back to article Google told to delete people from search results

The Spanish government has ordered Google to delete information about 90 individuals from its search engine indexes, according to media reports. Spain said it believes that the individuals have a right to be forgotten, but Google has said that requiring search engines to ignore some information would negatively impinge on free …

COMMENTS

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  1. Mike Bell

    "a profound chilling effect"

    Of course, Google, Facebook, Apple et al would know nothing about that sort of thing!

  2. Turtle

    Not easy to decide. . .

    In spite of Google's loathsomeness and self-serving policies, this seems to be a clash between two important principles. I don't know about anyone else, but I am not at all on whose side I want to be on this issue. I suppose that I will just have to wait to see the actual laws that the EU proposes (with the understanding that I am in the USA.)

  3. Colin 13

    Responsibility lies with the publisher surely?

    They should ask the site hosting the content to remove it, or to implement suitable robots rules to prevent Google from indexing.

  4. Lamont Cranston

    Doesn't the blame lie not with Google,

    but with the agency publishing the information?

    Way to shift the blame, Spain.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby
      Boffin

      Not really true.

      Publishing this information is actually a good thing.

      The only problem is that the newspaper should have put up a flag so that Google's web crawlers don't traverse the site or pages. (Sorry I forget the name of the file and I want to say robots.txt)

      Unless of course Google is ignoring these and scarfing the pages anyways which would then be Google's fault.

      Is there any proof of that?

      If not, then its the publisher's own fault.

    2. leexgx

      a

      all they have it do is put an tag on the page that makes google ignore the site (its for the bots to read when the spider bot sees it will not scan the page) its there own fault

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't the blame lie not with Google,

      The whole point of those official gazettes (plural as there are very many of them in Spain) is precisely to publish certain kinds of information which are deemed to be in the public interest. That will, from time to time, include individuals names and other personal information.

      It's a two-edged sword, and there are compelling arguments for both sides of the debate.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. dotdavid

    Robots.txt

    "Spanish law forces the information to be included in the official gazette, Jesús Rubi, deputy director of the Spanish DPA said, according to the report.

    “The law obliges us to put this info in the gazette. But I am sure that if the law was written today, lawmakers would say 'OK, publish this, but it should not be accessible by a search engine',” Rubi said."

    So, er, add the gazette to robots.txt? Although granted that would only protect the information from the reputable search spiders.

    1. Stupidscript

      Even worse ...

      "Hey, take that bit about me out of your index, Google!"

      "Gladly! Please provide proof that the entry is, in fact, about you."

      "Umm ... I have a utility bill from 1998 with that address on it, will that do?"

      "Ummm ... no."

      In addition to the above-mentioned serious issue with any plan to remove specific info from a search index ... the simple fact that the info is online in the first place says "FIND ME!!" Spain put that info online TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO BE FOUND EASILY (otherwise they would have just kept the paper version.) Keeping Google from spidering the info just means that it's not AS easy to find ... it's still there, it's still accessible to anyone who wants to find it, it's still PUBLIC INFORMATION.

      Whenever government types start bleating about what they are going to force the Internet to do, start looking around for a comfy seat and a large box of popcorn. It's going to get crazier and less rational before it gets better.

  7. Matt Siddall

    What's to stop them

    using robots.txt ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What's to stop ...

      ... google indexing some other site that has crawled the original spanish site in ignorance (intentional or otherwise) of robots.txt?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: What's to stop

        "some other site that has crawled"

        Or, indeed, might crawl at some arbitrary point in future and might republish in summary or in translated form. Clearly Google's core algorithms need to be updated to include some form of AI so that this information remains excluded forever.

        Or you could just honour robots.txt and ignore anyone who doesn't bother to use it.

      2. Keith T

        Then you go after the site that broke the rules, not google

        Then you go after the site that broke the rules, not google

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    let me get this straight.

    the government publish the data on their site, google index that data.... people complain to google and demand that _google_ should forget them?...... what about the government website, doesn't it matter?

    any way, what I find surprising is that someone at the government have made such a large website, then decided that changing the law is a lot easier then putting a text file on the site asking google not to index them!

    by the way, how far do we want to go with "people have the right to be forgotten." I understand that we might want google to forget what we searched for, what websites we visited, what did we buy/sale and what we have uploaded to the internet. But what about convected criminals? do we want the internet to forget about them right away? or should there be a set time after which the internet can forget about? What about researchers who research such criminals, would they get their own _un-index-able_ site that they need to subscribe to?

  9. David 164

    So more rights for a criminal, do not they have enough already

    So we are talking about a criminal, may be in the past, but she was a criminal, wanting the right for crimes to be forgotten. Should we then give the right for rapists crimes to be forgotten, paedophiles. Sorry but if you commit a crime then there is punishment and one of those punishments is that employers can find out about it, and with the age of the internet that does not necessary means a expensive criminal record check.

    There should not be a right to be forgotten for criminal, what ever there crime was, what ever the age they committed it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Re: So more rights for a criminal, do not they have enough already

      as I wrote on an early post, how far do we want take "right to be forgotten". In this case the argument can be, if the person have done the punishment, aren't we punishing the person again by not allowing them to go back into society?

      for example, the kids and teenagers taking part of the current riot in the UK. Years from now, do we really want collages and universities to tell them "you toke part of the riot in 2011, we can't accept you here". What about jobs? do we really want these same teenagers to remain jobless -and therefore more prone to start another riot- years from now?

      for how long should we keep those criminal records to be accessible by the public? and when should those records be locked and only allow researchers to have access to them?

      yes, we do want to be forgotten, we want our browsing history to be forgotten, our purchase history to be forgotten and our ill advices posts, pictures and videos to be forgotten. But should the rule be extended to remove news articles that covered a certain event? What about criminal records?

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Coat

        Title

        I don't know if I'd want to go to a university that told me "I toke part in a riot"

        Mine's the one with the fake internet degree in the pocket

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Joke

          Don't worry...........

          Looks like the poster of the comment only went to a "collage" anyway!

      2. Atonnis

        Easy answer...

        Criminal records can be made available, that's fine. What is a problem is search engines indexing those criminal records and pumping them out across the internet to anyone searching for something mildly related to criminal records. Such 'accidental' results will cause more people to casually invade the privacy of any individual who has ever done anything wrong anonymously and then spread whatever bull**it they want.

        News articles require a certain amount of evidence and sources for their information. Internet-posted data does not. On top of that, there is nothing wrong with looking up criminal records for a valid reason, and they should be available on a specific site, but they shouldn't be universally anonymously accessible - imagine being down the pub and you meet a new potential date, but then they suddenly jump up and avoid you for a mistake you made 5 years ago and are sorry for - and they shouldn't be effectively thrust out into the world based on any old search result.

        What's wrong with having one simple result that links you to the records bureau that says 'Look up criminal records'? Why should search engines be able to index all of any other organisation's results and push them out? Where is the culpability when a search engine pushes out lies to the whole world due to indexing a load of bull**it about someone? Finally - what happens when you have lies and truth out on web sites and the search engine indexes both and then presents the conflicting information as equal facts to the world?

    2. Atonnis
      Thumb Down

      Sad...

      It must be nice to have such a perfect life and having never ever done anything you might be ashamed of. It must be nice to never have wanted to find a new lease of life, change your ways, separate yourself from bad people or abusive ex-friends. It must be so lovely to never be sorry or forgiven for your wrongs, despite whatever debt to society you have paid.

      It must also be nice to have such faith in what is written and posted on the internet. Tell me, if I put up a website telling everyone you're a paedophile and Google indexes it and never deletes it, would you be happy to have your life ruined by a lie?

    3. Sir Cosmo Bonsor
      FAIL

      Sigh

      There's nothing stating that she committed a crime in the first place.

    4. Kevin Turnquist
      WTF?

      Re: So more rights for a criminal...

      David 164,

      Yes, because all crimes are completely equal and deserve to be treated in exactly the same way. In that view shoplifting as a kid, littering, or J-walking is equivalent to armed robbery, murder, etc.

      Ever get a speeding ticket? If so, then by the logic you believe we should adhere to you're a criminal and we should NEVER forget that.

    5. Jean-Luc Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      @David 164

      Can't read very well, can we?

      "90 complaints, including _victim_ of domestic violence"

      Hmmmm, the English language is sooo challenging.

      Anyway, tough-on-crime advocates, especially in a context of falling overall crime rates, are usually just blowhards. Unless they have had direct exposure to crime in which case, well I can see their point at a personal level, but it doesn't mean it makes for good policy. High imprisonment rates do not a safe country make. I might support them if they did, but they don't.

      Far as the robots.txt idea goes, I hope they've already done that before dragging this to court. My guess is that they have but that's not enough for whatever reason.

      If the law tells them they need to publish it, fine. But does the law also go into the detail that they need to publish it online? Why, if they want it forgotten?

      Maybe they need to clean up their act first.

      Are they requesting that _those_ gazette pages do not get returned in a search? Or are they requesting that "Mrs. Elena Villanova + abuse" never gets returned from any search result, regardless of the location of the indexed page? Enforcing amnesia on the net isn't just a free speech issue, it may be technically a big old mess.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        @Jean-Luc

        From the article:

        "while one middle-aged woman was able to find information about her arrest as a student through the search engine"

        Now who can't read?

        1. Jean-Luc Silver badge
          FAIL

          @Now who can't read?

          You.

          "information about her _arrest_ as a student"

          You do know the differences between suspected, arrested, indicted/charged and convicted, dontcha?

          Not claiming the other 88 were nice people, or even that she was not ultimately convicted. But you've still demonstrated a singular lack of clue by your choice of example.

  10. mark l 2 Silver badge

    ROBOTS.TXT

    “The law obliges us to put this info in the gazette. But I am sure that if the law was written today, lawmakers would say 'OK, publish this, but it should not be accessible by a search engine',” Rubi said.

    In which can Spain needs to legislate to change their law or if you don't want Google to index parts of the gazette then add them to a robots.txt file as thats what they are for

    If we start to get to a point were individuals can get information about them removed from Googles index whats to stop celebs using the same laws to get stories about themselves that paint them in a negative light removed. Eg Hugh Grant and the hooker, Kate Moss and cocaine etc.

  11. Paul Woodhouse

    umm... maybe I'm being a bit thick here...

    but have they never heard of robots.txt?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused....

    In the current situation data is either public or private. If it is private and made public then there are already processes for redress. Albeit unwieldy and slow in many cases.

    Information is aggregated from data and sometimes bringing different data together can result in difficulty for data subjects.

    The speed and ease of bringing public data together these days and the capability to search public data that was hitherto a PIA to get to often causes embarrassment and may have legal consequences.

    The often irresponsible and voracious appetite of search/social media companies is compounding problems and just because a search/social media company can (through wealth and technology) acquire the data doesn't mean it is a 'good thing' overall. People all to often don't help themselves with their conduct...

    People, Governments and Companies need to jointly wake up or the only folks who will benefit in the short term will be lawyers and that will be to the true detriment of free speech - IMHO.

  13. David 164

    So more rights for a criminal, do not they have enough already

    So we are talking about a criminal, may be in the past, but she was a criminal, wanting the right for crimes to be forgotten. Should we then give the right for rapists crimes to be forgotten, paedophiles. Sorry but if you commit a crime then there is punishment and one of those punishments is that employers and anyone else can find out about it, and with the age of the internet that does not necessary means a expensive criminal record check.

    There should not be a right to be forgotten for criminal, what ever there crime was, what ever the age they committed it, there must always be a record of it.

    1. John G Imrie

      RE So more rights for a criminal, do not they have enough alread

      You better check the Law in Blighty mate.

      Crimes get 'spent' after a certain time, I think the length of time depends on the crime, after which you don't have to declare them on employment checks or anywhere else.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Almost anywhere else

        "Crimes get 'spent' after a certain time, I think the length of time depends on the crime, after which you don't have to declare them on employment checks or anywhere else."

        I have filled in forms where you have to declare spent convictions. Very hush hush...

  14. Usually Right or Wrong
    Meh

    And then there's the wayback machine...

    in case your information is deleted from current web sites. Currently does not support word searches, but easy enough to trace personal information if you know which sites to search.

    It is a current fact that any personal information published onto the web is in the public domain and very persistant and widely distributed. I can't see that changing anytime soon, regardless of legislation. Maybe they can enforce something when they have finished locking up the hundreds of millions of people currently breaking the EU cookie law.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    What!!!!

    'OK, publish this, but it should not be accessible by a search engine',

    robots.txt.

    FFS

  16. Rob Crawford
    WTF?

    Oh balls

    Surely it's up to the sites operators to include an appropriate robots.txt on their gazette site ?

  17. Pax681
    FAIL

    robots.txt anyone?

    i mean FFS are govt web designers across the world dumbasses?

    just sort your robots.txt to disallow indexing... it's NOT HARD!!!!

    it's not google's fault these people are thick as fully set concrete!

    1. John G Imrie

      Are govt web designers across the world dumbasses?

      Yes.

      Next question please.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    fools and the data are easy parted.

    Although I can understand why a victim of domestic abuse (or any crime) would wish for her address to remain private and it should be, but the fact remains that if the details are included on a public document that anyone can read then I cant see a issue in indexing that document.

    maybe the law should be changed in what is included in the document.....

  19. Hayden Clark
    Unhappy

    Privacy for people <> privacy for organisations

    The problem with privacy laws is that they are never drawn tightly enough. Big Business and Big Government wants to be able to hide from scrutiny, so any attempt to provide privacy for individuals gets hijacked through the corporate-entity-is-a-person route into allowing such organisations to cite privacy laws in order to conceal wrongdoing or sharp/deceitful practices.

    This means that those who have a genuine need for privacy (victims of criminality, for example) must suffer the consequences of insufficient privacy to protect the rest of us from the machinations of Big Stuff.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      Headmaster

      Exactly so.

      "Google said preventing some data being accessed through search engines "would have a profound chilling effect on free expression without protecting people’s privacy,” according to the report.

      Both the right to a private life and the right to freedom of expression are guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights."

      Let me paraphrase: Google said ... would have a profound chilling effect on free expression <i>of Google, Inc. as a Corporate Person under American Law</i> without protecting <i>Human</i> people’s privacy <i>under the , European Convention on Human Rights.</i>

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BOE site already has a robots.txt

    Before 200 comments say the same thing again, I must point that the BOE site already have a robots.txt. The problem is that some spiders (mostly shaddy pages) index it anyway and then Google index these sites.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Wrong target

      In that case they should be chasing these other sites. If it were not appearing there then google would not index it.

  21. Paul Woodhouse

    Spider traps aint hard....

    stick a link right at the beginning of your page thats hidden to a human user, tell bots to ignore this link in robots.txt, any IP address that follows that link gets banned...

    jobs a good un...

  22. Atonnis
    Go

    Yes!

    This is excellent. I support any news that a private individual may keep unsolicited, incorrect and/or just downright private information about themselves from being used by any company, without permission, to make money for themselves.

    Everyone should have the right to not having information about them pumped out to the world without their permission. If you're a 'celeb' then you agree to the publicity when you get yourself published, if you're a private individual you should have a right to order companies not to use you.

    1. Keith T

      You might consider your past war crimes to be a private matter

      For example, you might consider your past war crimes to be a private matter, but I don't.

      Crimes involve the criminal, the victim, and society.

      The victim should never loose the right to speak and be heard about their life and their personal experiences.

  23. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

    Hai guise

    Nobody mentioned it in the comments yet, but they could add a robots.txt?

    Only joking, and it's irrelevant anyway. Unlike every other commentard here, I actually read the article, and it turns out it isn't the *site* asking Google to delist stuff, it's the people themselves.

    See, the clue is the sentence "90 individuals all lodged formal complaints". Those individuals probably don't have permissions to modify the site's robots.txt file now, do they?

    See how easy this stuff is if you actually read the article before commenting?

    1. Lamont Cranston

      I was wondering who kept downvoting all the robots.txt suggestions.

      If your government is publishing data on the web that you'd rather they didn't publish, this is a matter between you and your government, not you and Google.

      OK, complain to Google, as they might move more swiftly than the government (particularly if the information is putting you in danger), but it's still the government at fault, not Google.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spain's DPAct is different

    It's a bit more complicated than private and public information. Under Spanish rules (and at a technical level, probably other European countries Data Protection rules - eg Germany and Switzerland), whether the data is public or private is not relevant. The question is whether an organisation is permitted to retain information about a person in their files, and then the individual's right to access, rectify, cancel or oppose information that the organisation holds about them.

    Whether the information is private or public is irrelevant - for instance if you operate a security camera collecting images of people, you need to be registered in Spain and an individual would be able to request that information collected with his/her image is removed from the video record.

    Freedom of the press excepted, the principle is asking: 'under what conditions should a company be able to hold records of any type about an individual?' with the principle being that an organisation, in general, should not have private data unless it has an explicit need and use of that data, a level of consent from the person, and the data the organisation does hold should be the minimum necessary for the defined process.

    As a result Spain runs into legalities about things like retaining information for credit checks and credit histories, and even 'simple' things like criminal records. You are not allowed to do a data merge without the subject's consent for instance.

    As Google is not the press, the court would have to clarify why and when Google would be allowed to retain personal information even without the person's consent, even where that information exists in another database or format elsewhere - in other words what right does Google have to have that information and to display it to other people?

    1. Keith T

      Excuse me, I get my news from Google

      Excuse me, I get my news from Google. Functionally Google is a news agency and google is as much a part of the press as the NY Times and London Times.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Bull

        "Excuse me, I get my news from Google. Functionally Google is a news agency and google is as much a part of the press as the NY Times and London Times."

        Bullcrap. I get my news from the local paper shop but that doesn't make it part of the press.

      2. Atonnis
        FAIL

        Do you honestly believe that?

        What a load of horsecrap. Google is an advertising company that provides search facilities in order to gain enough internet browsing share in order to reach the largest audience it can, and thus be paid more by advertisers.

        Google is most certainly NOT a news agency, at all.

  25. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    WTF?

    Chilling effect

    "Google said preventing some data being accessed through search engines "would have a profound chilling effect on free expression without protecting people’s privacy,” according to the report."

    Is that the same google that:-

    censored websites that provided information critical of Scientology?

    stopped showing the advertisements of Oceana, a non-profit organization protesting a major cruise ship operation's sewage treatment practices?

    'delisted' Inquisition 21st Century, a website which claims to challenge moral authoritarian and sexually absolutist ideas in the United Kingdom?

    removed street view and 360 degree images of military bases per the Pentagon's request?

    adhered to the Internet censorship policies of China so as not to bring up any results concerning the Tiananmen Square massacre or sites supporting the independence movements of Tibet and Taiwan and the Falun Gong movement?

    that closed the AdSense account of a site that carried a negative view of Scientology

    has a “don't be evil” motto

    Yes it is very chilling.....

  26. ratfox Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Let me get this straight

    Information is published on website, properly blocked by robots.txt. Google does not index it, but websites shady crawlers do. Google indexes these websites.

    Now Google is supposed to go through its database, check for each website whether the information on it is the same as on the website it is not supposed to crawl in the first place, then remove it. Hmmmm...

  27. Mectron

    Ha Criminals.....

    have way to much rights..... when they shouldh ave none

  28. kain preacher

    Hm Criminals should have no rights

    So if I steal news paper I should not have the right not to be killed . If the cops what to toucher me I should lose my human rights. More importantly if a criminal loses all of their rights would should they abide my societies laws? Since they have no rights people can do what ever they want to them .

    1. Keith T
      FAIL

      Your argument is a false choice.

      Your argument is a false choice.

      There are many alternative to "all rights" and "no rights at all". And that is what most countries have for criminals.

      For example: You loose the right to liberty when you are in jail. You don't loose freedom of speech in jail.

      We should not allow war criminals to censor history, and this is what European law apparently now allows.

      And keep in mind, in the USA corporations have human rights. So this would mean companies could censor information about themselves and their histories.

      1. kain preacher

        @Keith T

        If you look at the person above me you will see that he said they deserve non. I am a were of the hazards of making blanket statements.

  29. Keith T
    Mushroom

    The Germans have effectively created a legal means to outlaw the teaching of history.

    The Germans have effectively created a legal means to outlaw the teaching of history.

    "In Europe you don't have the right to say anything about anybody, even if it is true."

    "In Germany, for instance, Wolfgang Werle and Manfred Lauber, who became infamous for killing a German actor in 1990, are suing Wikipedia to drop the entry about them. German privacy laws allow suppression of criminal identities in news accounts once people have paid their debt to society. The lawyer for the two killers argues that criminals have a right to privacy too, and a right to be left alone. "

  30. Keith T

    it would mean companies could censor information about themselves and their histories

    And keep in mind, in the USA corporations have human rights.

    If the USA adopted similar laws it would mean companies could censor information about themselves and their histories.

    They could censor product reviews in the same way that Europeans are now going to allow politicians, "sports heroes," and stock promoters to censor their personal histories.

    1. Keith T

      And since sole proprietorships and partnerships actually are people

      And since sole proprietorships and partnerships actually are people, I suppose in Europe these sorts of companies can already censor their customer reviews.

      With the suppression of facts and knowledge about people, Europe is going to find itself ruled by an expanse of Berlesconis.

      Never in history have people had a right to anonymity in their own community.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not your data?

    There are reason i can see one wanting to have data removed about them, but if you were put in the newspaper because of an arrest, well you shouldnt have been arrested, that is public knowledge anyways. If someone personally attacked you, without facts, there are steps to have them removed, and the offender punished. There are plenty of laws protecting the citizen, but the minute you were arrested, you made a public offense, and the public through their laws had the right to know about it. Their is no time limit set on how long the public should be able to be made aware. If they want that, then they need to set laws that protect their people, not rely on google to do the extra work.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Idiot alert

      "There are reason i can see one wanting to have data removed about them, but if you were put in the newspaper because of an arrest, well you shouldnt have been arrested, that is public knowledge anyways."

      "There are plenty of laws protecting the citizen, but the minute you were arrested, you made a public offense"

      Idiot alert: Being arrested =/= did the crime... I hope you are arrested for something you didn't do, because from your last statement, that means in your world you somehow managed to commit a crime by being arrested.

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