back to article Google helps Brit crims polish their image – but what about the innocent

Google appears to be "complying" with the so-called European "right to be forgotten" ruling in a way which has helped convicted criminals to give their reputations an unexpected boost. We know this from media organisations which have helpfully listed the stories Google won’t return in its search results. The Telegraph does so …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    Why not burn books and newspaper archives as well ? If it's incorrect, illegal or defamatory all well and good but this stupid ruling gives carte blanche to erase history, I can think of quite a few sex case public figures that would like to be forgotten.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge


      Why not burn books and newspaper archives as well ? If it's incorrect, illegal or defamatory all well and good but this stupid ruling gives carte blanche to erase history


      Comparing printed records with Internet websites is like comparing apples with oranges. In a couple of seconds you can type the name of a co-worker, neighbour or job applicant into Google out of idle curiosity and instantly search millions of articles, potentially turning up all sorts of trivia, rumour and scuttlebutt about that person - who in any case may well have completely different views on life to the stuff reported 20 years ago. You would only go to a library or records office to search through paper records if you had a very strong need to find out about the person - and then you would be looking only for specific aspects.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down

      "this stupid ruling"

      The point is that Google are behaving like a stroppy teenager, using passive-aggressive behaviour to try to subvert what they're *supposed* to be doing and claiming "it's *SO UNFAIR* I'm doing exactly what you *told* me to do!"

      Of course, as the article says, they're really doing this deliberately simply to try to "turn the public against European privacy law" by abusing the letter of the law to combat the spirit of it.

      Don't be evil? Yeah, right...

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: "this stupid ruling"

        "Of course, as the article says, they're really doing this deliberately simply to try to "turn the public against European privacy law" by abusing the letter of the law to combat the spirit of it."
        The law is purely subjective, using unconfirmable data, and has no appeals process against being silently redacted by a capitalist authority.

        And you think this *doesn't* need to be pushed back against, that to do so is evil? :) Even the evil capitalist authority thinks this is wrong! :)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not burn books and newspaper archives as well ?

      Because this isn't about removing original source information. This is about shutting up that annoying self-righteous git who constantly goes around telling all your new friends and prospective employers about that embarrassing thing you did when you were 17.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps parents should teach their children to think. I know that mine tried.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps parents should teach their children to think. I know that mine tried.

      But the point about children is that they they make mistakes. Our job as parents is to find ways in which they can make those mistakes safely, and online isn't one of them thanks to predators such as Facebook and Google who live off controversy (after all, that means more ad exposure).

  3. KingStephen

    I don't think your article tells the whole story here, and omits probably the most important point.

    Let's assume there is a newspaper article about serial rapist John X, and the article also references victim Jane Y. It seems reasonable that Jane might at some point ask Google to delist that article in searches about her, and reasonable that they might comply. This will have no impact on searches about the offender.

    However, the newspaper, afaik, just gets told "this article is now delisted" and of course gets all outraged about it, and publishes its "rapists being protected by Google" article, which then gets picked up and repeated across other media outlets.

    The law is doing what it's meant to do, but the media don't like it, and so the readers of El Reg and elsewhere get misled, just as they do by Jimmy Wales.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rape victims not a great example

      Your general point about victims of crime is valid - but in the UK rape victims are guaranteed anonynimity

      1. KingStephen

        Re: Rape victims not a great example

        True Drew. However, the point I was trying to make, clumsily I admit, is that without knowing which search any article is delisted from, you can't make a judgment about the validity of otherwise of the delisting. Your article and other similar ones never seem to mention this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rape victims not a great example

          It also deserves consideration that names and locations are not unique identifiers for individuals.

          How would you feel if someone with the same name as you, from the same town as you, committed a serious crime. Searches for your name may well then bring that up as the first result. But I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem, because everyone would simply ask you about it directly, believe your denial, and not jump to any conclusions, right?

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Rape victims not a great example


        Those accused of rape aren't though. Someone has a false allegation made against them, ends up in the papers and forever has their name tarnished.

        Though, to be fair, I don't believe the right to be forgotten is the way to fix this. For crimes that have a strong knee-kerk emotive link to them, the accused needs to be guaranteed anonynimity too (until the point of conviction).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rape victims not a great example

          For crimes that have a strong knee-kerk emotive link to them, the accused needs to be guaranteed anonynimity too (until the point of conviction)

          Tell that to the newspapers. Conviction by media is a tried and trusted route to totally f*ck over someone's life - that's the whole point of cranking up the emotive aspect. It sells so many newspapers that paying the unfortunate victim later is not really a worry either.

        2. David 164

          Re: Rape victims not a great example

          One of the problems with that is, it can often be other people coming forward with accusations that allows the police to build up enough evidence to get a conviction in the first place.

        3. Tom 13

          Re: For crimes that have a strong knee-kerk emotive link to them

          Difficult to say. There are sever problems on both sides of those types of crimes. The two obvious US cases which illustrate both sides are:

          Childcare center out near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Attorney General made a made for himself convicting the owners of a childcare company of pedophilia charges against kids under 10. When one of the kids was finally old enough to actually understand the case, he told the new AG the testimony was coached and he/she had never been sexually assaulted. On further investigation all the other "victims" confirmed the testimony was coached.

          Jerry Sandusky pedophilia case. Sandusky was able to continue to abuse teenage boys for 14 years beyond the first police reports. First reported case was in 1998, police investigated but because of his standing in the community and some fast footwork, no charges were filed. The next set of allegations occurred in 2002, but this was investigated only by the Penn State University and no real action was taken. Charges were finally filed on Nov 5, 2011; 40 counts with 7 victims identified.

          There's a lot of damage done in both cases. Public scrutiny seems to be required. The problem is that it needs to be scrutiny of a judicial temperament until the verdict is rendered. Only then can the parental temperament kick in.

      3. David 164

        Re: Rape victims not a great example

        But names slip out all the time for one. An it only rape victims that get their name protected.

        Here a scenario,

        one person get a accused of raping a women, they get found innocent by the courts but another person at the same trial get found guilty, the first person who got accused and found innocent, their name will still be mention in articles about the case and is often brought up in job interviews or down the pub. Now they themselves decides they have had enough and so ask for the articles to be removed from Google.

        The person who is found innocent deserves to be able to get along with their lives but the person found guilty deserve have their name in the media, so how is Google meant to react. If I was reviewing the case I would have a lot of sympathy with the bloke that is found innocent and decide to remove the article. Unfortunately the side effect of this decision could easily be the actual rapist name also being removed from the Google index.


        Right to be forgotten is a lot more complex to implement than it supporters would like to make out, especially when it comes to criminal cases. Often articles and news sites like to cover the whole history of criminal cases, so police suspects are often mention in article long after they became irrelevant to the cases as well. Again do they deserve to be forever tainted with the case?. These are the questions the supporters of this decision have to answer and justify.

      4. Tom 13

        Re: Rape victims not a great example

        As you Brits are so fond of pointing out when the shoe is on the other foot: UK =/= EU | World.

        In the US, the nominal guarantee of anonymity is under 18. If you're a 19 YO rape victim, you're legally fair game for reporting.

  4. John Lilburne

    carte blanche to erase history

    Someone is very full of themselves today. A teenager caught on camera giving a BJ is only history to the saddest of the sad. Someone's credit history from 20 years ago is not history. Neither is some teenagers arrest for petty theft.

    Enough of this Talibanesque witchhunting and Puritan curtain twitching.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: carte blanche to erase history

      I think you were downvoted because you made a new post, rather than a reply, therefore making it look like your comment was directed to Andrews article, and not the earlier commentard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: carte blanche to erase history

      @ John L.

      Glad you brought up the Taliban as they like to erase history along with ISIS.

      The interference of history and free speech are the first steps to a totalitarian state.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: carte blanche to erase history

        "The interference of history and free speech are the first steps to a totalitarian state."

        The final stage is to collect and disseminate dossiers on ordinary people.

    3. David 164

      Re: carte blanche to erase history

      Society and people expectations are still adapting to having all of this information available with a few press of a keyboard.

      I very much more doubt someone in their twenties really cares about some photos that the person that they are interviewing took in Ibiza or down at the local, I know someone who 29 interview employees for a major bank T department yes he could find out a tonne of details about the people who he interviews by searching the web but he doesn't because he accepts that this information little to no effect on them being able to do the job, whilst he knows some of his older colleagues who are in their 40s do have their puritan views and will refuse to employ someone who has a few dodgy pics on some profile page they probably can't even remember setting up or happen to have been arrested for some crime in their teens.

      It often older generations that have these prejudices and well frankly we probably have to wait for the old dogs to retire or die to get rid of them.

  5. Dan Paul

    If you commit a crime....

    particularly a violent or sexual one, then you deserve to be made to live with that fact for the rest of your life. Anyone with a valid reason who asks about your background should be able to know it unless there was a "sealed record" because of juvenile status. If you are a public figure convicted of corruption or tax fraud, everyone should be able to find that out.

    This "Right to be forgotten" is just more P.C. Revisionist bullcrap foisted only on Google because they are US based and you all know it.

    There are quite a few OTHER SEARCH ENGINES and NEWS SOURCES that don't have to comply.

    That's a shining example of how equitable these Eurocrats are.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: If you commit a crime....

      *citation needed.

      Could you which other search engine or news source has been declared exempt from the law in Europe please? Over here everybody has to comply with the law.

      (Unless you've provided a big enough bribe free all expenses paid fact finding tour (of a sunny beach) to the right politicians, but I hear that sort of bribary lobbying is common practice in the US as well)

      1. David 164

        Re: If you commit a crime....

        Only companies which operates and have a legal presence in the EU.

        There are a few Chinese an at least one Russia search engines that index the whole web, they have no operational presence in the EU and no business interests in the EU and thus don't need to comply with EU judges decisions and EU governments have no powers to force them to comply with EU.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: If you commit a crime....

      If you read the article, those examples you make in your first paragraph are HOW GOOGLE ARE MEANT TO BE ACTING already.

      Seeing as the whole point of the article is that Google are being accused of the things you have issue with, may I humbly suggest that you redirect your froth-mouthed xehophobic rant to your own back yard?


    3. nsld

      Re: If you commit a crime....

      any business carrying out its activities within the EU has to comply, no one compiling or holding this kind of data is exempt.

      Google could of course just operate in the US out of its .com website but the loss of all that lovely revenue they generate in Ireland is billions compared to the cost of delivering this relatively small administrative service.

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Google might or might not be making a point

    But, if they won't discuss, either in general terms or specific instances, we have no way of knowing. In the cases presented in the article, there might be valid reasons for the takedown request and not necessarily the perps. It's a pity that they are not a bit more open on this. Currently, it looks like just more game playing from Google.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google might or might not be making a point

      Google might or might not be making a point

      But, if they won't discuss, either in general terms or specific instances, we have no way of knowing

      Actually, we do. Just look at what is "forgotten" and what isn't, after all, if we are profiled by statistics it strikes me as only fair to return the favour. It is not exactly hard to spot a pattern. Don't forget, they're relatively arrogant in how they behave (I just can't get over just how closely they follow Microsoft's playbook) so they have patience nor talent for subtlety.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: it looks like just more game playing from Google.

      Nope. What we have here is a failure to appreciate cultural differences. In the US, you don't take a chance on a lawsuit. Even if you win, it costs too damn much in lawyers fees. Which is why your court ruling is so absurd. There's no way to avoid the risk of being sued. If you don't wipe the record, the perp sues. If you do wipe the record, the source sues. Either way you damn Europeans are going to sue Google just because you don't like how successful they've been.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    IMHO, related to "corrections" being totally buried

    This is kind of related to the fact that lurid stories are always front-page above-the-fold, but any subsequent corrections or retractions are usually buried on the bottom of page 12A under the supermarket weekly ads.

  8. jr424242

    Google has a right to forget, no?

    If they are pleased to take down links that they are asked to, why complain? They are not a public record keeping entity.

    (A possible objection is that they are a monopoly. However, that would only apply to taking down links to harm competition, not here.)

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. ratfox

    From what I understand, Google received hundreds of thousands of such requests. And they were requested by the legal system to answer them, without just floating them on the regulators. And now the complaint is that among all these cases, there were some that were answered poorly?

    I'm personally grateful that Google informs websites of removals (despite the complaints of some regulators). This at least ensures that the worst mistakes can be set right, and that results are really only forgotten if nobody cares about them.

    1. David 164

      That presume the media will keep us inform about removals and keep fighting mistakes. With many media companies struggling financially their little incentive for them to spend money on fighting Google decisions.

  11. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

    It's about use of the data, not its storage

    TFA said:

    > However, someone who has committed no major crime - or merely done something embarrassing - should usually be allowed to have it forgotten at some point rather than having the incident follow them around on the internet forever.

    This, I think, is the nub on which nobody has put a definitive finger. The BBC, and other news organisations, including El Reg, collect personally-identifiable information as part of news stories. They process that data, store it, and reproduce it on request, which is just how the WWW is supposed to work. Some of that information will be more or less embarrassing to the data subject, but the news organisation has a continuing need to process it. 'The "Right to be Forgotten" only applies where personal data storage is no longer necessary or is irrelevant for the original purposes of the processing for which the data [were] collected.' [1]

    Where it goes wrong is when another party, say a prospective employer, or an insurance company, retrieves the data and misuses it. Then, that other party is at fault - not the news organisation. At that point the data are being processed *by the other party*, and that must be done in compliance with the Data Protection Act. If the data are irrelevant for the purposes of deciding a work appointment, or issuing an insurance policy, then they cannot be used by the employer or the insurer for that purpose.

    I will admit that preventing the misuse of retrieved news is harder than suppressing the news, but I'm in favour of the former, and firmly against the latter.

    [1] Factsheet on the "Right to be Forgotten" ruling (C-131/12) [PDF]

  12. David 164

    """If Google wasn't sure, then it could simply refuse a request and thus bounce difficult requests to the relevant national data commissioner, who would decide."""

    The problem with that was always going to be about cost and Google sent thousands of cases commissioners all across Europe, costs would quickly mount, google having to send lawyers to these cases costs of assembling their cases, writing up documents, potentially flying out witnesses even having to cover the claimant costs. Plus if discussions came out against Google it could leave google open to be sued for continue reputational damage, most costs.

    An that one of the unintended side effects of the law that the stupid judges in Europe didn't think about, criminal cases often involve multiple people thus multiple people will often be mention in the article and would have their privacy violated, thus they have the right to remove the article, not just the criminal in the article. Stupid decision by a bunch of overzealous judges in Europe, it no wonder a large percentage of Brits want to leave Europe.

    If people don't like the way Google is dealing with then they should campaign for the government to take on the costs of dealing with all the cases an the people who want that can pay extra taxes to pay for it.

  13. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Shock Discovery!

    Balance process, which only has appeal/retry process for one side, biased to that side!

    Judgment process, performed by non-judicial entity, with subjective rules, with no access to legislative data-discovery/claim-verification, not as good as the professional judical entity who doesn't want to do this either.

    There is literally no way this can work well. Google or not. It's ****ed by design.

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