what Google knows about you. If you want unfiltered search you should use one of the aggregators like duckduckgo [duckduckgo.com] or startpage [startpage.com]

Re:So... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382379)

Use google.com/ncr, this will not redirect you but use the proper(us) site.

Re:So... (2)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about three weeks ago | (#47382523)

Try www.google.com/ncr [google.com]

Re:So... (1)

Rashdot (845549) | about three weeks ago | (#47382571)

Indeed, it would be interesting to know who has been using this ruling to get pages removed from searches. Because I'd rather NOT hire them.

Is there a search method that would reveal them?

Not the whole story- it goes deeper (4, Insightful)

lostandthedamned (907167) | about three weeks ago | (#47382317)

Apparently Robert Peston did some digging and it wasn't searching for the Article that was being removed but searching for one of the comments. Right to be forgotten is all well and good, but using that to try and remove a post you yourself put in a public place is a bit barmy. Props to the first person who changes their name to Anonymous Coward then makes the request for all their posts to be unsearchable.

Re:Not the whole story- it goes deeper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382507)

Wait a second! All my posts are searchable!?!

This is OUTRAGEOUS!

I demand retribution!

Re:Not the whole story- it goes deeper (4, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about three weeks ago | (#47382643)

I had an issue with a comment I wrote on the BBC site years ago. Due to the way the page was laid out when you googled my name the snippet they displayed from the BBC site had some other person's vaguely racist and childishly simplistic comment next to my name. I contacted Google and they said contact the BBC. I contacted the BBC and didn't get a response, but about six months later the page was taken down. I didn't really want a complete take-down, just a fix for their layout.

Bah, humbug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382321)

I photoshop my life constantly.

My two cents... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382337)

Google shouldn't have to make intelligent decisions as to what needs to be removed. It should all be automatic. Either everything is removed, or nothing is removed. Only by court orders otherwise.

Those people, who want to be forgotten, should go after those hosting the material, not the search engine pointing. Don't we have an expectation to know where things are when searching? The search engine should be neutral is discovering the information.

The existence of a site doesn't necessarily mean something is negative. Facts are facts. If it's copyright infringement, defamation, libel, whatever, then it's the site that should be dealt with, not someone pointing to it.

To me, the E.U. isn't making progress. (I'm an American in the U.S.A.)

How does the existence of facts make a person any less qualified to do a job, if said facts aren't relevant? Employers, lenders, whatever, shouldn't be allowed to take factor in certain things when it comes to hiring people. It should be illegal. Kind of like how when asking about criminal activity, here in the U.S., I don't think they can count convictions over 10 years old. Why not do that sort of thing for stuff over there? Wasn't this whole thing originally about some guy and his tax foreclosure on his house or something like that?

Re:My two cents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382393)

This whole thing is about not being able to fix mistakes made in the past.

Say at 16 I did something stupid and got a minor note in a local newspaper. This shocks me enough that I turn my life around and 21 after University I go for my first job. HR run a quick Google search, see 16 year old me mooning the mayor and throw the CV in bin.

Or 20 years ago my finances collapse (health care, loss of job, whatevs) and I lose my house. Now, after 20 years of hard graft I'm selling my house privately, but having issues because of something that has not been reliant for nearly 20 years.

Before Google both would have required a lot of effort to find, and you would have to actually be looking. Now a quick Google and bang. I don't think that the solution implemented is the correct one, but I do think something is required.

Re:My two cents... (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about three weeks ago | (#47382407)

Google shouldn't have to make intelligent decisions as to what needs to be removed. It should all be automatic. Either everything is removed, or nothing is removed. Only by court orders otherwise.

Those people, who want to be forgotten, should go after those hosting the material, not the search engine pointing.

That's what has been tried first. But as a newspaper archive, the source is protected from removal. Then that guy decided to to so big time trolling and shoot the messenger (sue Google) instead.

Don't we have an expectation to know where things are when searching? The search engine should be neutral is discovering the information.

One of the biggest misconceptions ever. Altavista was neutral, going only by comparing the search keywords to the keywords on the websites. It got spammed and SEOed into oblivion. Google finally sent them into oblivion by showing search results that DID NOT try to be neutral, but tried to guess what the user was actually looking for. And they keep their position by filtering and reordering the results by so many factors, that it would be hard pressed calling it "neutral"

Like page loading speed. Is it "neutral" that slow sites take a penalty? Rank is definitly not connected to the actual content of the page here.

Re:My two cents... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47382521)

Google finally sent them into oblivion by showing search results that DID NOT try to be neutral, but tried to guess what the user was actually looking for.

But that is neutral. What the user is looking for, neither this other thing nor that other thing. What Altavista actually did was show unprocessed results. When speed of search engines was a differentiating factor, that approach paid off. Then they advanced in performance and it didn't.

Re:My two cents... (0)

pjt33 (739471) | about three weeks ago | (#47382435)

Google shouldn't have to make intelligent decisions as to what needs to be removed.

Why not? Every other company which does business in the EU has to make intelligent decisions about how it implements the law, including those aspects which allow for a data subject to request deletion of personal data which was collected, stored, and processed without consent or legal necessity.

Re:My two cents... (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about three weeks ago | (#47382547)

Google shouldn't have to make intelligent decisions as to what needs to be removed. It should all be automatic. Either everything is removed, or nothing is removed. Only by court orders otherwise.

So I should be able to request that searches for "microsoft" should not go to "microsoft.com"? And Google should be forced to honour that?

Those people, who want to be forgotten, should go after those hosting the material, not the search engine pointing.

The reason that going via the search engine works, is that it is possible. Many content platforms don't have easy mechanisms for identifying and removing content, and many are hosted abroad (whereas Google is active in the EU and can therefore be instructed by EU authorities). Slashdot, for instance, has only ever removed comment content once to my knowledge and they made a huge deal over it. Search engines, however, have enough layers of indirection between the search box and the results that adding a rule to exclude certain results from certain keywords isn't all that difficult.

I don't think that the "right to be forgotten" is a good idea. But saying "Instead of doing it via a route that is possible, they should do it via a route that is impossible" isn't a helpful contribution. Just say it's a bad idea, rather than suggesting an impossible course of action.

Re:My two cents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382583)

Google and search engines took off over curated, categorized sites like Yahoo because it was all automated. They didn't have to have humans do anything to organize or present the results.

But now society and the law are catching up and putting more cost on them to act responsibly. If a person defames somebody then they are responsible. If a a Google robot defames somebody then Google is responsible.

This is the crux of the matter. Like corporations, robots are 'people' and have to follow the rules of society.

Re:My two cents... (1)

HappyPsycho (1724746) | about three weeks ago | (#47382813)

If a a Google robot defames somebody

I'm not following you here, how is the robot defaming anyone? It did not write the article on said person.

I also don't agree this has anything to do with automation, if say wikipedia had a page that listed the CEOs of Merrill Lynch (and say included their most notable achievements / scandals) and this guy invoked his right to be forgotten there would be a gaping hole in that list (they didn't have a CEO from year X to Y?). If they put down something else and someone came across the scandal would anyone care that the right to be forgoten was invoked or would they just say that wikipedia is inaccurate?

I'd object to it even more than with automation because someone spent quite a bit of time researching and fact checking that data which is now wasted.

Precedent (1)

GoddersUK (1262110) | about three weeks ago | (#47382349)

Well the court judgement was not a good judgement; it set a precedent without any guidance about how to apply it to other cases. It also wasn't a good judgement because it creates a right to alter history, but that's another thing... Also Google have received tens of thousands of requests, can they really be expected to give each one a thorough legal analysis? Of course not, they'll just play it safe. So it may be an error of judgement by Google, but that's only because the court made an error of judgement.

A good idea, but... (5, Interesting)

bigalzzz (2692893) | about three weeks ago | (#47382389)

Whilst it's a good idea for most people to be able to hide some embarrassing stuff about them, sadly it can be used to hide information that should be public. For example I know of someone who owes me a considerable amount of money, and several others. He deliberately ran up the debt with no intention of paying. Whilst trying to find information about him the other day Google showed that it has hidden a results because of the right to be forgotten. I know that he's done this so he can get out there and con more people with less chance of being found.

Re:A good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382403)

If I'm allowed to ask, what search terms would that be? Maybe I can see it here in the U.S.

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

bigalzzz (2692893) | about three weeks ago | (#47382491)

Try googling: "will brooker" scam

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about three weeks ago | (#47382471)

The ruling only refers to information that is no longer "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant" - so if its still relevant it should not be unlinked.

Maybe you should write to Google to inform them of this and to get the link re-instated.

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

bigalzzz (2692893) | about three weeks ago | (#47382495)

That's interesting, it's certainly relevant to anyone looking to work with him, however it's difficult to know what has been blocked without being able to see it in the first place

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about three weeks ago | (#47382689)

and today Google has reinstated some links

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/tech... [bbc.co.uk]

"We are learning as we go," Peter Barron, head of communications for Google in Europe, told the BBC.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, he dismissed claims made on Thursday that the company was simply letting all requests through in an attempt to show its disapproval at the ruling.

uh-huh.

Re:A good idea, but... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47382513)

Whilst it's a good idea for most people to be able to hide some embarrassing stuff about them,

[citation needed]

People already have too little motivation to do the right thing. Their misdeeds must be recorded for posterity. As well, too many people take stupid shit too seriously. The fact that it's just stupid shit must also be recorded for posterity, so that we can get over the stupid shit.

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

bigalzzz (2692893) | about three weeks ago | (#47382525)

Perhaps, but I can easily see situations where people do stupid stuff like getting drunk and making fools of themselves, but not causing harm to others. These are the sort of situations where I feel it's reasonable to censor their own search results. But where someone's actions have impacted on other people, especially where they've caused harm they should not be allowed to remove them.

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about three weeks ago | (#47382655)

Are you saying you never made a mistake in your life that you find embarrassing now? As cameras become ubiquitous and social networks generate vast amounts of data about people it becomes more and more likely that the one time you got drunk and did something daft will be recorded for posterity and screw up the remainder of your otherwise good life.

Re:A good idea, but... (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about three weeks ago | (#47382739)

A long time ago I made the decision to live with my actions online. I say this as somebody who grew up being told to never publish anything that might ID me online. As such, I've tried my very best to: not publish something I don't want to remain on record for eternity; and if I do write something I later find... regrettable, not ask for it's deletion or it's inclusion. If somebody finds it, I hope they are capable of understanding that people change. If they aren't, I'm okay with not interacting with them (or I'll deal with it).

I can understand, however, that people do not share my stance. For them, there should be a process where the information is hidden (there needs to always be a backup, in case a later ruling/decision says there was a mistake) only if there is a good reason to do so (or, in the case of dumb things while drunk, there can't be a good reason to keep it).

Also, newspapers and other news sources should be exempt of it as long as they contain verified, true facts and only facts. As far as we know, we don't strike from history books what we don't agree with or find no longer relevant (okay, maybe we do show what we want, but that's wrong and it shouldn't be like that).

Re:A good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382607)

www.google.com/ncr

Malicious Compliance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382445)

This has been pointed out in comments in earlier stories already, Google is behaving like a 10-yr old being ordered to follow the rules.

Unfortunately, the court system is not stupid and are fully equipped to deal with kids throwing tantrums.

I wonder if Google will end up pulling out of EU just like how it pulled out of China when it finds out governments won't let tricks get a pass.

Re:Malicious Compliance (1)

tomhath (637240) | about three weeks ago | (#47382709)

Perhaps Google should ask for clarification from the European Commission on a few thousand requests, every day. Do you really thing Google can make those decisions on their own?

how are they hiding the names? (2)

mlush (620447) | about three weeks ago | (#47382459)

I've been doing a bit of digging on the page, apparently the takedown was because of one of the comments so I did google searches for the page and each commentors name and they all came up ... though the searches were very slow and occasionally died with a 500 error.

just publish the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382509)

of everything that has been removed due to these complaints.

Re:just publish the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382553)

Or even publish all of the "to be forgotten" requests which are received.

What is actually happening. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382535)

Google is deliberately misinterpreting the law in an attempt to show that it's unworkable.

Some people who don't like the law will, rather than debating it on its merits (and there are obvious arguments both for and against), use Google's misleading behaviour in their defence.

It's like having a law against inciting racial hatred (as many European countries do) and using that as an excuse to remove all discussion everywhere about race.

wait ... (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about three weeks ago | (#47382665)

... I thought this law was so forward-looking and enlightened and European (but I repeat myself) and all. But now it's a censorship tragedy instead?

It's so hard to keep up with what I'm supposed to think these days ...

Europe... the new USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382701)

Europe... the new USA.

List of blacklisted URLs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47382741)

There must be a list of "forgotten" URLs. They certainly contain interesting or embarassing stuff which I would like to relish. If any one of you fellow slashdotters knows of such a list, please share.

Right to be forgotten... (1)

Vapula (14703) | about three weeks ago | (#47382757)

First, I'd point that for many quite common names, you may find several people with same Name+Surname in Europe... sometimes hundred of people sharing the same name. So, what if John Doe A ask to remove some fact about John Doe B ? That's clearly impossible to google to judge about it.

I think that a quick "fix" to the problem would be Right to be cast in oblivion... Google just has to keep (in addition to removal of a specific link) a list of the people who asked to have their name removed and simply refuse any search with these names (no result, people cast into oblivion) with a big message "John Doe asked that links about him were removed from search results".

This would someone backfire to people asking such removal... You want to get a job ? recruiter try to look you up in Google and find that you asked to be removed from search results... and get told about it... that open any awful reason (sex offender ? serious misbehaviour ? other ?) and is likely to rule you out. You're a politician ? no publicity about you (except that "asked to be removed") is clearly worse that one or two old pages on the web about you... and so on...

And, somehow, google is complying : people want info about them removed... and that info is removed... And people get to know about who asked it (to be sure that's it's not an arbitraty removal).

IMHO, list of people who asked some removal SHOULD be public...

What next? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about three weeks ago | (#47382801)

Muslims want all reference to the twin towers bombing and the london underground bombing removed. Sure it's irrelevant! Translations of the Qur'an - sure it might give people the idea that Islam isn't all peaceful

Okay, I'm European and... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about three weeks ago | (#47382811)

I officially no longer understand how the hell our government works.

He said the ruling should not allow people to "Photoshop their lives"

Isn't that exactly, to the letter, what the ruling does?

Circumvent & Discourage (1)

MultiPak (2475794) | about three weeks ago | (#47382815)

Howto: 1. As a paying google customer, can google include the storage of all history as a part of the service for a paying customer. 2. www.google.com / non-EU - will show EU hidden. 3. To discourage, www.google.com/RightToBeForgotten web page so you can see those with lots to hide, in effect raising their profile.
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