back to article If Google remembers whom it has forgotten, has it complied with the ECJ judgment?

Google has received all kinds of plaudits for quickly introducing its “right to be forgotten” procedure. However, from what I have read in the press, its procedure for the removal of URLs is not fit for purpose. Google’s procedure appears to be defective. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you want to have a URL …


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  1. JeffTravis

    The key to this is in the final para

    So, to comply Google only have to remove the result from an EU member state version of Google

    But not from

    In which case surely it can't be long before a "for an uncensored result please use" link on every page? Or at least as the first result to the search query "How to complete an uncensored person search" to be "use"

    1. Rikkeh

      Re: The key to this is in the final para

      Not necessarily.

      Google seems to have spent much of its time in Court arguing that it wasn't subject to the jurisdiction of the CJEU as it wasn't in Europe. It said that its servers were all in the US and therefore it couldn't be touched (presumably if/when it did build those big server boats we were briefly reading about and sent them into international waters it would've tried to pretend that even US law couldn't touch it).

      This was flatly rejected as the Court pointed out that Google sold ad space that was targetted at Spanish users and sold to Spanish businesses. If it does the same thing with its .com offering (and it looks like it does- I just used and found that the sponsored ads were largely coming from UK businesses) then it seems to me that it would fail to convince the Court that it's not operating in the EU for exactly the same reasons that it failed to convince them on

    2. David 164

      Re: The key to this is in the final para

      That would probably be declared as contempt of court. Adding a direct link to search.

      Should EU law cover what happens in America, then in that case US law should cover the EU and China laws should cover both the EU and US, according to this article whole point of view. Of cause we don't like all of Chinese laws, just like the US don't like all EU laws and the EU don't like all US laws. Of cause some powers would love nothing more than to break up the internet as a single entity.

      An Google has to remember your requests to have links remove so that it doesn't simply reindex them using it crawlers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The key to this is in the final para

        Google has the very real issue that the EU Court's ruling is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States. As such, if Google started censoring links on for the users in the US, they'd have a whole bunch of legal trouble on their hands. So would the EU, and since so many European Banks have a presence in the US, the US Courts can force the European Banks (under threat of seizure of assets and funds in the US) to pay judgements levied against the EU itself.

        The entire EU Court ruling is considered a joke in legal circles as it is literally an attempt an "unringing a bell". (Not a big surprise when one realizes that little more that 1/3rd of EU Court judges had judging experience prior to their EU Court appointment.)

        The whole thing would be a lawyer's wet dream of litigation.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: The key to this is in the final para

          Actually, Google wouldn't have any trouble legally with the US constitution over censorship, you'll notice that they were censoring stuff for China for quite a number of years without much in the way of bother.

          Freedom of speech in the USA means that you personally can say what you like without being legally penalised for it. It doesn't mean that a newspaper/website has to publish that. If it was possible to sue google for not displaying stuff then I suspect Google would be displaying so many spam/advertising websites that it would be utterly impossible to actually use.

          Ultimately, Google can either comply with the law in the countries where they operate, or not operate there. It's pretty bloody simple when it comes down to it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: censoring stuff for China

            Google did not have any trouble for censoring stuff in China because they only censored stuff in China. Now, if they had started censoring stuff in the US, that would have been a different matter.

            This is probably why they are removing links from,, etc. but leaving them on (At least, they would use that excuse. They certainly prefer to show everything they can whenever possible).

            1. tom dial Silver badge

              Re: censoring stuff for China

              No. Google* is not the U. S. government, and is not constitutionally constrained as to what it may choose to index, or not. The Constitution limits what the government may do, as, for instance, in telling Google* what it may not make available. Google* could censor in the U. S. pretty much whatever it chose.

              On the other hand, Google has been sued, and various government actors in the EU have taken it to task for details in presentation that the plaintiffs considered "unfair" largely because their websites were displayed less prominently than they wished.

              Upvoted for the main point, though.

              * To be understood as "Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and other less prominent search operators".

      2. cortland

        Re: The key to this is in the final para

        Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.

        --old saying

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    spirit of the law

    See this? It's the Google's middle finger. And I doubt very much it's coincidental, they don't make such mistakes at this level, no accidental slurping of wifi data by some absent-minded google engineer, no screen resolution issue in the apple v. UK judge spat. If google did want to make the records disappear from their search, blink, it happens. But they don't want to, because they think they know better what to censor. But as they still have to comply with the law, they do so like any petulant child, by obeying the letter of the law, in effect, doing exactly the opposite, helping to bring attention to those "disappearances" by highlighting the facts they were requested.

    That said, apparently most requests from the UK came from some rather unsavoury individuals...

    1. David 164

      Re: spirit of the law

      There no such thing as the spirit of the law, there the letter of the law and only the letter of the law. If the EU judgement was written with loop holes in it then it up for the judges to close them.

  3. Real Ale is Best

    How about the right to be remembered?

    What happens if you have an event where two people are are involved, and one is embarrassed, but the other comes out well, and would like people to find it.

    Whose rights win there?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about the right to be remembered?

      In the case of famous welsh footballers the result was to use accusations of blackmail to have implemented a draconian super-injunction. Hence one persons right to privacy trumps one persons right to free speech.

  4. Notrub
    Thumb Up

    Good on you Google!

    And this is exactly the response this kind of stupid and absurd legislation needs.

  5. AdamT


    Well, just from a practical point of view they must surely have to maintain a list of what was removed simply so that when that site gets re-indexed the "offending" links don't just get added straight back into the Big Database? So the key questions are to what extent partially exposing that list (by reference to chillingeffects, etc.) complies with the court judgment and, as mentioned in the article, to what extent they should/shouldn't keep details with the list of removed urls pertaining to the removal request.

    1. Real Ale is Best

      Re: Practicalities?

      Or course the site, if it has received a note from Google that the article has been censored, just needs to regularly change the URL....

      1. ratfox

        Re: Practicalities?

        If somebody wants the information to be known, it is probably trivial to regularly have an article published about the matter, and it is almost certainly impossible to stop this from happening. I believe this whole right to be forgotten can only work when nobody really cares except for the person in question.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this probably sounds stupid.

    Really want to post AC due to the stupidity :/

    But If google really want to get around all of the shenanigans, why not have and run it all from a sat up above.

    *screw it im posting AC Sorry ......

    1. AdamT

      Re: this probably sounds stupid.

      well, there are two key questions here: what is the extent of your judicial reach and what is the extent of your physical reach? The US (*), for example, seems quite happy to extend its judicial reach well beyond it's physical boundaries, so why would "servers in space" be any different, especially when there will need to be ground control stations, etc. all over the place? And, secondly, the US and China have both been quite happy to demonstrate that their physical reach extends into space too as they have both deliberately downed satellites in circumstances that suggest that "showing that they could" was the primary purpose ...

      (*) - not just picking on the US. The UK seems quite happy to attempt to export its libel laws across the world too...

      1. J P

        Re: this probably sounds stupid.

        I don't know about DMCA type stuff, but they're certainly already looking at the tax residence of satellites - see eg the blog post at I can't believe it wouldn't be long before they extended some kind of jurisdiction to satellites, even if by proxy based on where the owner/operator is incorporated.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Getting into orbit does not protect Google

      If a government wants to fine orbital Google, they can add a Google tax on Earthlings who buy adverts.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: this probably sounds stupid.

      Original anon,

      As with so many things, it comes down to money. You can avoid the laws and taxes of a country by claiming to be entirely abroad. And that might work when you are. Although in your Google satellite example, the EU could simply jam their comms. At some point the internet enters or leaves the legal jurisdiction and can be interfered with there.

      But that's often too much hassle. So the other thing to interfere with is finance. After all, Google make almost all their money from advertising. Google are now an illegal operation / terrorists / enemies of the state / being annoying / delete as applicable... In which case we simply make it illegal for you to advertise on Google. They lose their cash, what's the point of operating in the EU.

      This is the way the US chose to fight online gambling. They couldn't make foreign sites illegal, but they could make it illegal for their citizens to partake. And they could make it illegal for their banks and credit card companies to facilitate transactions related to it. I'm sure it didn't stop people doing it, but it made it much harder.

      Similarly the US Treasury Department believe they can cripple the Russian economy with sanctions, without any help from the EU governments. Because the US government can tell its banks not to deal with the Russian ones, and also any bank that wants to operate in the US. Thus they can make it extremely awkward for any global bank to have dealings with any Russian bank they sanction. They picked a small one that had close links to Putin's inner circle and Gazprom - and I rather suspect that this shot across the bows was one of the reasons Putin backed off a bit on Ukraine.

      International sanctions on Iran have proved this to be at least somewhat effective. UN sanctions have had quite a bit effect, but it seems to be generally believed that pressure on Iranian access to international banking has also been very significant (although I understand that a lot of that was in cooperation with the EU).

  7. Mage Silver badge


    Google *IS* evil

    and people are gullible.

    I'm certainly not going to give them all my details! No wonder they launched the form.

    not quite my impression of google


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh

      Well don't give them your details. You aren't forced.

      What did you expect? A page at Google where anyone can bulk list URLs with no checks whatsoever and just have them removed from the search engine?*

  8. king of foo

    This is too easy

    ...therefore it must be wrong.

    It's far simpler to make the 2 or 3 major search players responsible than it is to hunt down all the websites publishing the content and requesting that they take it down.

    Even if the search results were to be completely censored, one could still access the content by going to one of many websites that would spring up overnight promising links to censored content.

    This is just as ridiculous as making isp's block torrent sites.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    I don't know who's more out of their gourd here.

    The EU for thinking they can control the internet, or Google for thinking this byzantine piss-take might comply with EU law....

  10. bigtimehustler

    Personally I think this is good, there will be far too many people wanting to hide things they should not have done and the public have a right to know about. To be honest, if you don't want stupid things about yourself on record, don't do stupid things. If you go bankrupt or lose your business, this happened, it shouldn't be erased from history. So I fully support google in being open about what requests it received and fighting against this ruling at every possible avenue, especially sticking to the exact wording of the law and not the spirit.

  11. Gio Ciampa

    Seeing as this appears to be all about Google

    Just go to Bing or Yahoo! or (if you live in 1998) Ask Jeeves

  12. auburnman

    It's been a long time since I saw the chillingeffects site, but I seem to remember the detailed document listed the link that Google had been asked to take down. For a while it looked like they were circumventing the laws as you could still get the link via Google, there was just one extra clickthrough on the way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have to say that is a chilling effect.

  13. heyrick Silver badge

    This whole thing is idiotic

    If I got busted nicking booze as a teenager, and a report on kept haunting me, surely I should be firing my "right to be forgotten" ammunition at the newspaper website and not a search engine?

    To go after getting links removed from Google sounds like hitting an easy target because getting something taken down legitimately is more difficult.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: This whole thing is idiotic

      If you got busted as a teenager for nicking booze, is it too much to ask that a) you've grown up since then and don't do that anymore, and b) we all be grown up enough to recognise that teenagers get up to all sorts of stupid shit and that we shouldn't let it define them?

      If something really happended, and there was a record of that event, why would it need to be deleted? If it's slander/libel, then there are already laws to handle that.

      I think I approve of the way Google is handling this one.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: This whole thing is idiotic

        Suppose the only result that came up when an employer Googled your name was the conviction for nicking booze 20years ago - because Google gives more weight to a "real" newspaper than your blog about your work rescuing kittens. The conviction is spent and doesn't appear on a police record, but does appear on the HR manager's phone.

  14. chris 17 Silver badge

    This is a very public opening salvo in the race to censor the internet.

    I fully support Google in complying with & letting us know it has done so.

    Google is an index to content others have produced. If Google is forced to censor a search result it does not mean the information does not exist. Will we find info on Darwinism, the crusades or WWII censored next?

    This ruling should apply to those hosting the offending material and ensure its completely removed from the net.

    It does however highlight the power search engines, and Google in particular, have on our use of the internet.

    Remember how we used to use the net before the big search engines, all those online communities etc.

    I remember discussions on how search engines framing our view on the net was so terrible (do no evil etc), well it seems western governments are now using them to censor us on a par with how we are told fundamentalists are censoring views and opinions in the lands they seek to rule.

  15. Dr Paul Taylor

    Google isn't the Web

    We all know about the common confusion of the Internet with the World Wide Web. There seems to be another one between the WWW and Google underlying this. I don't particularly want to defend Google, but there it is. I am already concerned that their searches show me what they think I want to see or what they want me to see or what the Govt wants me to see, instead of what's actually there.

  16. Ashton Black


    Granted that in the UK at least Google has an 89% market share, but

    as long as they are putting the "flags" in place then most searchers would search again on:


    b) Bing

    c) Yahoo

    d) <other search engines go here>

    So how the hell did the EU Judges expect this to work?

    1. arrbee

      Re: Pointless...

      All internet corporates, including the other search engines, are affected by this judgment, since what it said was that doing business in the EU means that you are subject to EU laws, irrespective of where you claim to be based. Having failed to win the legal argument Google are going all-out to negate it via political lobbying, no doubt encouraged by a lot of truly pissed fellow corporates.

      With regard to the current example of the effect of this judgment, anyone can get any search engine to excise a URL from their search results by merely showing that :

      - it refers to themselves

      - it harms them unfairly

      - it is in nobody else's interest to have this information preserved

      - they have a legal order from an EU court or national data commissioner agreeing that the URL should go

      At which point the search company must either appeal the legal order or arrange for the URL to be removed from their search results.

      If only Google are affected so far then maybe they should proclaim the fact since it could be because their search results are so much more comprehensive than those from anyone else.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Pointless...

        All internet corporates - except those which actually are publishing the content someone found objectionable.

        It is not clear why Google (or Bing, Yahoo, ...) should be in the position of adjudicating controversies about claims that indexed information (a) refers to the petitioner, (b) harms them unfairly, and (c) does not serve a public or comparably privileged private interest by virtue of its availability. They, all of them, should defer to the courts or relevant data commissioner.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Pointless... @Ashton Black

      "... most searchers would search again on:


      b) Bing

      c) Yahoo

      d) <other search engines go here>"

      As a result of this ECJ ruling, I remembered using Copernic meta-search engine in the dark pre-Google days. I wandered over to Google to see if Copernic is still available, and it is: Maybe this is the right to be forgotten enabling something else to be remembered.

  17. Trigonoceps occipitalis


    That will return only the URLs listed on that are not listed on, say,

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge


      Not yet.

  18. The Mole

    Flawed article

    The premise "Google is violating this right to be forgotten in order to remember who it has been asked to forget" is overlooking the fact that this isn't about the right to be forgotten. The judgement was made under the data protection direction that a person has a right to have accurate and up to date information being processed about them. They are therefore allowed to store the fact that a person has requested to be removed (it's essential to process the request and it is valid data anyway).

  19. jnffarrell1

    Helping Fascists remain forgotten is not in Google's DNA

    Do Not Ask your grandfather, What did you do in the Spanish Civil War? It's not polite; besides there is a right to be forgotten law, written by Fascists after Franco's death and adopted by the EU.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it me?

    Or was this article rather thin on facts and filled with speculation, to add to all the other speculation as to how the thing may or may not be implemented, if and when?

  21. Notrub

    If you really want to be forgotten, it's pretty simple to just change your name.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > If you really want to be forgotten, it's pretty simple to just change your name

      Not in most of Europe (civil law tradition), it isn't.

  22. crediblywitless

    Given that this whole business is completely and utterly ridiculous, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the response is ridiculous as well. When the judges were considering it, they could just have asked whoever it is keeps their computers going if it would work. As it is, we now have a legally-founded general-purpose implementation of the Streisand Effect. Idiots.

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