back to article 'Right to be forgotten' applies WORLDWIDE, thunders Parisian court

France’s data protection watchdog has ordered Google to de-link outdated and irrelevant information from its Google.com domain within two weeks or face a fine, as the “right to be forgotten” issue once again comes to the fore. Just over a year ago the European Court of Justice ruled that the search giant must remove links to a …

  1. Steve Gill

    Surely a large number of users in Europe use google.com so restricting the de-links to just the European flavours was pretty dumb in the first place.

    1. Velv
      Boffin

      Unless you specifically request not to be redirected (/ncr (no country redirect)) then googles default behaviour is to work out which country you are in and direct you to the local service.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Unless you specifically request

        There is absolutely nothing in a domain name that intrinsically links it to any given geographical area, so what domain name is displayed on your address bar when using Gurgle or similar is completely irrelevant.

        To give an example, google.at links to 216.58.209.227 which is assigned to a host in (ahem) Mountain View, California, USA. On the other hand, a connection to google.com may well end up being served by a European data centre.

        The whole "domain name" excuse is the sorriest straw man I've ever seen and is an insult to the courts and all others involved.

  2. Tromos
    Joke

    I support this 100%

    France has the right to be forgotten - and the sooner, the better.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Is this the same France

    that recently pushed for new legislation to allow its security services to slurp data wholesale?

    Just asking...

  4. banalyzer

    apart from the normal

    Since the US seems to think their laws apply worldwide, apart from the arguments that normally go with that erroneous assumption, why shouldn't the French/EU?

    If there was something about me that was linked internationally I would probably be ticked off since I am a supposed 'private citizen' but I think public officials should require a higher bar before something like this should be allowed.

    Google is wrong here by not making that distinction between public and private individuals, and thus are violating the 'don't be evil' mantra.

    Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: apart from the normal

      Since the US seems to think their laws apply worldwide, apart from the arguments that normally go with that erroneous assumption, why shouldn't the French/EU?

      Bingo.

      1. Indolent Wretch

        Re: apart from the normal

        By Jove He Is Right!!

        We should move to a system where every countries laws have to be respected in every country!

        What could possibly go wrong

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: apart from the normal

      "If there was something about me that was linked internationally I would probably be ticked off since I am a supposed 'private citizen' but I think public officials should require a higher bar before something like this should be allowed."

      But private citizens don't always remain non-public citizens. The first step for anyone in the UK who is thinking of running for local or national elections is to first purge Google of all links to 'issues' they've had in the past.Whitewashing their history clean.

      Now a drunken tweet might be one thing but there Private Eye regularly runs articles about councillors, mayors and MPs with a 'forgotten history', some of which would be damning to their election bid. It starts with a Google clean up, then threats of legal action against anyone who repeats those claims.

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: apart from the normal

      > If there was something about me that was linked internationally I would probably be ticked off since I am

      So if you ran a business and a Chinese court ordered something about your company to be de-listed globally would you be happy to accept that? Or perhaps some hard line XYZ country that believes what you say is morally reprehensible according to their deeply held doctrine, do you believe they should be able to have you de-listed?

      I bet you don't.

      If the French court doesn't want their citizens to see this data they should force French ISPs to block access to google.com, then see how long they remain having that legal facility.

  5. an it guy

    rewriting history

    I have an issue with removing accurate and lawful information. Inaccurate information can be defamatory/libel (whichever the correct one is).

    Yes, people have a right to a private life, but if the information in the public domain is not defamatory, then having it in the public domain can be a good thing for future historians. We as humans have a tendency to forget, but if we always 'forgot' something 'conveniently', then we might allow people to 'forget' certain acts of history that need to be remembered. It's a potentially slippery slope.

    And, yes, I know the argument about 'nothing to hide' I'm not talking about that. I'm being very specific about something that got into a newspaper for a (hopefully) good, accurate and correct reason - gossip magazines don't count here (usually)

    1. theModge

      Re: rewriting history

      I tend to agreed, but the issue is then moved: who's court gets to decide something is libellous? Different people have very different standards for this and no one will of course agree to use anyone else's....

      1. Velv
        Boffin

        Re: rewriting history

        The clue is in the question...

        " who's court gets to decide something is libellous? "

        A court. In a country. For that country. Now I get that not all courts around the world are equal, but given its 800 years of the Magna Carta today, it's vitally important to point out that in most civilised jurisdictions it is the people who make the decision based on the evidence presented, and nobody is above the determination of that court. It's not perfect, but it is generally fair.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: rewriting history

        Just like in the rest of the press, the country where the something is published. And if something is libellous, it should be taken down, not just removed from google search. The whole '"right to be forgotten" is ridiculous if it just means "right to be removed from google search"

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: rewriting history

      I think in most cases the issue is not that you could search for a person's past events using specific knowledge, but that Google would return all sorts of older stuff with just a person's name.

      Surly a technical company such as Google could implement a filter that only returns recent (say past 12 months results) when the search is a person's name, but only recovers such issues if you really go digging deeper with specific searches and date ranges (like you once had to do before t'Internet came along)?

  6. Christoph

    If you don't like the information, sue to have the information removed. It will then automatically vanish from all search engines.

    Leaving the information up but suing the search engines for linking to it is a ridiculous kludge.

    If you cannot sue to have the information removed, then yes you have a problem. But it is your problem. Why should it be Google's?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Christoph, you do realise that Google has deeper pockets than the local paper therefore suing Google is more profitable if you win.

      This doesn't make it right but that is the way a lot of people think today.

    2. Captain DaFt

      "If you don't like the information, sue to have the information removed. It will then automatically vanish from all search engines."

      Better yet, use the information as lyrics to a crappy song, sell it to Sony Music, and their lawyers will ensure no one will ever hear of it again.

  7. bencurthoys

    I know it's not going to happen, but I'd love it if Google's response was to block all of France from all of its services based on geolocation of IP address, and wait to see who blinked first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And lose a 60million+ population advert target potential? Google can afford to, say, unlist newspapers, but it cannot afford to block the source of the product it sells (the people doing the searching).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sure they can afford it

        I'm sure France would miss Google more than Google would miss those 60 million people to advertise to, and come around to a more realistic viewpoint on this quite quickly due to public pressure.

        Let's see what happens when browsing to google.com (or .fr) in France displays a message "Due to your government's unreasonable demands, Google no longer does business in your country."

        If France is able to effect global changes in Google's offerings, where does it stop? Does China start asking them to remove links to stories that criticize party officials even in the US? What if the US had a creationist president and he forced Google to remove links to sites teaching evolution, world-wide? Next maybe India could force Apple to sell iPhones for less, and Brazil could stop ESPN from talking about World Cup 'soccer'!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "And lose a 60million+ population advert target potential? "

        Google walked out of China - and you can guarantee that french consumers _AND_ businesses would be screaming blue murder in less than a week.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        And lose a 60million+ population advert target potential? Google can afford to, say, unlist newspapers, but it cannot afford to block the source of the product it sells (the people doing the searching).

        What's 60 million out of somewhere around a billion world-wide. Now see how close that is to a rounding error in terms of revenue from advertising. It will be awfully small.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear France,

    Due to your stunning ability to march backwards at times of war, the empire you once had is long gone and there are now much bigger fish in the pond. Just relax and enjoy retirement.

  9. Indolent Wretch

    Since any of googles worldwide domains can be accessed by people in France, in essence the French court is saying it believes it has the right to censor anybody, anywhere regardless of it's jurisdiction.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      I kind of agree here (and to various similar comments above) but the global nature of the Internet means that you either have to hear this case in one court and apply it globally or else it has to be heard in every jurisdiction which is just not practical.

      Perhaps a reasonable approach would be to require the person wanting the de-linking/de-listing to apply in their 'normal country of residence'. Obviously no system is perfect and they can all be abused but this would be a good start point.

      1. Velv
        Holmes

        No no no no no no.

        You only have to remove the SOURCE information (each instance of which will be in one country) and ALL the search engines will instantly comply (since the source has gone and the link is broken).

        Had the Spaniard removed the mortgage default notice from the newspaper website then all of Google in all countries would no longer return the article (and the same for every other search engine).

        If we believe people should have a right to have outdated information removed then it is that outdated information that should be removed, not some fudging of a search result. Or are we suggesting that just by throwing a cloak of invisibility over it the elephant is no longer in the fucking room?

        1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Sorry, Velv, you misunderstand what the right is (maybe you are not an EU resident?).

          There is no right to have (true) information removed (or forgotten). There is only a right to have out-of-date information not included in reports (dossiers, credit checks, employment histories, etc) on you. The court has decided that searching for a person's name in Google is the same as going to a research agency and requesting a dossier on someone (I can certainly see the similarity). So, they both have to remove the out-of-date information from the report they give the user.

          When Google handles a right-to-remove request, it does not stop indexing the page: it stops including that page in results returned on a search of the name. The page can still be returned on other searches.

          Having a right to REMOVE information from the internet would be much more serious than just having the right to have it dropped from searches against your name.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Worldwide?

      Can you please point out where it says that? I can't find it stated anywhere that Google would be breaking EU law if they collected data about a EU citizen from a US web site and served that data in response to a search query coming from an IP address in Canada, say.

      However, what Google are doing at the moment is collecting data about an EU citizen from a web site in the EU and then serving that data (from a server located in the EU) in response to a search query coming from an IP address in the EU. There's nothing in that scenario to suggest that EU law shouldn't apply, and Google's "argument" that "we're using a domain name that ends in .com" is clearly bollocks, particularly since Google already serve different responses depending on the geographical location of the originating IP.

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    Consequences

    Presumably, within two weeks, Google will no longer be available to people within the European Community, so that it will no longer be under the jurisdiction of French courts - as, of course, a private business would be that is doing business in France.

    Hopefully, people in the UK can find other useful search engines to help them use the Internet.

  11. Steven Jones

    Another extension?

    So does this Parisian court ruling go beyond even filtering google.com results by originating IP address? (Which, I realise they don't do at the moment, but presumably could be done). Whilst I can (just about) see how a Parisian court might be considered to have juridstiction over what is seen in France, I can't see how it can extend to the World at large. Indeed, I would have thought there is a good case it would run slap bang into a conflict with US constitutional law with regard to freedom of expression.

    Of course, even if a watered down filtering by origin address location was implemented it's easily enough bypassed by use of proxies and VPNs. All that's happening is it makes like a bit more difficult.

    It strikes me that Google could make life more difficult for the French if they just decided to remove their services from the country. If they have no legal presence, then there's nothing to fine. It would mean forgoing income, but at some point the cost of doing business outweighs the benefits, especially if it has knock-on consequences.

    Not even China has sought to enforce what Google do in the US. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Another extension?

      France has no rights to make laws that affect other countries (Other than France) or the business that an American company has in those countries. The common method of using TLD's to differentiate between countries is the only realistic way to remove results based on a particular countries legal system. Failure to recognize that is the ultimate in legal arrogance and borders on ignorance.

      Google should just make France disappear from any and all searches for any reason.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Another extension?

      Google removing their services from France or the EU - who cares when there are other search engines, which bye the bye might do better witout the google monopoly

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the only realistic way to remove results based on a particular countries legal system"

    If you type "high street" into Google you'll find Google doesn't just know which country you're in; it knows which town you're in. So you're talking bullshit. (And you can't use apostrophes.)

    1. Steven Jones

      Re: "the only realistic way to remove results based on a particular countries legal system"

      It's fairly easy to bypass that too. To avoid this it would be necessary for Google to enforce the use of an authentication system before using its search engine. It's all a matter of how many hoops that somebody has to jump through.

  13. Andrew Jones 2

    Far too many questions.....

    I'm not sure even the rather drastic action of simply ceasing operations in France would make any difference, after all the information is already not available (without additional effort) to people in France - simply removing Google from France would still mean the information is available outside of France - which is what France is arguing. However I have to take the attitude of others on this matter - that removing linking to the information is absurd - the information itself is what should be removed. For example - take this example -

    What if someone Tweets about someone (say Ryan Giggs) doing something bad, that tweet is successfully removed from search engines worldwide. Now 5 years in the future - someone comes across the tweet on a social network - say maybe via something like Timehop. Someone posts about it on a blog which is indexed by search engines, and that information becomes public again.

    Who gets sued? Does Google get sued for infringing? It's not the same information that was originally deindexed - though it is about the same information. Does the owner of the blog get sued for posting about information that is now considered taboo? Does Twitter get sued for not deleting the tweet - even though they were never asked to? Does the social network get sued for not deleting the original post which links to the information that has been delisted? Does Timehop get sued for pointing to a post that points to information that has been delisted?

    How does a normal member of the public know what they are no longer allowed to post about? Maybe we need a database of all URLS that have been successfully removed from global search engines - and for handy convenience maybe the search engines could index it - so we could easily find out if something we want to post about - has been subject to deindexing.......

    Does the right to be forgotten law carry any legal action for the person(s) who originally published the information? eg - is there anything legally preventing someone (bearing in mind the law doesn't require the person(s) to be informed about the request) from reposting an article that has been delisted again with a new URL? If not - is there anything stopping someone from re-publishing that information over and over and over again everytime they notice the latest copy has been delisted?

    A lot of these questions are answerable by simply removing the original source - though the last points still stand. The only things by law you are (currently) forbidden from posting online or offline - are things which are proven to be libellous - regardless of how much damage - financial or otherwise the posting of that information causes -- unless an injunction, super injunction, massively overreaching hyper injunction or equivalent is involved - though I don't believe ANY of these are currently global, and only apply in the country and/or specific region in which they occur?

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Far too many questions.....

      I think you misunderstand the law. There is no restriction in posting (true) information. However widely you want. In your example, you could take out full page ads in all the world's newspapers reporting on this act, as often as you like, before or after it is removed from Google. The right is only to not have the information appear if I ask for a dossier on Ryan Giggs, not to restrict publication of the information.

      The court has held that a search engine search for a person's name is equivalent to asking for a dossier, report, background check, credit check, etc on that person. All those have to remove this piece of information. However widely it is reported or known -- even if the person is so famous that everyone knows the story (Washington chopping down a cherry tree) -- it cannot be included in a dossier on the person.

      You ask: how does anyone know what to delete? In principle it is out-of-date and no longer relevant information (and some other special categories like spent convictions). In some cases courts end up making that decision.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Re: Far too many questions.....

        How does a search site know, via algorithm since no humans could begin to keep up, which Ryan Giggs any link points to, or is that combination of identifiers to be banned from use forever on? Do we now need GUID's (Globally Unique IDentifiers) so we can keep track of the banned people with the same name as opposed to permitted people? Hell, even equipped with a literal army of people, I can't see this working and people are known for error, error, error.

        I'm trying to wrap my head around this in engineering and I'm coming up with a bunch of fail.

        A final thought: Google is people over here in the US. Should I run a search engine as does Google and you tried to restrain my lawfully protected speech, well I hope you won't mind seeing some French assets ending up in my pocket. [Reminder, any French assets are game in US courts especially as the Government of France occasionally does things in dollars, somewhere.] As for the litigation, I can think of a bunch of firms that would be willing to try this on contingency, not just principle. [I'm well aware of the hypocrisy but I hate my government too.]

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