back to article Right to be forgotten should apply to too: EU

Europe’s data protection watchdogs say there’s no need for Google to notify webmasters when it de-lists a page under the so-called "right to be forgotten" ruling. The Article 29 Working Group (A29), which is made up of the EU’s national data protection authorities, has also agreed that such de-listing requests should apply to …

  1. Alister

    “Our remit does not include dealing with complaints from organisations which have had search results to their websites removed from a search engine,” an Irish DPA spokeswoman told El Reg last month.

    Ah good, so no legal redress at all then, if my website is suddenly removed from the search rankings.

    Nice to see there's a proper "due process" in place...

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Yes, that's bound to happen a lot especially with sites like yelp and other "crowdsourced" business evaluation platforms. Also, if you rely on a blog for revenue or advertisement -or just plain old vanity- you may not want to say anything negative on anyone lest your cherished A-rank goes down the drain*.

      And of course in genuine slander cases, getting around the link removal is only a matter of changing FDQN at most. Perhaps even only the name of the webpage. Given the flurry of free blogging platforms around, get ready for a game of the whack-a-mole that never ended

      There's something that I don't understand in this affair: to ask for a link to be removed you need to perform a search on Google and get the link as a result, right? So at this point, why not just send a nastygram to the target of the link to have the offending material removed at the source? Google should really be responsible only for their own cache (which is already lots).

      Well of course the source may be located in place where they don't care about your nastygram. What we really need is a state-operated all-encompassing filter, only then we'll be safe from the big, nasty interwebs.

      * I know, right. But apparently for some it's more important than their very life. Or this of their neighbours at least.

      1. ratfox

        "There is no need"

        So, is Google allowed to do it? Or is it not allowed to do it?

        And about the results on, do they need to be scrubbed in all cases, or only when the search comes from a European IP? Because I suspect the US are going to be quite nervous about the idea that a European court can decide what they are allowed to find in their search results.

        I think the regulators are walking on eggs, and deliberately left quite a lot of uncertainty in their announcement. This is far from over…

  2. Ashton Black


    Goodbye Hello, or, etc etc ?

  3. wag

    Unnecessary by their own admission

    "But the rules are not new; the obligations have applied to websites since 1995. The difference is that it now applies to search engines."

    So if the obligations already apply to websites, such content should be dealt with by issuing a request to the publisher themselves to take down the offending content. Then the search engine bots would automatically remove the links - hence there's no need for this stupid "right to be forgotten" ruling at all.

    1. Raumkraut

      Re: Unnecessary by their own admission

      So if the obligations already apply to websites, such content should be dealt with by issuing a request to the publisher themselves to take down the offending content.

      This is exactly what is being done, since the search listing is the content in question.

      It's not a question of the information being available on other sites, and it never has been. It's a question of what Google, and other search engines, show on their own websites.

      1. Aedile

        Re: Unnecessary by their own admission

        You're missing the point. Google doesn't really have their own data; they show other people's data.

        Analogy (probably a bad one): Assume Google is a map and the bad info is town A. As long as the town exists it shows up on a map. If the town is destroyed the map will no longer show it. So the point was: if the right to be forgotten law already applies to web sites then people already have a way to destroy the town (info) and hence have it removed from Google. The problem is that town A can't be destroyed in one request. To destroy the town you have to contact each building owner individually (representing each website discussing the info). As such, it is very time consuming and painful.

        So what the new law tries to do is order the map to delete town A, even though the town remains standing, to make it simpler for people. Does this mean people can't get to town A? Not even a little bit. However, it does make it harder to find except by the lucky or the determined.

        In the US the view is we'd rather have accurate maps and if you don't want to be on the map then you must destroy the town (which is even harder here due to the first amendment).

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

          Re: Unnecessary by their own admission

          if you don't want to be on the map then you must destroy the town (which is even harder here due to the first amendment).

          Someone got all tangled in their own analogies it would seem.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Unnecessary by their own admission

      If I recall correctly, Mario Costeja Gonzales, whose house was sold to remedy a tax delinquency, tried to have that removed from the web site of the newspaper that published the original public record of government action. That failed, and the fallback was to force Google (and presumably other search engine operators) to devise a way to hide it.

      Politicians, including judges, do not necessarily understand technology or allow it to operate as intended when they do.

  4. Duncan Macdonald
    Thumb Down

    First Amendment ?

    How does the EU law trump the US constitution for a website located in and operated by a US company ?

    1. phil dude

      Re: First Amendment ?

      I quite agree. Basically there is a prevailing "political" movement to control information for "our benefit".

      The only group it benefits are those in power who have the resources to find the information by other means.

      I am sympathetic to lives being ruined by out of date or incorrect information, but letting the powerful pick and choose what we can read, is never the answer.

      They already have too much control.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Amendment ?

        > letting the powerful pick and choose what we can read, is never the answer.

        > They already have too much control.

        Yes, I agree. Letting Google (~95% search market share) have too much power to pick and choose what we read is certainly a bad thing.

        Perhaps we, as citizens, should have some measure of control over what such powerful corporations say about us. Perhaps if there were a legal measure we could use, to make sure that the information Google has about us is kept accurate and relevant...

        1. Number6

          Re: First Amendment ?

          I assume this is one reason why Google tell people when they've had a link blocked, so that it is not done quietly and behind closed doors. The other would be that by drawing attention to it, the Streisand Effect may well discourage people from requesting blocks.

        2. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: First Amendment ?

          "Letting Google (~95% search market share) have too much power to pick and choose what we read is certainly a bad thing."

          This is quite backwards. In this case Google's position is that for the type of information at issue it should NOT be required to control what you read.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. phil dude

          Re: First Amendment ?

          Doesn't matter.

          The First Amendment exists because of the bloody Europeans anyway. Specifically it was the stain-on-humanity royals and their toadies who were the drivers, but all of Europe still has this "superiority by position" approach to the world. The EU is a case-study in how not to run a government.

          Yes, the UK may have been in the driving seat for American independence, but the Founding Fathers had centuries to choose from arbitrary state oppression, Mad George III just happened to be on the desk at the time.

          Businesses want to limit your information because it allows them to present object X for price A while being of quality Y and worth price B. And since there are so many competing interests taking a little bite of the pie, the amount of information is ALREADY smaller than it should be. Look at the current fights going on.

          Internet: Lies about speed. Lies about costs of infrastructure. Lies about spying.

          Food: Lies about content. Lies about the effect.

          Pharms: Lies about what is known. Selective data publishing.

          Computers: Lies about the software and hardware flaws. Restricted information used to force upgrades on consumers.

          Flim/Music/Media: Lies about copying to cover out-moded business practices. Selective publish practices

          Google is a search engine that happens to be the current best. All that is required is that they (Google) do not stop a competitor emerging with a better product.

          However, as good as Google is , it simply is not good *enough* for humanity to advance.


    2. Raumkraut

      Re: First Amendment ?

      If they want to operate in the EU, and shuttle a great deal of their money through the EU, then they need to play by EU rules.

      The option to exit the EU market is always open to them, if they decide the rules are too onerous.

    3. SteveK

      Re: First Amendment ?

      How does the EU law trump the US constitution for a website located in and operated by a US company ?

      Possibly in much the same way the US government thinks that its laws override local laws in countries such as, say, Iceland or Ireland?

    4. Pseu Donyme

      Re: First Amendment ?

      >How does the EU law trump the US constitution ...

      I seem to recall that the relevant bit in the US constitution begins with "Congress shall make no law" i.e. this is a negative right, a restriction on what the US (or state) government may do, not a positive right the same is obliged to uphold. Hence no conflict here.

  5. Ralph B

    Waiting for the day

    I'm waiting for the day when someone manages to sneak the Article 29 equivalent of "rm -rf /" passed Google.

    Do you suppose Google does backups of their indexes? Or would they just crawl it all again?

  6. Anonymous Coward


    ... no need for Google to notify webmasters when it de-lists a page

    So the webmasters concerned aren't to be told that they are holding content which is offensive to someone? I'm sure some would be upset about that.

  7. Daggerchild Silver badge

    There's only one way to decide...

    So, if a EU court says Google has to delink something, and the US source gets the US court to order Google to relink the something.. what happens?

    Does *every* country have jurisdiction over the content of now? Russia? China?

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    Wait, what?

    So if there was something on my website that somebody objected to and requested it to be "forgotten", this can take place and the person hosting the material is no longer to be informed?

    I can understand this is perhaps to stop the website owner from changing the link or bringing it to everybody's attention; but the flip side of the coin is that without any sensible form of due process (person makes a request, search engine evaluates and decides (or something like that)), it would make it piss-easy to fire off requests to silence legitimate criticism and concerns.

    It's nice to see the morons making these decisions have no grasp on how "that there internet thingy" actually works. There's no reason to approach Google at all (other than that they are big, American, slightly evil), if the problem is dealt with at source (the offending web page) then the Google problem takes care of itself. No page, nothing to index.

    But, gee, that's all complicated and involves lawyers and stuff. It's much easier to fill out an online form and click a button, right?

  9. KingStephen


    It's very surprising to see how many people talk about this in terms of "websites being blocked" or websites "disappearing from the search engines" or similar. This ignores the fact that all that's removed from anywhere is a specific link from a specific personal search.

    For example, there's a report on a prominent mafia trial where a contemporary news report wrongly associates an innocent person to the crimes. That person has successfully applied to Google and now if you search on that person's name, reference to the trial will not be shown. Search any of the other people involved and it still will be. Search for info on the trial and it still will be.

    The website is not being blocked and nor is anyone's access to the information. The search results for the innocent person are no longer being tainted by wrong information, and I think that's the point of the ruling.

    We should not believe all the outraged yelling about censorship from Google or their acolytes, and should try and understand the application of this ruling properly.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Misleading

      "The search results for the innocent person are no longer being tainted by wrong information, and I think that's the point of the ruling"

      Absolutely. But will that be the *implementation* of the ruling, going forwards? Especially as 'innocence' will always be protested, and will be validated firstly, and often only, by a commercial employee (without the court powers to acquire any additional information necessary to increase accuracy) where each judgement is at a cost to the company, with no apparent benefit to expending any more effort than actually necessary.

      Because I'm pretty sure *I* could exploit it. Just take an inconvenient fact and ring it in Google's results index with fake evidence passively contradicting it, then request the 'incorrect fact' be removed (You think a Google employee *won't* just reach for Google first?).

      Basic wikiwar strategies now apply, but this time you get to silently edit global perception. W00t!

    2. P. Lee

      Re: Misleading

      >For example, there's a report on a prominent mafia trial where a contemporary news report wrongly associates an innocent person to the crimes.

      But I don't think this is the common usage, is it?

      My concern would be that I would rather have wrong information returned by my search engine, than one that has been massaged by money or politics. How long until we get a request that Google removes all links which "brings the government/company into disrepute"?

      It is tragic for those maligned, but I think there is a better way. Rather than removing the links, how about flagging links which have successfully gone through an arbitration process with an "inaccurate" flag. That puts greater pressure on the originating website to remove the data if they don't stand by it, rather than have their name associated with being wrong. Plus it provides some correction to previous inaccurate reporting.

      It also removes the "censorship" criticism and the ability for people to get information removed because they are embarrassed about their previous conduct.

  10. earl grey

    what about the wayback machine

    You going to make them delete the same stuff?

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: what about the wayback machine

      No, they just have to show different versions of the same pages to different clients depending on where they are coming from, and what laws have come into effect there since that page was recorded. Simples!

  11. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    As far as I can see....

    ...these appalling regulations and associated legislation will continue, until no one is allowed to say or think anything nasty again.

    Won't the world be lovely then?

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: As far as I can see....

      Not quite. We can say and think all the nasty things we like.

      Nobody else will be allowed to read it, though.

      It kind of reminds me of The Daily Mail's approach to kiddie porn where they scream and shout at Google for indexing such things. Well, getting Google to remove the links to the content does not remove the content itself, so it seems a rather "out of sight, out of mind" approach.

      Same thing here, nobody is dealing with the phones, we're just cutting random pieces out of the phonebook instead...

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