back to article Google: Class search results as journalism so we can dodge Right To Be Forgotten

Google is claiming that journalistic exemptions from data protection laws should apply to its search results, in the first ever trial of the so-called Right To Be Forgotten in the High Court of England and Wales. A man who we are only permitted to name as NT1* is suing Google under the Data Protection Act for misuse of private …

  1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Two words...

    Streisland effect......

    1. Alister

      Re: Two words...

      well, 50% right, anyway...

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      More than two words.

      "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.” - George Orwell (From 1984) EU Court of Justice

    3. Oh Homer

      Four pints of Guinness...

      ...and I'll forget anything you want, Ger... um, I mean "NT1".

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Four pints of Guinness...

        @Oh Homer

        ...and I'll forget anything you want,

        I thought the slogan was "Guinness is good for you"?

        Then again, may be too much of it has caused memory loss

  2. }{amis}{

    Fahrenheit 451

    This makes me sad, the only people who will benefit from the case are a corporate crook and a bunch of layers what has happened to justice in the UK???

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Fahrenheit 451

      We don't know what's happened to justice yet. You've condemned it before the court has even decided what justice will be.

      Notice the bloke in question hasn't been able to erase his past. The newspapers were allowed to maintain their archives (and thus the integrity of the historical record) because they're not regarded as actively continuing to publish them. They don't have to delete past articles to satisfy spent convictions. It's just they're not allowed to put them on the front page of tomorrow's issue.

      The point in question is whether Google is allowed to. Since every time you do a search on someone, you get all their linked info, however old or out of date.

      The reporting restriction seems fair enough. Otherwise Google can just make the case completely pointless by bringing up all the past stuff into the current news. At which point, why do we bother having a system of rehabilitation and spent convictions? Why not just tatoo the information on peoples' foreheads as they're convicted?

      There is no definitive right answer here. But one of the real problems is, as usual, fucking Google. Yet again they want to be just a pipe when it comes to publishing fake news, but they want to be journalists when it comes to selling adverts against out of date search results that specifically break the provisions of laws society has created in order to allow criminals a second chance. Google, take some fucking responsibility for your actions!

      Rant over.

      1. hellwig

        Re: Fahrenheit 451 (Google, take some fucking responsibility for your actions!)

        Maybe Google should submit a request to be forgotten so we can't keep bringing this up and making them look bad. It doesn't seem fair afterall.

      2. fuzzie

        Re: Fahrenheit 451

        I'd also argue that since they have a de facto monopoly on search, they should be required to pay extra diligence in their search, since customers really don't have other search providers against which they could cross-check results. Consequently, inaccurate or stale data may have a disproportionate impact when taken at face value.

        1. KnobblyTwiglet

          Re: Fahrenheit 451

          Like them or not, there are plenty of other search engines and they do a decent job, the fact google appears to be the most useful and therefore the most widely used does not give it a monopoly. I don't see why Google alone should be limited, people seem to forget it's a business not a public service, if there are restrictions to be applied they should be applied to ALL the search providers.

      3. Frank Bitterlich

        Re: Fahrenheit 451

        At which point, why do we bother having a system of rehabilitation and spent convictions?

        That is precisely the point. "Rehabilitation" –– all good and fine. You shouldn't be discriminated against for things that have long expired. But this is about that insane idea of a "right to be forgotten". You cannot force anybody to "forget" anything. But you can force media, search engines, and other publishers to censor information that is correct and true.

        Google (the search engine part, which this is all about) has one job: To give us an overview about the information that is available about a certain topic. I can't grasp how anybody can think it's a good idea to suppress this information.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fahrenheit 451

      We all did silly things when we were young and naive...

      My parents used to fostered hundreds of troublesome teens (note, not your usual family breakdown issues, but hardcore thieves and druggies), some went to a life in the slammer, some live on benefits.. but most went on to successful careers and families. Just because they did something stupid in their past, does not mean they should not be eternally marked with the same brush.

      Likewise, some of those older articles are just plain spiteful - I still recall a family friend being accused of something, got arrested and their named was dragged through the mud by local press on the front page - When it eventually got to court, they were cleared of all charges, after pressure the papers printed a retraction - on something like page 20.

      Whilst I'd protect freedom of the press.. I think there also needs to be a Statute of limitations of articles.

      1. Lysenko

        We all did silly things when we were young and naive...

        ...yes. Like joining FaceBook.

      2. hellwig

        Re: Fahrenheit 451 (My parents used to fostered hundreds of troublesome teens )

        That's why many nations have laws about expunging criminal records of youth (and maintaining their anonymity during court proceedings).

        Is a 40-something businessman really naive and should his past transgressions really be forgotten? Just because he served his jail time doesn't mean he's "Fixed". That's a false concept of the criminal justice system. If these people aren't getting better, why are we jailing them or releasing them? The government can't (or won't) answer that so we just ignore the fact that many criminals repeat and pathological urges cannot be cured by small stints in jail.

        What you refer to (being dragged through the mud) is not journalism, and we really should fight that problem. Too much sensationalism and not enough fact reporting. Isn't it weird that if the problem is a fame-seeking journalists, Google is the one who has to purge the internet of those records? We're hiding the facts because isolated individuals decided to be asshats with those facts.

        People deserve the right to know. Maybe you were caught up in some bad financial dealings 25 years ago, that's your fault. I think anyone willing to invest in a new venture with you deserves to know that, right? And is their only recourse to go to each newspaper and county clerk's office and do a manual search of the records?

        1. edge_e

          Re: Fahrenheit 451 (My parents used to fostered hundreds of troublesome teens )

          And is their only recourse to go to each newspaper and county clerk's office and do a manual search of the records?

          In the UK we have the 1974 rehabilitation of offenders act, it sets out for how long after a criminal conviction that you have to declare it for. For jobs/voluntary positions involving children there's another piece of legislation that allows for searches to be done against databases of convictions. If you have more than one conviction, they will always be shown, regardless of whether they're deemed spent under the 1974 act.

          Just because he served his jail time doesn't mean he's "Fixed". That's a false concept of the criminal justice system.

          Doesn't mean he isn't "fixed" either. There are a myriad of reason why people get caught up in crime, most of them aren't because the person has pathological urges.

          If Google gets its way, the 1974 act above becomes pointless and anyone named in a paper for a crime, regardless of the circumstances, will find themselves dropped at the paper sift for any job they apply for for the rest of their lives. Rehabilitation then becomes impossible and crime becomes the only option.

      3. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: Fahrenheit 451

        We all did silly things when we were young and naive...


        I think there also needs to be a Statute of limitations of articles.

        But only in some circumstances; perhaps some combination of:

        * Petty crime, eg stealing a car, getting into fights, using (not dealing) drugs, ...

        * Under a certain age. I would put this at acts done under 25, 5 years after the act was done. 25 might seem high but a magistrate friend of mine tell me that she saw the same youths time & again, then at 25 they asked for other things 'to be taken into account' - then she would not see them again. It appears to be an age at which many of us finally grow up.

        * Maybe acts done under 20 should drop out of sight after 2 years.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fahrenheit 451

        "We all did silly things when we were young and naive..."

        I'd wager from what's been stated here that given the sums of money involved, this is more than just something silly and what we have is a corporate criminal attempting to push the bounds of the law in order to resume activities.

        "Very high profile business venture"

        Loans to individuals and businesses

        False and sustained claims to be part of a trade association which wanted nothing to do with him.

        Criminal convictions for serious business malpractice

        Still operating in the same arena today.

        This isn't dodgy Sid, the reformed wideboy from your teenage years who's now a responsible member of society asking for his spree of car conversions to be forgotten now he's in his 50s.

        Recall that the original right to be forgotten case was over a personal bankruptcy (which isn't a criminal conviction in any case) and was an issue of personal honour.

        The reason this dork has managed to get a superinjunction on his name is because he's finding that unlike the past, where you could move areas and carry on your dodgy activities, these days if you have fraud convictions and you want to start dabbling in the same areas again, there IS a memory of such things - which makes it harder to attempt the same thing twice even if you change town or country - people will have been looking him up and the first thing that pops out is these old stories. Apparently he's never heard of "reputation mananagement companies" who do this kind of thing for a fat fee (and dubious legality) by burying the original story in noise.

        I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't take much digging from the clues given to find out who he is, what the finance company was and what he's trying to trade as now and in all liklihood anyone outside the EU already has access to this information.

        A sensible judge should rule that anyone convicted of serious high profile crimes should not expect anonymity after any given period. Ruling that he has anonymity would effectively allow HT1 to then go after _anyone_ who ran across his past, saw what he's doing now, then put 2+2 together and start sounding alarms.

  3. big_D Silver badge

    Show me...

    The journalists that write each search page result on Google's payroll and they might have a point.

    They are aggregating search results based on other people's blatherings. There is nothing journalistic about it. They are not public record, they are providing an index to public record, which is something totally different.

    If they want to be a search engine of relevance, they need to take on the responsibilities that go with it.

    If something is no longer legally relevant (i.e. the law says that it should no longer be pointed to), then Google should remove those index points (E.g. "Joe Bloggs" and "Joe Bloggs fraud arrest" no longer return results, because, for example, the crime has expired or been quashed (or he was released without charge), bu "fraud arrest" would still bring up the relevant article).

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Show me...

      I suspect, from the later paragraphs quoted from the argument, that Google's argument may be a little more subtle.

      I suspect they're trying to say that journalists use Google to do searches. Which is definitely true. So if some of their searches are done by journalists, then those searches should be free of restrictions as they're being done "for journalistic purposes". Hence they don't know which searches are done by journos, and which are done by ordinary Joe Public, then by extension, all Google searches should be considered to be for the purposes of journalism.

      It's cheeky (if I'm reading it right), but that's what you pay lawyers for after all...

      And easy answer would be to allow Google to have a non-EU rule approved mode, that journos could log into. Presumably just using the .com results without the right to be forgotten restrictions?

      But then can you trust Google won't "accidentally" reveal that password, so everyone can use it?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Show me...

        But on the other hand, even journos have to abide by the right to be forgotten, so if those results are genuinely things that should no longer be shown, when searching using a specific name, then journos shouldn't get them kicked up either...

        And, if they are researching a crime, for example, searching on the victim's or falsely arrested's name might not bring any results, but searching for the crime or for the actual perpetrators should still bring up those results.

        If, for example, you were arrested for piracy "Spartacus arrested for downloading 2,000 films" goes through the press, a week later, you are released without charge, because somebody hijacked your wi-fi and you could prove it, so you have results removed referring to Spartacus + piracy + films from Google. Should a journalist, or your employer/prospective employer still see those results for you being arrested, with the "released without charge" appearing on page 20, when searching for your name? And imagine if that was some grievous crime?

        I don't particularly like the right to be forgotten, but I can see why it can be a good thing in certain circumstances.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "with the "released without charge" appearing on page 20"

          That's an issue Google should address, because some information can't only be ranked by popularity.

          Google is built on assumptions that work well for the "commercial" or "entertainment" internet, but not for a "human" one.

          When looking for information about a specific person, results shouldn't be ranked as they are, because they could really be deceiving. More recent one, for example, should appear before older ones. Some information may be more prominent and/or important than others, and should float to top.

          But I'm afraid Google AI can't understand it.

        2. Donn Bly

          Re: Show me...

          In each of your examples, you contain the seeds that undermine your own arguments.

          If a journalist is doing a story on false convictions, shouldn't they be able to find example of it in a search engine so that they can then interview all those involved, including the ones falsely accused?

          If a journalist is doing a story on movie piracy, don't you think that the fact that someone was falsely accused and had their case thrown out of court may be relevant? If I was a lawyer in a similar case, I know that I would want to be able to do research on such cases -- so it isn't just limited to journalism.

          And YES, an employer SHOULD be able to see such information. As an employer I have been known to hire people who have been charged, sometimes even convicted, if I know about it ahead of time. If I find out after hiring then it can be a disaster if a client blindsides me with the information - I need to be able to say "yes, we are aware of the circumstances that led to the charge as well as aware that he was exonerated of the accusation"

          I don't like the government telling me what I can or can't say. It is censorship. Now, if my words violate some other law (ie, slander) then that is a different story - free speech does not mean that it is free of all consequences. As it sits right now, the "right to be forgotten" is being used to rewrite history and hide the public record.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Show me...

            @Donn Bly: Journalists would no doubt find it convenient to have access to all that directly from Google. It doesn't necessarily follow that there is any strong public interest in giving them that access.

            "Making journalists' jobs easier" is - well, a good thing as far as it goes, but in terms of overriding public priorities? Pretty low down the list.

            If you hire someone with a spent conviction, and a client blindsides you with the information, you can truthfully say "that conviction was spent, I am legally prohibited from considering it in my hiring decisions except in very specific circumstances that clearly don't apply here. You're not asking me to commit a crime, are you?"

            1. Donn Bly

              Re: Show me...

              And how could I possibly say that the conviction was spent if I never knew about it? And how about if they were never convicted, thus it isn't even a spent offense?

              No, all I can say if "nope, never heard about it" as they take their business elsewhere because I didn't do due diligence on my employees who have access to very sensitive client information. As an employer I may not use that information to make the hiring decision, but I *NEED* to know about nonetheless.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "journalists use Google to do searches"

        That's another issue that should be addressed - while I could understand journalist also use Google, I am very worried if journalists get used to use Google only for their searches, and rely on a lot of fake, wrong, inaccurate information. I'm already hate how much they rely on Twitter for "declaration", and on Facebook to publish victims photos and bios.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: "journalists use Google to do searches"


          Journalists doing profiles of people will check Google, but they'll also search their own news archives - which of course aren't redacted/corrected. But then journalists are supposed to be trained in things like sub judice and spent convictions.


          On your piracy point, I ain't Spartacus. I din't do nuffink copper!

          1. Mark 85

            Re: "journalists use Google to do searches"

            Journalists doing profiles of people will check Google, but they'll also search their own news archives - which of course aren't redacted/corrected. But then journalists are supposed to be trained in things like sub judice and spent convictions.

            This is it right there. In the print days, there were archives of articles and indexes for virtually every news paper. That function today has been taken by Google (but only for the web). If he wants to fight this, Google is the wrong target. He'd need to go to the individual news medias, IMO.

            Blaming Google is an easy fix but the sources of the original articles would still have the info and that won't be forgotten.

    2. Naselus

      Re: Show me...

      No, allow it. Class Google search results as journalism.

      And then allow everyone who has any false statement shown in a search result of their name to sue google for libel. Because, y'know, they'r performing journalism, and so their old excuse of being a neutral platform and not responsible for content can't apply.

      Seems an entirely fair trade-off to me.

  4. DavCrav

    If Google are journalists, then surely every fake website that they index is their responsibility? Every libel on every website indexed by Google is their responsibility? I would have thought asking to be treated as a news source is incredibly dangerous on their part.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      That's what I thought too. But of course they'll only argue that in this case, in others they're just a dumb pipe. Youtube didn't promote a slander against an innocent schoolkid last week who've just been the victim of a high school shooting - oh no sirree Bob!

      I'm really starting to hate Google now...

      1. TimR

        Welcome to the party - even if a little bit late...

        Only joking!

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


          Oh I've been suspicious of Google for ages. Used to get regularly downvoted on these pages for being less than enthusiastic about them 5 years ago, when the shine was still on. But they've also done some good and useful stuff. And they are a profit making company after all. So while I expect all companies to stick to the, frankly low bar of, "Don't be Evil" - I'm not all that concerned if they're sometimes a bit morally grubby. That's just life.

          The point is that Google allow their products to be used for stuff that's getting pretty close to being "evil". And then make pathetic, whiney excuses for why they they just can't do anything about it. The poor lambs.

          Well these poor lambs made $16.7 billion profit last year, on turnover of over $100bn. That argument cuts not ice. They're also not terribly forward when it comes to handing over cash to the taxman. Though a lot of that is perfectly legal, it would be nice if they were a bit less smug and a bit less willing to tap up government all the time to do stuff for them - and a bit less willing to tell us all how great they are.

          What they are is arrogant, smug, greedy, whiny and not as great as they think they are at anything other than selling advertising (still over 90% of their turnover and even more of their profits).

          They're starting to make 90s Microsoft and 80s IBM look attractive in comparison...

          1. Daggerchild Silver badge

            I get that you hate Google for algorithmic promotion showing bad stuff, but honestly what's the solution? Google quickly yanked it when it was told, but people are still not satisfied, so they can only want something pro-active, rather than reactive.

            There are only two paths : (1) forbid algorithmic operation in the information area entirely (i.e. not just Google) and cheer when you can no longer see what other people outside your jurisdiction can, or (2) arrange an army of people to control what everyone's allowed to see on the Internet, as decided by .. well, who would you trust?

            I think most people are demanding (2), and I don't understand why they think that's clever. I can imagine some entities that might benefit if Google are forced to create (2)'s engine however - you can't confiscate/commandeer something that doesn't exist..

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


              I've no problem with Google using algorithms for search. That's fine, it's automatic it mostly works. And then they should have a process to deal with problems caused by their search. They could have cooperated on a process with the EU, but instead decided to be "Kevin the teenager" and moan about it a lot and claim it isn't fair.

              I do have a problem when Google lie about what an algorithm is though. When they try and claim it's an automatic and magical process of computerised selection. When in fact it's just a recipe of choices made by Google on how the computer should prioritise. There were even times 5 or 10 years ago when Google were trying to claim that they couldn't manually intervene in how their search results came out. Pure bollocks of the highest order.

              So that's all great. However when Google have a trending or a news feature, which has an influence on the stuff people see, and is doing so by selecting winners - at that point, they've changed their business. At that point, they're a publisher. And being a publisher, means that they're responsible for what they publish. It's no longer acceptable to claim that they pulled it after only a few million people had seen it and there'd been complaints. They're no longer a dumb-pipe / aggregator / safe harbour. At that point, they're to blame. And they should be responsible for that.

              If algorithms/computers aren't up to that task (and of course we all know they aren't), then they need to employ human editors. And if they don't want to do that, then they should stop pretending to be a news organisation. And let those people who attempt to be responsible for what they publish do that job - and maybe stop trying to steal their revenue stream.

              This is Google's choice. Be a good little search engine that sells adverts to go with its searches and just be a boring but highly lucrative company. Or try to be exciting and relevant, and take responsibility for the content they generate. The same is true for Facebook. They become a publisher at the point they're choosing to insert "news" into people's pages to promote ads and stories, rather than just showing the cat videos and pictures of lunches posted by peoples' friends. And they should stand or fall by what they publish.

              1. Daggerchild Silver badge


                Re "Kevin the Teenager" - I don't believe the entire saga can be distilled into a single pure negative emotion. I think it was more complicated than that. For instance, I could have redacted any inconvenient fact I liked by quietly surrounding it in search terms with contradicting fakes, then repeatedly requesting the 'injurious & wrong' fact be removed until some overworked peon did so. Wikitruth.

                Re "Pure bollocks of the highest order", a computer algorithm is a collection of frozen human thoughts - you can argue they are "decided by a human", and not, at the same time. The crux is the algorithm can only operate on information a computer has: A human can spot a cat video. A computer can spot the RGB pixel values and MPEG deltas of a video. A human cannot spot how to spot a cat from RGB values and MPEG deltas of a video. Declaring they secretly can, doesn't make it true.

                Re "they're a publisher". They *still* didn't create the promoted story. An algorithm still chose what results were most relevant to that user, and put them in an order, which is also the description of Search. Shouldn't Search then to be human-moderated?

                Getting them declared a publisher doesn't make option (1) or (2) go away. But what use is a global 24/7 computer search engine where Humans have to make all the ultimate decisions for legal reasons? How would you customise that on a per-user basis?

                Ultimately, if you can sink Google with publisher-responsibility automated sueballs, and I get the impression you want to, you WILL sink EVERYONE else obeying the same laws too.

                In other words, you just forced the search engine space into the hands of only the people your laws can't touch. Are you sure you've thought this all the way through?

                Also, if you need humans to take responsibility for fake news in influential channels, on pain of pain, WTF is up with Fox News? I think I prefer the algorithm - less evil than humans.

  5. fobobob


    GFY, Google. The G stands for Google, so I guess it's redundant here.

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Crooks concealment law

    Is what the right to be forgotten law ought to be called.

    Lots of shady characters like the afore (un)mentioned just want to hide their old crimes - I'm with Google on this, its in the public interest to know of old business fraud - very relevant if you are thinking of investing in a company to know if those heavily involved have been involved in dodgy dealings - even if it was a while ago - if they are going to such efforts to hide their past then unlikely to willingly tell a potential investor / customer of their past indiscretions.

    Let's face it, these days very few people will be able to scour old newspaper articles, but every Jane Doe can Google to "research" a company / individual

    Ironically (totally unrelated to this case, just to be legally clear) just today I found a considerable mismatch between what someone was saying about a company & their directorship involvement with it compared to what Companies House reported (caveat, it could have been that Companies House data was out of date, or maybe not as a bit of search engine use revealed a few things of interest!)

    US VPN is your friend in EU crim hidey law cases (or use other search engines)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "its in the public interest to know of old business fraud"

      This is a thorny issues, especially if he wasn't barred from similar businesses. Some people will return to old habits, and commit crimes again. Others won't. If you're among the latter, and the past won't end to haunt you, you may eventually be led to crime again because you have no other option.

      I'm quite sure Google pick up the fight with a very dislikeable person, and maybe in a class prone to commit crime again, because it's easier to obtain sympathy.

      Just, law is not yet enforced using likes and dislikes...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "its in the public interest to know of old business fraud"

        And some will move from publishing racist pamphlets to getting hardworking ladies of the night to re-enacting historical WW2 nighttime events to creating organisations to try and regulate the press....

      2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: "its in the public interest to know of old business fraud"

        My understanding is that if I am thinking of doing business with someone (or hiring them) and I pay someone to research them (could be a credit reference agency or a private detective) it would be illegal for that report to include any spent convictions. Whether that should be the case or not, that is the law, I believe.

        If that is the law, then it should apply equally well to the dossier which Google produces when I enter a name. Otherwise the law is both unfairly preventing the research companies from competing against Google, and it is unfairly exposing spent convictions which parliament decided should be illegal.

        So, no. It is a thorny issue but parliament decided that the public interest in rehabilitating prisoners outweighs the public interest to know of old business fraud. You can argue to change the law but, whatever it is, Google should be subject to it.

      3. nijam Silver badge

        Re: "its in the public interest to know of old business fraud"

        > I'm quite sure Google pick up the fight with a very dislikeable person

        No, it's (once again) a dislikeable person picking a fight with Google.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crooks concealment law

      Consider this

      You have your ugly mug is plastered all over the Red tops when you are arrested.

      Then 6-9 months later it is there again when you are sent down on a 10 stretch.

      However, a year later the real criminal is arrested, tried amd convicted and the fact that your sentence is quoshed meaning that you no longer have a record.

      Then you get the retraction for the libel that the Red Tops has perertuated is burried in 2pt font at the bottom of page 66 of their first edition only is correct?

      Would searching Google give equal prominence to the retraction or would everyone just assume that you were indeed guilty as charged?

      IMHO, being able to EITHER

      Get google to put the quoshing of your conviction higher up the page than the conviction OR delete the lot is the right thing to do.

      Unless you have been in the public eye for no fault of your own you really don't know the damage it can do to you.

      I've never knowingly comitted a crime that could lead to being banged up but a good friend of mine was put through almost 2 years inside before the real crim was banged up. He is still a shadow of his former self.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Crooks concealment law

        So your good friend continues to suffer because Google continues to refer to his conviction rather than his appeal and release?

        The (M)Algorithm would pick up both but give weight to conviction if that was the searched keyword. If it was just his name, it would likely skew to whatever had been viewed more, however your friend is not trying to actively hide his past, and anyone that does any kind of research properly would discover the appeal.

        Its become, rapidly, an excuse for genuinely dishonest people to hide their past without people doing deep research into them, allowing for them to repeat their dishonest behaviour. Google is not helping the situation, but the EU Court has created a Crooks Charter here to allow them to disguise their wrongdoing.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Crooks concealment law

      " just today I found a considerable mismatch between what someone was saying about a company & their directorship involvement with it compared to what Companies House reported "

      Yes, that happens rather a lot. It's amazing how "out of date" Companies House data can be isn't it? Along with all those other results which appear to be "out of date"...

  7. 6491wm

    In the days before the internet

    newspapers were often archived either physically or on MicroFiche, maybe they still are in some places.

    Does the whole right to be forgotten apply there?

    Probably not

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: In the days before the internet

      newspapers were often archived either physically or on MicroFiche, maybe they still are in some places.

      Does the whole right to be forgotten apply there?

      Nothing more obscure than microfiche at your local library.

      Even before the internet, it was used rarely. Not exactly as easy or instant as historical information retrieval today.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: In the days before the internet


      No. The article even says that the complainant has tried to sue papers to remove the stuff, and been told by the courts to get stuffed.

      Papers are allowed to keep old stuff archived that they published, either on microfiche or even on their websites and searchable. It's all fine and dandy, as it's what they've always done. And people researching into someone's life deeply will find all this stuff.

      However those papers aren't allowed to re-publish that stuff. They can't have a front page story that so-and-so was convicted for this thing 30 years ago, but it's OK to keep the old story around.

      The right to be forgotten stuff is a result of case law from the European Court of Justice. The argument was between Google's right to just show the stuff that is already there in their searches and the individual's right to privacy. And that information held on them had to be both accurate and up-to-date. By definition a spent conviction isn't. So if that's the first thing that comes up when you search for their name, then Google are breaking data protection regs - as well as invalidating the whole point of governments having a law on spent convictions.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm on Googles side

    "Google is claiming that journalistic exemptions from data protection laws should apply to its search results,"

    Then they can be sued for every libellous article they show.

  9. Spanners Silver badge

    This is the precise problem with this right...

    Someone may want the "right to be forgotten".

    I want the right to find out if someone has done certain things in their past before doing business with them..

    People grow out of some things - lack of education, adolescence, xenophobia end even conservatism. I am not so sure they grow out of sociopathy and the belief that other people don't matter.

    If someone callously used others as stepping stones as part of their cunning plans, they have an attitude towards people that makes them specifically unsuitable for any legitimate business activity. It might have changed but has it?

    Facts about their previous behaviour being hidden will not necessarily stop them doing it again. If their previous behaviour is known, partners, employers or even customers are less likely to be fooled next time.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: This is the precise problem with this right...

      All possibly true. But an argument to be made to your MP to get them to change the law. As it stands, parliament has decided that the public interest is better served by helping offenders to walk away from their past than it is in allowing us to know about it.

      The points are irrelevant to this case, which should be about whether that law applies as much to Google as it does to everyone else.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: This is the precise problem with this right...

      To add to the point above, no information is hidden from you. If you search in the right places it'll come up. The point is that it shouldn't be the top result on a casual Google of somebody's name, if it's a spent conviction.

      Hence the law says some complex stuff, in order to try and balance the interests of ex-offenders, their potential future customers, newspapers and so on.

      So the law says to the papers, you can keep the old records, and even put them on your website. You just can't write stories now that reference a spent conviction. And to Google that a search on someone's name shouldn't bring that info up automatically, but if you search about that court case, it can come up.

      There is no right answer here. This is where politics and legislation get complicated. And Google should have to put up with messy compromises, just like the rest of us do.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: This is the precise problem with this right...

        "To add to the point above, no information is hidden from you. If you search in the right places it'll come up. The point is that it shouldn't be the top result on a casual Google of somebody's name, if it's a spent conviction."

        Presumably Google could manage this by excluding stuff published more than a few years ago (unless explicitly instructed to return older results).

        For many of the things that I search for, this might actually improve the results. For the others, I would have to learn how to ask Google to widen the date range. I could manage that.

    3. DavCrav

      Re: This is the precise problem with this right...

      "I want the right to find out if someone has done certain things in their past before doing business with them.."

      Then you may need to change the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. I hope you are in Parliament, otherwise it might be a struggle.

    4. NLCSGRV

      Re: This is the precise problem with this right...

      Here, have a downvote for your cheap political point.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heh. Try flipping it around.

    Imagine if Google did this voluntarily and someone whose past was erased got into some position of power and engaged in chicanery. The progressives would be screaming collusion and corporate greed and big business cover-ups. We'd have riots in the streets, left-wing tiki-torch parades, and breathless slobbery petitions. They'd be like conservatives screeching about immigrants. It'd be hilarious.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Heh. Try flipping it around.

      If you're a public figure, then you don't have the same right to be forgotten. This is referred to in the article you just read.

  11. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Surely if Google wins this case and become classed a journalists, they they are editorially responsible for all the search results that are published on their website, and could therefore be sued for libel if a website were to run a fake story and Google showed part of it on the snippets in the search results.

  12. Tigra 07

    On Google: "It’s not in any sense a news or media organisation and doesn’t engage in anything that could be described as journalism."

    They act as a news aggregator and have their own news service, so this is disingenuous at best, or a lie at worst.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Google, these days, and especially Alphabet, is a conglomerate. The Grapes pub is not a journalistic organisation despite being owned by the proprietor of the Evening Standard.

      1. Tigra 07

        RE: Adam

        Alphabet - no, Google - Yes. Google isn't a news publisher at all...Wait...How do you explain then?

  13. RogerT

    Spent Convictions

    In my opinion Google should not be allowed to serve up any UK spent convictions under any circumstances as employers and other bodies only have the right to this information in well defined circumstances.

    Unfortunately the law has not kept up with modern life. In is now too quick and too easy to find details of spent convictions. In my opinion online publishers of such information and internet caches should be required to delete such articles at the appropriate time. The information is still retained by the police and other departments where it is genuinely needed. No one else needs access to this information except for curiosity.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Spent Convictions

        With a few exceptions, now fixed, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has served us well for decades. It's in no one's interest to bolster a criminal class.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Right to be forgotten" is so stupid

    It is mainly crooks who don't want people to know they have been convicted before - probably because it makes it harder to find new victims! This isn't going to be used by someone who streaked through a classroom as a prank and made the college paper.

    Even for those who did their time and are reformed, if everyone has the warts in their past out there for all to see no one is going to care much about what you did unless it was something pretty serious like armed robbery or child abuse.

    If you feel strongly enough about it change your name to John Smith. Good luck to anyone digging through the records to find out what a particular John Smith's name used to be, then searching on that. If they go to all that trouble they deserve to know that you were arrested for drunk driving back in 1995.

  15. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    I'm in two minds about 'The right to be forgotten',...

    ... and while we know some kids will do daft things without thinking and get caught, and maybe convicted, I'm not convinced that brushing it under the carpet achieves anything. If anything it's perpetuating the stigma of petty crime, apparently ~30% of British men have a criminal record by age 30, so it's something we should perhaps be more open about. Although I can understand wanting to leave such less than stellar juvenile moments behind.

    In the case of adults who wilfully and thoughtfully defraud people though, screw them.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Cuddles

    Not the point

    "There is a strong public policy in favour of the rehabilitation of criminal offenders"

    Yes, we generally want to rehabilitate offenders rather than punishing them for life, but that does not mean we pretend nothing ever happened. A large part of rehabilitation is accepting what you did was wrong and learning to be a better person in the future. Desperately trying to hide all evidence of it is pretty good evidence that you have not, in fact, been rehabilitated and that people should absolutely be aware of both your past and present actions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "is pretty good evidence that you have not, in fact, been rehabilitated"

      Yes, because all the people around you are only good and fair ones and won't try to use anything you did in the past to damage you to pursue their own aims...

      Not all criminals and evil people have been caught and can be easily spotted on Google...

  18. x 7

    there was a lot of that kind of thing going on in the 1990's

    take this as an example

  19. sisk

    If search results get classified as journalism does that mean that laws regarding untrue news stories get applied to them? And if so, wouldn't that mean that any search result that comes up for "flat earth" would have to be an article about how insane flat earthers are and any search result for "climate change" would have to be scientifically accurate? Seems like a good idea to me.

  20. tim 13

    Why is it always Google that get taken to court? There are other search engines, not as well used admittedly, but still out there serving much the same results.

  21. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    NT1 & NT2

    That's why Windows NT version numbering starts at 3

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