back to article Slippery Google greases up, aims to squirm out of EU privacy grasp

Google is wriggling desperately to escape new European privacy rules that could force it to take some responsibility for what information it republishes in response to a given search – in particular a search of someone's name. The European Parliament voted in favour of data protection reforms in March, which the EU's press …

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  1. mike_ul

    I have some sympathy with Google. Let's say my name is John Smith and I decide I don't want certain information to be published. How can Google be sure that only my John Smith references are removed as opposed to another John Smith? Tricky.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How can Google be sure that only my John Smith references are removed as opposed to another John Smith?"

      Simple: you tell them exactly which of the pages that they have indexed against your name contain inappropriate content. If they are unsure of the validity of your claim, they can refer to the relevant authorities.

      1. Alan_Peery

        > Simple: you tell them exactly which of the pages that they have indexed against your name

        Bollocks. Complete bollocks.

        You're assuming that only one John Smith is listed on the page Google has indexed. How can Google possibly know *which* John Smith the person running the search is searching for?

    2. big_D Silver badge

      You have to specify specific links and give the reasons why you believe the source information is no longer relevant or not in the public interest and you have to be able to prove that you are the John Smith in question.

      If it is a 20 year old debt case, which is now resolved and now no longer legally usable in decisions on your credit worthiness, then they should remove it. This is what started the whole ball rolling, Google was returning 20 year old information about a house repo as the most relevant and actual information about the person in question, even though it was legally no longer of relevant and should therefore not be returned, or at least it shouldn't be returned as the top result...

      If it is an old murder case, where you were found not guilty, I would argue it is no longer in the public interest - especially if the real murderer has been caught and convicted in the meantime.

      If it is a 3 year old debt case, you wouldn't be able to argue it is no longer valid and not in the public interest.

      If you were convicted of murder, you wouldn't be able to get it removed...

      1. TopOnePercent

        If you were convicted of murder, you wouldn't be able to get it removed...

        Convictions for literally almost any crime would have to be removed due tot he rehab of offenders act. The day the conviction becomes spent (as little as 12 months now) and the criminal can demand you stop disclosing it publicly, even if you were their victim or a relative of a deceased victim.

        1. DragonLord

          or less

          http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/privacy/spent-convictions-and-the-rehabilitation-of-offenders/how-a-conviction-becomes-spent.html

        2. Vic

          Convictions for literally almost any crime would have to be removed due tot he rehab of offenders act

          Not so.

          From the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 :-

          5 Rehabilitation periods for particular sentences.

          (1)The sentences excluded from rehabilitation under this Act are—

          ...

          (b)a sentence of imprisonment or corrective training for a term exceeding thirty months;

          So if you get 2.5 years for a crime, you are ineligible for rehabliitation under the Act. You always have to declare it.

          This is why I thought it was a bit rough a while back when some kid got 4 years for trying (and failing) to arrange a riot on Facebook/Twitter/WhateverItWas. Although the law allowed for that punishment, it meant that it would be an indelible mark on his record.

          Vic.

          1. TopOnePercent

            Sorry Vic, but you're still wrong. You need to check the updated guidance issued on 10 March 2014.

            To be life long declarable its now a minimum tariff of 4 years. Community orders are now dispensed with in just 6 months.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Would it not be more sensible to require that the source of the "no longer relevant" data be compelled to restrict internet access to it? Would not the Google (and, one would assume, Yahoo, Bing, Duck Duck Go, and other index entries) then evaporate? Do the ECJ not have the stones to order something that might actually be a solution?

    3. RyokuMas Silver badge
      FAIL

      No sympathy from me...

      I didn't ask to be tracked and profiled, or have adverts sold to me. I didn't ask for people who know a few things about me to be able to search the web and come up with details on who I am and what I do (case in point - the A.C. troll in this thread who felt he had to take a pop at me because I use C# cross-platform). I didn't want details of things I have looked at and/or bought online made available to parties outside those website I had visited or purchased from.

      And I certainly don't want my every action and communication scrutinised by a private enterprise whose only motivation is profit and tries to dodge their responsibilities, while hiding behind a mask of altruism.

      Just as happened with Microsoft before them, Google have fallen prey to their own arrogance and hubris, save that Google's capacity for anti-competitive practice is far greater than Microsoft's ever was. They know this - hence their squirming to try and wriggle out of this ruling. Their big fear is that the scales will eventually fall from the eyes of even the most ardent of their fans, and everyone will realise that "Do no evil" is the greatest lie of our time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No sympathy from me...

        Looks like the fandroids are out today...

      2. Tufty Squirrel

        Re: No sympathy from me...

        > I didn't ask ...

        Yes you did. You used sites that make your downloads and actions public, you have a public blog, twatter account, and register account using the same handle. You give away your identity on the first two, and then complain that you're easy to find?

        If you cared, you wouldn't do that.

  2. graeme leggett

    why did Wales get it wrong

    Couldn't he have looked it up on Wikipedia ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Spain_v_AEPD_and_Mario_Costeja_Gonz%C3%A1lez

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder...

    ...how quick MPs and MEPs will be to have all record of their expenses fiddling and sexual conquests purged from the public record.

    The EU can't even get their accounts in order; tells you something about how little they actually care about public interest.

    1. John Bailey

      Re: I wonder...

      "...how quick MPs and MEPs will be to have all record of their expenses fiddling and sexual conquests purged from the public record."

      Not very.. Public interest. Non qualifying. Not deleted.

      "The EU can't even get their accounts in order; tells you something about how little they actually care about public interest."

      And as you can't even stick to the scope of the law being discussed, tells us all we need to know about your credibility too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder...

        "And as you can't even stick to the scope of the law being discussed, tells us all we need to know about your credibility too."

        If you keep the scopes narrow to avoid MEPs' continuing corrupt behaviour, then the situation will never resolved. MEPs (and the entire EU parliament) needs to be accountable to the public with immediate effect.

        Only when that happens will I trust one word that spills from the mouths.

  4. big_D Silver badge

    I found the current Ritsch and Renn image for c't magazine to be very apt.

    http://www.heise.de/ct/schlagseite/2014/14/gross.jpg

    For those a little light on German,

    Banner over desk: "Google arbitatration desk, Delete requests"

    Google employee: "Ah, Goat Defiler Paul, what can I do for you?"

  5. bigtimehustler

    It will be impossible for any company to do, given the billions of pages indexed, if a sufficient number of people request things removed, to look into if it is them, decide upon those which have the same name but are not that person and remove only what is required would not be possible no matter how many people you employed, even forgetting the cost of employing them. Its a nonsense that seems ok on initial thought but hasn;t been properly considered, like most things the EU does.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It will be impossible for any company to do, given the billions of pages indexed

      No, technically it is possible to do. What you mean is that it is impossible to do without costing buckets of money, but I have no pity there. You win some, you lose some.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      They seem happy to do the same thing if the suspect you haven't used your real name on Google+, or if there is some copyright background music in your home video on youtube.

      This is simple you request a page removed, they pass it onto the courts, the court declare which page is removed. If Google can't keep up with the data flows resulting from individual court judgements - its probably in the wrong business

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps this situation would not have arisen if Google had accomodated european law from the outset.

    4. John Lilburne

      20 million a month

      They remove over 20 million links to pirated content from search alone each month.

      This is just another cost of doing business, and I likewise have no sympathy when a $100 billion company, that pays no taxes, whines about the cost of anything.

      --

      They have been inserting little memes in everybody's mind. So Google's shills can shriek there whenever they're inclined

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wales is an ass but he didn't get it wrong by much...

    "Wales was dissembling when he claims Google is being forced to make ethical interpretations typically made by judges."

    Actually... "Google is being told to make ethical interpretations typically made by judges."

    They can say no, as previously stated the big danger is when they just say yes, yes, yes

    This year...

    Politician A: Please remove all references to this payments scandal.

    Google: I'm sorry but after researching this case we have found that the information is clearly in the public interest.

    Politician A: I'll appeal

    Lawyers, Judges and bureaucracy later.

    Google: We are keeping the information available

    Next year...

    Politician B: Please remove all references to this payments scandal.

    Google: Yeah sure, whatever we can't be buggered anyone.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Well that's Google's choice. They have to make a decision on how good a search engine they want to be. If they don't want to invest in being a good search engine that provides relevant data, then perhaps someone else will do it better

      With great truckloads of money comes great responsibility. They make huge wodges of cash from advertising strapped to search results, those search results are mostly a social good but also have a social cost, they can therefore put some of that profit into dealing with it. Or they can bugger off. Those are the options that society should give them. The money will still be great, after this decision is implemented - so I'm sure they'll cope with making 99.?% of the profits they made before...

    2. Microdot

      Didn't the article say that Google could just bounce the requests to the courts for them to investigate, weigh up the merits and offer a judgement? Maybe I'm reading it wrong but if so then there's no 'Lawyers, Judges and bureaucracy' overhead for Google to deal with is there? They just have to abide by the ruling.

      1. ratfox

        re: bouncing all requests to the courts

        I really don't think Google is going to be able to just bounce all requests to the courts. It would be way too easy for to many companies to reject all legal requests, force claimants to pay for a lawyer, bog up the legal system, and ultimately not do it.

        Engineers have trouble to understand this, but laws do not work like computers programs. Using bugs and loopholes to game the system and violate the spirit of the law is punished.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: re: bouncing all requests to the courts

          ratfox,

          It's not a bug or loophole. Google don't have to take any decisions they don't want to. They can boot them all to the national data watchdog. And then go on their rulings. No lawyers are required for that process.

          I agree that if they appeal all those rulings, the courts will soon get grumpy with them, and start slapping them down. But no-one will object if they appeal anything that has wider implications. And I assume that it'll be an appeal against the watchdogs' decisions, so it'll have to be them who lawyer-up, not the original complainants.

    3. Eguro

      True to a point.

      That point being when Google - doing this as standard - winds up with the inferior search engine.

      "All I can find on Google about person X is that he's a fine upstanding citizen. Yet Bing/Yahoo/Duckduckgo/Startpage etc. etc. give me info about that scandal a few years ago. I knew I hadn't gone senile - I did recall X being involved in a prostitution ring."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it me who doesn't understand how things work, or is it the Judges, Lawyers and EU politicians?

    Google will only index pages that contain the disputed information. Once those pages are removed (after a short delay) Google will no longer index them.

    So, rather than going after Google to remove the indexing, why aren't people getting the content of the relevant pages removed?

    1. James 100

      Rather absurdly, the pages themselves are allowed to stay unmolested - it's just Google's index of pages which must - potentially - be mutilated to comply with Euro-demands.

      I'm not a big fan of Google, but I can't find any room for sympathy with demands to change their index, whether for copyright reasons or "privacy rights": if there is an article on The Reg about Bill Gates molesting sheep, or there's a copy of Windows 8 at example.com/warez/win8.iso, why on earth should Google be compelled to keep quiet about that fact? Taking down the actual page/file, fine - but I object on principle to editing the index to pretend the content isn't there when it is.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        "Taking down the actual page/file, fine"

        That's censoring the press. Literally.

        If you read the ruling, the justification for the decision is explained really simply and clearly. Hint: massive reputational damage infringes a citizens privacy. A newspaper or Lexis doesn't have the same societal impact.

        I'm intrigued that in the age of mass electronic surveillance, you put "privacy rights" in scare quotes. GCHQ will be happy to read that.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Because they are often public record and therefore cannot be removed.

      The problem is that the information is available on the internet...

      In the past, a newspaper displayed a story with a short shelf life, after a few days or weeks, it became hard to find and that was fine in many cases, because the information was no longer relevant.

      Public interest material would be regurgitated or migrate to periodicals and if very relevant would be archived in libraries, inlcuded in reference works etc.

      Finding that 20 year old debt story, which no longer has any legal relevance would be possible, but hard work, which is at it should be.

      With the internet, it is as easy to find now as it was 20 years ago... That is the problem, Google just brings up what it thinks is relevant, whether the information is legally allowed to be relevant or not.

    3. DragonLord

      because the published content falls under a different set of laws that applies to publishers rather than data processors.

      In this instance google falls under the dataprocessing aspect of the dataprotection act. That means that they have a duty to ensure that the data that they hold and process is accurate and up to date. (This is existing law rather than the new right to be forgotten). News papers, blogs, et al, don't need to abide by this as they aren't processing data they are producing information. Thus the article that's sitting in their archive is the same one as it was when it was published.

      The reason for the difference is (I think) to avoid post publication censorship by those in power.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        "[Data processors] have a duty to ensure that the data that they hold and process is accurate and up to date"

        It does not seem that they were accused of failing to do that. The complaint appears to have been that they did, in fact, present an accurate and up to date extract of data found on La Vanguardia's web site describing the auction for back taxes of property owned by Mario Costeja González. The "problem" was not inaccuracy, but that it was old, and the subject didn't like it. The Spanish court, rather than take the sensible approach of ordering La Vanguardia to stop its continual republication or at least indicate to Google that it should not be indexed, instead ordered Google to make it less findable.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          " Spanish court, rather than take the sensible approach of ordering La Vanguardia to stop its continual republication or at least indicate to Google that it should not be indexed, instead ordered Google to make it less findable."

          This doesn't make sense. 'Less findable vs. not indexed' is a distinction without a difference.

          I am puzzled why you think suppressing a free press was preferable? Then the Vanguardia article couldn't be read anywhere. Not even on Vanguardia's own site.

  8. Jim 59

    Goos article

    Good article.

    Tiny point:

    Google has flooded Brussels with lobbyists, but this may not be an adequate response to regulators on a continent growing weary of what is more and more perceived as US arrogance

    I would say Silicon Valley arrogance instead. The arrogance of Google, Facebook and their chums is just as annoying to US citizens as it is to us.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Goos article

      Lobbyists, lightly grilled for breakfast...

      I think Frank Herbert had the right idea. The most serious crime was corruption by an official, the second most serious was attempting to corrupt an official...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least Google no longer tries to declare itself exempt

    That Google isn't exempt from EU privacy laws became evident during the Streetview scandal, so the fact that they tried that one speaks volume of its opinion of EU officials.

    I'm undecided on the "right to forget" thing - I think there ought to be some control over it so it cannot be used for stupid stuff, but can be court mandated. That also puts some barriers on it, but gives a handle in case malicious slander is affecting someone's life. But I haven't thought that one through yet.

    What IS important is that Google is brought under control. At the moment it uses its international structure to mostly ignore law, so making it at least accountable is not a bad move IMHO.

    1. Stretch

      Re: At least Google no longer tries to declare itself exempt

      "it uses its international structure to mostly ignore law"

      Most laws are made by the stupid for the rich. So please, ignore them, it can only benefit all of us.

  10. heyrick Silver badge
    Flame

    "See, if we comply with your crazy order, you stupid judge - everything breaks."

    Can we say this the next time a low ranking US judge "decides" that the entire internet falls under US jurisdiction, or some rubbish like that?

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: "See, if we comply with your crazy order, you stupid judge - everything breaks."

      Please do so, loudly and often.

  11. TopOnePercent
    WTF?

    Why are comments being premoderated and simply disappearing from this story?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: TopOnePercent

      "simply disappearing from this story?"

      No comments have been rejected AFAICT ... and we reserve the right to pre-mod comments on certain articles, subjects, authors, etc. Meta-discussion can be safely done in the feedback forums, ta.

      C.

      1. TopOnePercent
        Facepalm

        Re: TopOnePercent

        Oops, sorry. And yes, you're quite right - confusion due to my inability to read... or was it comrpehend... or both.

  12. Stretch

    None of this is about US arrogance, or Google doing evil, or any other partisan position.

    The point is the ruling is just damn, damn, damn stupid. I mean really, completely idiotic. Its the sort of perverse and illogical decision produced the heavily lobbied and badly misinformed. It is simply legal revisionism, and will only benefit criminals.

    For those of you too young to remember, there was no internet before Google. Seriously. You remember trying to actually FIND anything pre-google? No chance. If you didn't know the web page address then you simply weren't going there. Do you remember the dumb ass programs you had to use to "submit" your site to huge lists of "search engines" with pages and pages of faked up meta data (this used to be SEO you know...)?

    So Google gave us a working internet. Then they gave us working email with storage greater than 2MB. And then when fucking crapple stole, ahem, "invented", the mobile phone they gave us an operating system that meant we could stick our finger up at the fucking fanbois.

    And I've never paid them a penny. And I have a famous person "masking" me in search results. There is no downside. APART from these idiotic "non-technicals" (and that is the most damning insult there is IMO) trying to fuck with things that don't concern them.

    Frankly if the Germans don't like it they can block Google. And see how far that gets them.

    1. John Lilburne

      They can block Google

      When a French ISP did that Google whined all the way to the top of the French government. Personally I think we should give this quasi-criminal* company the finger, and block it entirely from the EU.

      *

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertlenzner/2014/01/17/how-a-500-million-fine-paid-by-google-for-selling-illegal-drugs-on-the-web-is-used-for-retiremernt-benefits-rhode-island-police/

      --

      They have been inserting little memes in everybody's mind. So Google's shills can shriek there whenever they're inclined

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      A/C: I can see you love this corporation deeply, but I don't think "I love Google, and want its children" is a very persuasive argument for rewriting data protection and privacy laws that some countries care very strongly about, simply so that corporation can evade them.

      Best of luck trying, though. I'd brush up on my French and German if I were you.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      there was no internet before Google

      Seriously? Before the whole knighthood-generating URL idea we had Archie and Gopher, and even when the www concept took off we had a number of services such as Altavista, Wolfram Alpha etc., and those resources still exist. Later outfits like Xahoo did the same, and then there is the wannabee service Bing.

      Google did effectively an iPhone on that market: take what existed and made it usable. This is IMHO the one genuine innovation they brought: their search ranking algorithm is still by far the best, which allowed them to become the gateway to information. The rest of your adulation, however, is undeserved. They are not making the Internet, their privacy violating data sucking is /breaking/ it.

      It has, however, not created the Internet and frankly, I'm astonished you can even make such a claim.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very Naive

    If you really think that the ICO will put up with 50,000 requests for the removal of data to be adjudicated every month then I think you need to re-evaluate.

    In a similar way to PPI refunding and banks will be expected to process all claims, even though they have the right to reject them and send them back to the adjudicator.

    Every lawyer will see it as a bonanza and be putting the requests in to Google and then taking it to court citing case law.

    Radio adverts will be springing up on the radio and TV "ever had details put on the web that you want to remove, ring we-remove-it and sons, you could get £3000 in compensation"..

    Whether you have any sympathies with Google, Microsoft etc you can't be surprised that they might not want to have to service this scheme.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Very Naive

      A/C: "If you really think that the ICO will put up with 50,000 requests for the removal of data to be adjudicated every month..."

      The uncorroborated figure of 40,000 that Google quoted was for the entire EU. The most requests came from Germany. As we have pointed out, the media reporting gave them the false impression that they merely had to ask and Google would remove.

      The ICO rejects thousands of requests already.

      You can guesstimate the cost to Google of *complying with the law* quite easily. Then compare it against Google's profits, the amount of tax it has avoided, etc.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do no evil*

    *Except where our business model is negatively affected.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do no evil**

      **Don't be evil.

  15. Daggerchild Silver badge

    In other mildly related news:

    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/14/06/17/1230253/canadian-court-orders-google-to-remove-websites-from-its-global-index

    Judge: "I will address here Google's submission that this analysis would give every state in the world jurisdiction over Google’s search services. That may be so. But if so, it flows as a natural consequence of Google doing business on a global scale, not from a flaw in the territorial competence analysis."

    1. ratfox
      Devil

      Re: In other mildly related news:

      I think the flaw in this particular ruling can be more clearly explained as: "China would like nobody to be able to search for the Tienanmen incident". Should it be censored for the whole world because Google happens to also do business in China…? According to this Canadian judge, it should.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: In other mildly related news:

        I did not read into the summaries I saw that Google would have to "forget" things in the US that were ordered "forgotten" in the EC. They might do that, out of convenience, my impression is that they do not have to. If the order was for world wide "forgetting" of "obsolete or no longer relevant" pages, it is as asinine as orders by US judges that purport to apply US law to internet activities outside the US.

  16. Yugguy

    Google - it's the MCP!

    I can remember when Google was just one of many search engines. Now it seems to be like the MCP off Tron, controlling everything.

    Yes, I'm old... old enough to remember the MCP when it was just a chess program. He started small and he'll end small!

  17. Al_21
    Joke

    How do you know if your name is being indexed on a search engine?

    Google it.

  18. Frankee Llonnygog

    Maybe Google could request that in the EU ...

    All companies are people and all people are companies. That way, companies could request that all their dealings be forgotten while people would be subject to transparency regulations. However, it would also mean that Google could be stopped and searched in the street - they might now like being the victims of dodgy search practices

  19. Ed Coyne

    Missing the point

    It seems to be simply misdirected. If you want to censor the information then you should pass a law allowing you to censor the source of the information. Why would you censor the middleman? The only reason I can think of is that censoring newspapers has a long history and is unpopular while censoring search engines is new and you can get away with it.

    You mention you can still get the information from lexis-nexis, is that not still a search engine? Would it not be forced to comply with the same requests?

    I understand that the crux of this debate is the law already exists so it must be followed now (which it is) but why is it a problem to try and change those laws. That is the point of democracy no? A process to change broken laws?

    1. DragonLord

      Re: Missing the point

      Because if you censor the source then it becomes impossible to trust that there is a fair, unbiased and not state controlled press. If the source is allowed to stay, but the means of finding said source becomes more and more burdensome as time goes on. Then it protects peoples privacy in a general sense as the article isn't showing up as fresh all the time while preserving it for the future when a relative or researcher may come across it while searching in the archives.

      Also, the article itself isn't damaging sitting there in the archive. It's only damaging to the persons current reputation because it has been processed by a search engine and brought into the lime light during a search.

  20. Gannon (J.) Dick
    Coffee/keyboard

    Yikes

    "The Germans in particular feel so strongly about privacy, that such a move would be an affront. Google can dream of a world without laws to inhabit its behaviour. It's not going to get a world without Germans."

    Google Gleichschaltung

  21. Jagged
    Unhappy

    Office for Security and Counter Terrorism

    They clearly just need to get the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism to explain to the EU how Google is actually "external comms" and shouldn't be covered by EU law.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trickey...

    This could end up bad for both Google and the CEJ.

    Would that we could find that sweet spot...

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