back to article 'Right to be forgotten' festers as ICO and Google come to blows

Google is receiving a telling off from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office and may face legal action after failing to adequately respond to several so-called "right to be forgotten" requests. The ICO told The Register that "since the details of the ruling were first announced, we have handled over 183 complaints from …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I have some *slight* sympathy for Google here

    You just know that 3/4's of the requests it gets are probably from Narcissistic loons regretting something they say or did online. Im not entirely convinced the correct balance has been struck between protecting the vulnerable (ie those who had a legal run in but were not guilty, or have paid their dues to society, those libelled or slandered etc) vs those people who have not had enough self control to avoid doing something dumb on t'interwebs.

    And whilst I would defend anyones right to act dumb even on the internet (gawd knows I've done it on occasion and should know better), Im not that comfortable with the thought of letting people not take responsibility for their actions, manning up and moving on.

    Having said all that its Google who have had it their way for so long its hard to feel much sympathy, although it does also seem to be a barrier to entry for anyone else in the search market.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we get a copy of the complainants list

    you know

    for proof or something

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      I've Asked Before

      Is there a site that will list the differences between identical searches on and

      1. Pseu Donyme

        Re: I've Asked Before

        >... and

        If I got the gist of the ECJ ruling right, the domain name through which Google search is reached doesn't matter as long as the results are visible within the EU. I'm not sure Google can display the 'forgotten' results even when the search user is outside the EU as there might be an issue with exporting personal data from the EU; in order to qualify for the 'safe harbor' exception allowing such export Google is supposed to respect the key principles of the EU data protection regime.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I've Asked Before

          Google is only applying the ruling to and .fr etc not .com, though DPAs for the most part disagree with this. See:

  3. Indolent Wretch

    Reg says "The ICO estimates that Google has mismanaged individuals' requests to remove their information in a quarter of cases."

    ICO says "In around three quarters of these cases we have ruled that Google was correct to turn down an individual’s request to have the information removed."

    It seems you are misrepresenting the guy, ICO are saying that of the ones that have appealed after Google turned them down about a quarter may have an axe to grind.

    Get it right.

  4. Blergh


    I don't think Google has been a bit naughty in a quarter of cases. It is only the case for those complaints. It may be 48 out of 183 complaints, but that is probably only 48 out of the thousands of requests Google has had (apparently at least 250,000 in all of EU). Show me the real numbers!

    e.g. If I had 1 million clients (or whatever) and I handled 1 wrong, they complain and it's seen I've messed it up, this does not mean that I've messed up 100% of cases! It actually means I'm correct 99.9999% of the time.

    1. Nbinoboboob

      Re: Statistics

      Exactly. Thanks. This is really poor interpretation of what ICO thinks of Google. They are nowhere near coming to blows or anything else.

  5. Daggerchild Silver badge

    If you think that's bad

    You should see the complaints caused by people being granted redaction when they shouldn't have been...

  6. Alan J. Wylie

    Dr Fun, Jan 1996

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Dr Fun, Jan 1996

      Well good luck to the legal world trying to censor Usenet.

      Usenet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it

  7. IlyaGeller

    Good news! The Era of Absolute Privacy is coming! No need in queries, cookies or browsing history anymore. Google is over!

    I discovered and patented how to structure any data: Language has its own Internal parsing, indexing and statistics. For instance, there are two sentences:

    a) 'Sam!’

    b) 'A loud ringing of one of the bells was followed by the appearance of a

    smart chambermaid in the upper sleeping gallery, who, after tapping at

    one of the doors, and receiving a request from within, called over the

    balustrades -'Sam!'.'

    Evidently, that the ‘victory’ has different importance into both sentences, in regard to extra information in both. This distinction is reflected as the phrases, which contain 'victory', weights: the first has 1, the second – 0.08; the greater weight signifies stronger emotional ‘acuteness’.

    First you need to parse obtaining phrases from clauses, restoring omitted words, for sentences and paragraphs.

    Next, you calculate Internal statistics, weights; where the weight refers to the frequency that a phrase occurs in relation to other phrases.

    After that data is indexed by common dictionary, like Webster, and annotated by subtexts.

    This is a small sample of the structured data:

    this - signify - <> : 333333

    both - are - once : 333333

    confusion - signify - <> : 333321

    speaking - done - once : 333112

    speaking - was - both : 333109

    place - is - in : 250000

    To see the validity of technology - pick up any sentence.

    Do you have a pencil?

    All other technologies depend on spying, on quires, on SQL, all of them on External statistics. See IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo? Apache Hadoop and NoSQL? My technology is the only one that obtains Internal statistics directly from texts themselves.

    Being structured information will search for users based on their profiles of structured data. Each and every user can get only specifically tailored for him information: there is no any privacy issue, nobody ever will know what the user got and read. (No spam!)

    The technology came from Analytic Philosophy, Internal Relations Theory.

    Sleep well, I protected you.

  8. Curly4

    Why should Google be the final arbitrator on what should be delisted? That job should be the prerogative of the ECJ or another governmental office. The ECJ should be the one who receives the request, processes the request and then issues the order to the search engine companies the listing that should be delisted. That would give the ECJ a more proactive role in this situation and take out of the hands of the search engine companies if the they failed to following the orders.

    1. Donn Bly

      Google is the arbitrator because if the job was the prerogative of the ECJ then they would be in a position to directly censor your search results. Furthermore, like any other government entity they would eventually try to get out of doing any real work, and would just rubber-stamp the requests coming in without giving them any serious evaluation on merit (example: US Patent Office)

    2. Nbinoboboob

      Google would love that. Google has said, Please, please take this off our hands. Google still isn't the *final* arbiter but more like the first arbiter. Any appeals can and likely will go thru courts and possibly up to ECJ.

  9. Daggerchild Silver badge


    I wonder if R2BF redactions should expire, requiring renewal/rejudgement.

    The judgement is based on factors that are not guaranteed to be constant over time (e.g. your past became of public interest) and while there's a working process for repairing under-redaction there doesn't appear to be a repair mechanism for over-redaction.

    1. John Lilburne

      Re: Expiry

      What the public are interested in is not the same as the Public Interest.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: Expiry


        1. John Lilburne

          Re: Expiry

          Dunno what you are sighing about? R2BF applies when something is trivial and ancient history. If it is trivial and ancient history, the passage of time will never make it non-trivial and current history. Someone convicted of drink driving 20 years ago, or convicted of some petty criminal offence in their youth has a R2TBF that is not negated if they suddenly open a business, or stand for parliament. Journalists or whatever may report on the old event nothing stops that. All that is stopped is typing in Joe Bloggs into a search engine and getting back the 20 or 30 year old local news story. It doesn't even stop you from specifically searching the newspapers archives.

          1. Daggerchild Silver badge

            Re: Expiry

            Sighing was more sensible than going on about the assumed set intersect of pi and PI and the resulting delta to the price of fish regarding the actual question as a whole, but since you now also want to assert time-independance :

            A link between you and X may be by default irrelevant, but what if you are about to gain power over that X? If Joe Bloggs asserts in court he has never met X, or done Y, and the links would have shown otherwise, are they *now* relevant? From this point on shouldn't the same redaction requests for X/Y links be rejected?

            All big things are made of little things. Little things are irrelevant outside the context of their relevance. I can manipulate that context before invoking the relevance judgement. The 'judge' is also *likely* to be without the resources or expertise to confirm the perimeter and contents of that context so the evidence that you supply, and do *not* supply, may form the basis of the judgement. If you lose or release control of the context, what would the same judgement be now?

            I can *permanently accumulate* erroneous redactions just by persevering. This increments my influence over the context further judgements are based upon.

            You are correct in saying that you can still search a link destination vicinity, without needing the link, but that implies you already know the vicinity of the link destination, and it has a search mechanism, that has not itself been subject to a R2BF.

            Google and the ICO currently have a number of cases, after explaining their reasoning to each other, where they *disagree* on whether it should be redacted. This alone demonstrates that we are going to lose things that different people think shouldn't be lost.

  10. davcefai

    Is this the correct approach?

    Google, the advertising company, supplies a search function to world+dog. You ask, it searches. If one wants to be forgotten then the thing to do is surely to delete the embarrassing data. Then Google won't find it.

    As I understand it, the way this 'right to be forgotten' is being implemented is that Google, having found the data, has to take steps not to display it. At the moment it is almost working but can it scale up?. Can it handle photos? Can Google notice that Mr A Politician is in that group of drunken guys skinny dipping 20 years ago?

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Is this the correct approach?

      If a "Right To Be Forgotten" were implemented this correct way, the judges, legislators, and ultimately the bureaucrats charged to enforce the rules would be seen to be the censorious meddlers they actually are.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Right to be forgotten... right to erasure.. EU Directive 95/46/EU

    This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of data protection, having Google or any other data aggregator delete links to obscure or dated articles or links means that they have to have a mechanism to manage their content, which they probably do as they provide personalised targeted advertisements.

    The real elephant in the room is the EU Directive 95/46/EU which means that any company who holds data on European citizens needs to get their act cleaned up and make sure that they are not over retaining old customer data. Ratification is within the next 3 months and in enforcement about a year after that.

    Failing that, they get hit with a 100m EURO fine or 5% of global turnover - whichever is highest.

    So if your working in a firm that holds any Personal Identifiable Information (or PII) and your in IT, you'll probably start to get pushed on what data the company holds in all its storage and applications.

    If the shit hits the fan, depending where you are in the food chain, make sure your ass is protected!

    Nuke icon as you'll probably feel like throwing a naked flame on it all like a good BOFH! :)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some of you lot are so stupid I'm surprised (and disappointed) you can breathe

    This only happened 72 hours ago:

    A lady friend of mine recently had to get herself a VAT number for some stuff she does in her spare time aside from her main job.

    A couple nights ago I was talking to her on the phone and we were discussing her website, so I idly Googled up her name.

    ...and her full home address plus a bunch of other personal information appeared. Right there on Google's search results page.

    This is already something that, were to happen to me, would make me extremely uneasy.

    Add to that that she lives alone, in the countryside, and has for many years had a stalker (against whom there are a number of court injunctions), something which affected her so much that she refuses to go back to her native town which is, however, very close to where she now lives.

    I hope you can start to see the problem here.

    Luckily, her local data protection agency has a bit more teeth than the ICO. A quick call to them and they helped her through the process: the websites republishing the data from the local equivalent of Companies House have pulled the data from their pages, the registry agreed not to release her data in the future, and the search results were pulled from Google in a matter of hours--this last point being the most important, given that all the other actions would have been moot had the data been available directly from Google.

    That information should have never been disseminated indiscriminately in the first place, but it happened, and I believe that the awareness created by this law regarding privacy protections, both amongst individuals and, crucially, big corporations coming from a different culture, has been instrumental in getting all parties to respond swiftly, thereby actually protecting not just the privacy, but the safety of this one individual.

    So perhaps next time some of you want to show the rest of us how clever you think you are and come to tell us how it's only idiots who embarrass themselves online and nonsense like that, please leave your daughters' or sisters' real name, telephone number, and address here in the comments. Come on, let us see you walk the talk you worthless cunts.

    1. Nbinoboboob

      Re: Some of you lot are so stupid I'm surprised (and disappointed) you can breathe

      Whoa, language.

      From what you're describing, it isn't google's fault the information was out there.

      Beyond that I'm not sure why you're so angry at everyone commenting above.

      It doesn't sound like most of the commenters would be against the situation you're describing being rectified.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Some of you lot are so stupid I'm surprised (and disappointed) you can breathe

        > Whoa, language.

        As you can imagine, it's a different perspective when it involves someone you care about.

        > From what you're describing, it isn't google's fault the information was out there.

        No, it isn't. I don't think I said that. What I did say is that I believe the regulation concerned, imperfect as it may be, has greatly affected the outcome in a positive manner. Remember the way Google handled that Spanish guy's request which was at the origin of all this? That wouldn't be possible today, and that is a good thing. Note btw, that Google were not informed of the particulars of the case--it was only pointed out to them that personal information had been released without consent.

        > Beyond that I'm not sure why you're so angry at everyone commenting above.

        Because it bothers me when people feel they have to have an opinion on everything, regardless of their knowledge or stakes in the matter, or absence thereof. It particularly bothers me when that vice could have a negative effect on those who are concerned.

        > It doesn't sound like most of the commenters would be against the situation you're describing being rectified.

        I don't believe I have addressed "most" commenters, but merely "some" commenters. Whether they be in favour (as one hopes) or against, the problem is that being careless with one's "opinions" may cause prejudice to other people, whether intentionally or not (see above).

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