back to article Does Parliament or Google decide when your criminal past is forgotten?

"It's never been suggested that the public have some right to require the press to impart information to them," barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC told the Right To Be Forgotten trial in London's High Court yesterday. Tomlinson, acting on behalf of pseudonymous complainant "NT1", was discussing European data protection laws during …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Going back in time to modify history

    Seems like the ministry of truth from 1984.

    The events happened, they were reported, and by the account also referenced in a publication.

    Although the convictions are spent, history does not change. You cannot un-steal the money, un-murder someone etc. regardless of convictions expiring.

    He would probably have a case IMHO if he did not get a job on the basis of someone considering a spent conviction. That however does not start erasing and censoring history, that in this case does not appear to be inaccurate, or conjecture.

    I am really uncomfortable with the idea that the past or people can be forgotten. That's North Korea's job.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      I quite agree. The point of the rehabilitation of offenders process is that after the limit has passed you don't need tyo disclose a spent offence, and (I assume) it doesn't come up on CRB checks. Similarly it should be unacceptable to use a spent offence to discriminate against someone for a job, housing etc.

      But it doesn't change history. The Great Train Robbery actually happened. Should Google (or any other search engine) be obliged to delete references to crimes more than x years ago? I frequently use the wonderful newspapers.library.wales, which has digitised Welsh newspapers up to 1919. Should that remove from the index the name of "Thomas Edwards" who was accused of indecently assaulting his step-daughter, Mary Davies, aged 11? (The judge threw the case out as a put up job)? Okay, it happened in 1870, but that's not the point. And in fact it goes further. Is there a rehabilitation of non-offenders rule? Should Google be required to link a report of an accusation to the subsequent acquittal? I don't see how they can, but that is potentially even more damaging to a person - first search result is "Suspected kiddie fiddling dentist arrested after wife shops him", but 17th is "Dentist's wife convicted of perjury and given seven years"

    2. Jason Bloomberg

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      No one is being asked to change history.

      Respecting convictions having been spent means the CRB won't reveal what convictions have been deemed spent. They don't seek to deny those convictions, they just won't reveal them. I don't see that it's unreasonable to ask Google and others to do exactly the same.

      In fact, doing otherwise would seem to be putting Google above the law which applies to the CRB and everyone else.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        Sounds like changing history to me. if you want to know an item of public record in 1980 and the search process you use doesn't show it - then you've effectively made it not exist...

      2. DaveTheForensicAnalyst

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        People are using the term CRB incorrectly here. What use to be the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) ceased to exist and was replaced by the DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service). The DBS provides two levels of check (I believe) Standard, and Enhanced.

        Standard Disclosure will not show crimes that are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

        Enhanced Disclosure WILL show ALL convictions, including those that are deemed spent.

        Your PNC record (Police National Computer) will hold your Criminal Data until your 100th birthday, regardless of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

        On the part of Google, I can't see any problem here, they are a search engine, they are merely echoing information already in the public domain on other websites that it is indexing. If the person in question has issue with those websites, he would need to take up his issues with them.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Going back in time to modify history

          @ DaveTheForensicAnalyst

          They can't go to the source websites, in most cases, because they are public record.

          The problem here is the ease with which this information can be found today, not that it exists. As I and others have said elsewhere, in the past, if you wanted to find the information you had to properly research it, which involved time and money. That was a natural barrier to finding spent information.

          You had to go to the newspaper archives or library and sift through newspapers, until you found the information. That was something most prospective employers and casual searchers would never do. Therefore the spent information rarely surfaced, but was there if you really wanted to find it.

          This natural "forgetfulness" worked as the law intended.

          Google changes that, things that should be "naturally forgotten" to the general masses is not forgotten and, depending on how much interesting other stuff a person has done, turns up in a very high position in a web search. That means information that should have been forgotten is still turning up as most relevant, even though, legally, you shouldn't see it when searching for that person's name under normal circumstances.

          Once the link to the person's name has been removed, only "relevant" information is returned, when searching for this person. Searching for the original crime under other keywords will still return it - you just have to want to find it.

          1. Alumoi Silver badge

            Re: Going back in time to modify history

            Once the link to the person's name has been removed, only "relevant" information is returned, when searching for this person.

            I don't know about you but I do find relevant that somebody I'm interested in as a business partner or otherwise has a criminal record, even as a juvenile. It gives you an idea about what kind of person that someone is.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      History is not rewritten and stays available in its entirety. Remember, Google does not have access to go and modify the websites it references.

      And those websites stay referenced, and can still be found via Google search, and can still be found if you search for the case in question.

      The point is very specifically about whether typing the *name* of a person should link there, forever and ever.

      So it's not North Korea, 1984, or anything Manichean and simple as you make it sound. It's really something that needs to be carefully assessed. Can a society really rehabilitate people if in practice, thanks to search engines, they will forever be shunned by employers?

      1. LucreLout

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        Can a society really rehabilitate people if in practice, thanks to search engines, they will forever be shunned by employers?

        Probably not, but I'm not sure its Google the ex-cons really need worry about. Most large employers consult with verious companies that have their own databases of things there are to know about a job applicant. I've been vetted by a couple of such agencies in the past, though where they obtain their data and what constitutes their dataset I do not know - I do know court records form part of it though, as a case I won against a utility provider cropped up.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      It is not about re-writing history, the original articles aren't being taken down. The book isn't being rounded up and burnt.

      What is being asked for is, in line with law, not to show the results when searching for TN1. If Google follow the right to be forgotten as intended, searching for Alpha or fraud would still dig up those articles, but anybody searching purely on TN1 wouldn't get the information.

      It is a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless. In the "good old days," the newspaper articles would have been used as fish and chips wrapping and most people would have forgotten about it, by the time he was released. He could, as the Rehabilitation Act says, be rehabilitated and this information should not prejudice him in the future, because he has paid his debt to society. If you were really interested, you could go to the library and look for the book or go through their newspaper archives, but you would need to put in a reasonable amount of effort to "circumvent" his right at rehabilitation. That isn't something most people would do, unless they had good reason to.

      The Internet makes this "natural forgetfulness of the masses" a non-thing. The Internet doesn't forget, even when, by law, it should. That is why these safeguards have been put in place.

      If you really want to do the research, there is nothing to stop you, but Google isn't allowed to help you circumvent the law. You have to do the legwork yourself, as was intended.

      If the right to be forgotten meant that all news archives had to be burnt and books burnt or the original stories on the news websites deleted, I would be against it. But in this case, nobody is re-writing history, the history is still there, if you go looking for it, you just can't take the (illegal) shortcut of searching on TN1's name to find it.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        Part of the problem is that this is all about names 'TN1'. Names are generally non-unique. So if result 1 for John Smith is about a convicted kiddie-fiddler, can a different John Smith object? When I google my name the first result is about someone who got paid to kick a football around. Can I object to that as it could lead some people to infer I am a worthless thicko rather than a socially valuable and intelligent IT professional?

        Much of this discussion seems to assume that if I type "Arthur Dent" into Google it will telepathically decide which one I mean and will display a complete personal history of the "Arthur Dent" I'm interested in. We know it dosn't, but I wonder if some judges and lawyers do.

        1. Bob Wheeler

          Re: Going back in time to modify history

          A few things that have just come to mind.

          1) What happens if your writing a biography/history of someone/some event in 10, 20, 50+ years tine.

          2) What about Bing? do they automatically have to apply the same 'no result shown due to EU law."

          3) google.com still shows the result when google.co.uk (or other EU's googles) don't

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Going back in time to modify history

            @Bob Wheeler

            1) Biography etc. is different and would be under the journalistic exemption, in all probability, IANAL. And, again, if you are doing an accurate documentation of an event, that is allowed. You would also cover, for example his prison sentence and the fact that he was reformed and released.

            But Google aren't doing anything journalistic and they are not checking their results for accuracy, before displaying them.

            2) Yes, Bing, DuckDuckGo and all other search engines are also covered by this. If they get served with a right to be forgotten notice, they have to remove results for those keywords as well.

            3) Yes, that is true, but Google have also changed their system and I, for example, cannot get to google.com any more for searches, or google.co.uk, I am stuck with google.de. (Yes, I could hop through a VPN and come out in the USA and use google.com.)

            1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

              Re: Going back in time to modify history

              But there is no practival exception. If you delink something in the internet, it stops existing for al practical purposes.. so yes, it is basically burning the books to rewrite history, even if the declared intention is not that.

              1. Sir Runcible Spoon

                Re: Going back in time to modify history

                If you delink something in the internet, it stops existing for al practical purposes.. so yes, it is basically burning the books to rewrite history, even if the declared intention is not that.

                I don't think the book or whatever would be de-listed, just de-associated with NT1's name. You could still find the book user other search conditions I would have thought, and still get to the underlying information.

              2. big_D Silver badge

                Re: Going back in time to modify history

                @Aitor1 as has been said many times, the original article isn't delinked. It is still there and you can still search for it, just not with the banned keywords.

                So, searching for the case itself (case number, investigating police officer, damaged parties (assuming they also didn't apply to be forgotten), employer, type of crime etc.) will still return information on the case, it is still there and still searchable, just not in conjunction with a name that the law has deigned to no longer be relevant.

          2. LDS Silver badge

            "What happens if your writing a biography/history of someone"

            Do real researches/writing instead of googling and some copying and pasting?

            Google algorithms are woefully not apt to create some people biographical record. If they rank on link popularity, for example, they will highlight an arrest, instead of an acquittal.

            Even plain old press does it because it sell more, but at least is not a globally searchable database ordered in the wrong way.

          3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Going back in time to modify history

            "

            1) What happens if your writing a biography/history of someone/some event in 10, 20, 50+ years tine.

            "

            How the heck do you think it was done prior to he Internet? I'd say that anyone who intends to present a bunch of articles found using Google as being a factual biography/history should not publish anyway.

          4. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Going back in time to modify history

            "1) What happens if your writing a biography/history of someone/some event in 10, 20, 50+ years tine."

            This is where it gets interesting.

            If NT1 is who I think it is, his Wikipedia page makes only passing mention of the case despite over a billion dollars being involved and doesn't even mention his conviction. And if not, the fact that someone involved in a case of that scale can already get it censored is concerning.

        2. Teiwaz

          Re: Going back in time to modify history

          Hindsight is wonderful, but mostly useless...

          infer I am a worthless thicko rather than a socially valuable and intelligent IT professional?

          You are up on the deal, society clearly prefers the thicko, nobody values intelligent IT professionals, not even the Gov. who should know better.

          I didn't learn that until well after the opportunity to be a thicko kicking footballs around had passed.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Going back in time to modify history

          >Part of the problem is that this is all about names 'TN1'. Names are generally non-unique.

          In this case the article states his name comes up immediately and he was clearly identified without any question of uniqueness. Also this was not even attempted by Google as a defence. It seems clear this is no John Smith.

        4. Chemical Bob

          Re: "socially valuable" and "IT professional"

          My gast is well and truly flabbered to see those two things used together in the same sentence!

      2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        Thanks Big_D, you and AC above make good points and have made me adjust my thinking on this.

        I'm conflicted though. Searching for TN1 on google is not the same as searching for TN1 + (Criminal OR Conviction) on google. A CRB check is a search for TN1 + (Criminal OR Conviction) and not a general search for TN1 because of the dataset searched.

        I think I'm coming around to the articles and book should be delinked for TN1 + (Criminal OR Conviction) and for TN1 on its own. The hard part is where to draw the line, should Alpha + TN1 return these links? (I've heard of Alpha, did TN1 work for them? Oh!)

        It would be a whole lot simpler to ensure that anyone exercising prejudice based on a spent conviction gets properly punished. And that's far from simple.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Going back in time to modify history

          "

          It would be a whole lot simpler to ensure that anyone exercising prejudice based on a spent conviction gets properly punished. And that's far from simple.

          "

          It would be impossible. If there are 10 applications for a job, and you are one of the 9 people turned down, how can you prove that disclosure by Google of a long-spent conviction was the reason you were not chosen? Even if you are one of the unlucky 9 in your next 100 job applications.

          It goes deeper than convictions. Perhaps as a teenager you were mentioned in the media for having some extremely naïve and ill-thought out opinions - and now whenever anyone Googles your name, up pops the association with those very iffy opinions, presented in exactly the same way as if you had voiced those opinions yesterday rather than 30 years ago, and without any of the context that the attitudes and events of the time would have provided.

      3. Frank Bitterlich
        Big Brother

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        It is not about re-writing history, the original articles aren't being taken down. The book isn't being rounded up and burnt.

        No, not being burnt, but asking search engines (and possibly later retailers) to remove results that point to the book comes very close to banning the book altogether.

        The whole concept of a "right to be forgotten" is kind of ridiculous. You can not force a person to forget something, and Google can not "forget" something either. It can only suppress information that exists. That is not "forgetting", that is censorship. No, it doesn't alter history. It just forces publishers, search engines, and other services to lie by omitting certain information.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Going back in time to modify history

          "

          Google can not "forget" something either. It can only suppress information that exists. That is not "forgetting", that is censorship. No, it doesn't alter history. It just forces publishers, search engines, and other services to lie by omitting certain information.

          "

          So let's follow that through. If, as you say, failing to list something in a search result amounts to censorship, then surely Joe Blogs should be able to insist that when someone Googles his name, the results should not mention only his criminal conviction, but should present his entire day-by-day autobiography right back to his birth? After all, failing to include the historical fact that he won the egg-and-spoon race at age 6 is surely just as much censorship as failing to include the fact that he was convicted of drink-driving at age 20?

      4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        What would you say if you weere looking for a book and found that it's title had been removed from the index? That's what we're talking abot here....

      5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        In the good old days, a really big case would get an article in the encyclopedia.

        If journalism and truthfulness are a defence - truthfulness being challenged here probably because if that's conceded then the case fails - then newspapers online and the BBC probably are entitled to keep up a story about NT1 and their doings at Alpha and let it be searchable (I don't seem to be able to search BBC News effectively though, I may be doing it wrong).

        But for Google to transfer these documents into their own database for searching is a different matter. It may be different again if the BBC, Guardian, etc., choose to submit the documents actively into Google data to be searched - I suppose, but it ray be late to say here that I'm not a lawyer.

    5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      I am really uncomfortable with the idea that the past or people can be forgotten. That's North Korea's job.

      Two issues here.

      1. People forgetting about things like conventions being spent.

      2. People trying to fix 1 by applying various "rights to be forgotten".

      There is no easy answer especially considering that penalties for any value of 1 are no longer of the form of "pay your debt to the society". So people, quite rightly, look at it and say - I do not give a damn that his/her conviction is spent.

      1. TDog

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        And we have the very peculiar scenario that I, who was around and remember the headlines will have no problems in searching for TN1, Alpha and fraud (with appropriate solutions) and so may feel somewhat unhappy about entering into a business relationship with that person, whereas my daughter who was not born then will not have those prompts and so may enter into a relationship which on past evidence may prove to be slightly dodgy.

        So we have one rule for the elderly buggers and another one for the young innocent ones. What happens to any form of diligence in these circumstances.

        "Dad"

        "Yes"

        "You are an old fart, aren't you?"

        "No"

        "But you are old?"

        "A bit"

        "So how should I search for TN1 and Alpha to find out whether it is a good idea to enter into this business with him? "

        Seems a tad unlikely.

    6. standardraise

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      That is absurd. We have a rehabilitation of offenders act which allows people to be rehabilitated. That means they do not have to disclose a mistake they made in the past.

      This ruling would not release anything from history - you can still find it in the newspaper but it means that it is not front and centre every second and brands you for life. We already have laws that discourage this - such as the right to be forgotten and rehabilitation of offenders act.

      This is hardly a free speech argument and google are hardly journalists. Stop with the straw man argument.

    7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      "

      Although the convictions are spent, history does not change. You cannot un-steal the money, un-murder someone etc. regardless of convictions expiring.

      "

      Let us say that as a teenager you shoplifted a few items, perhaps as a dare or to impress your peers, or maybe to obtain booze that you were not permitted to buy. Then for many years later, whenever anyone Googles your name, the first 3 results announce the fact that you are a convicted thief, which has resulted in you being turned down for jobs time & time again. Would you say that it is fair and just that a single youthful indiscretion should blight your entire life? Perhaps even pushing you down the path of serious criminality as the only way you can hope to earn a reasonable amount of money.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Going back in time to modify history

        whenever anyone Googles your name, the first 3 results announce the fact that you are a convicted thief

        Only if your name is something like Constantine Theophilus Mugwump III - in which case you just need to do a bit of social engineering, and create a dozen popular pages that list your work for Oxfam Cats Protection League.

        And I am surprised that for TN1 it is the old spent convictions that come first. Most name searches in Google start with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, Wikipedia entries, 192.com listings and professional references. TN1 must have a very dull on-line life if ancient convictions are the best that Google can find.

    8. standardraise

      Re: Going back in time to modify history

      Should we just then ignore existing laws? Are you against the Rehabilitation of Offenders act? Or the Right to be forgotten? Because these two laws allow people to move on, you would then argue the UK has been operating as North Korean regime for the past 40 years.

      Our existing laws are in place for people to be able to move on from their lives after a mistake and be able to contribute to society. It is a good law because people do make mistakes.

      However, google is preventing this process because it is a click-bait search engine and brands people negatively for life. It seems silly that a search engine have such sweeping power over private citizens.

      We need to ask ourselves if endlessly stalking people and their history is the way we want to have our society grow and prosper.

      The laws are in place for good reason - google has circumvented this and should follow our laws like everyone else.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Google.

  3. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    I'm with Google here...

    Yes, I know, this is probably an unpopular opinion.

    The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act states that there are circumstances in which certain offences can't be considered - for example, if someone was fined for protesting on a demo ago, that doesn't count against you on a job application ten years later.

    It doesn't, however, say that the newspapers shouldn't report on that. The fact that newspapers do, and have, reported on things is a given. What Google is doing is finding an easier way to locate this information than having to go to a dusty cupboard in the back of a library and look through old newspapers.

    Now, if the information presented were untrue, that would a very different problem. But in this case, it isn't.

    I don't think the right to be forgotten should be shelved. I don't have an easy answer to all this, either, and nor do I think there is one. I just think that, in this instance, Google is in the right.

    1. Alister

      Re: I'm with Google here...

      I tend to agree with you. At the end of the day, Google searches do not create web content, they just link to sources of it.

      If the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not require newspapers to remove the historical reports of the offence, then why should Google not link to it?

      Maybe the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act should be updated to include rules on how to handle News content published online.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: I'm with Google here...

        @Alister, because in the past, those newspaper archives could be searched through by somebody who really wanted information about the demo, for example, but they would have to make an effort to go to the archive and find the information, it wasn't "generally available", which meant the vast majority of people no longer "remember" the incident.

        Google circumvents this natural mass forgetfulness, even when the law says it should be.

        The archive is still there, you can still search Google for the article, using other keywords, just the keywords that the law decides aren't allowed shouldn't return those results. So, using the example, searching for Zippy would not be allowed to show the article about being fined, whereas searching specifically for the demo would turn up that result.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm with Google here...

          From the article, it sounds as though Google aren't just linking to a newspaper article about the conviction. They're also displaying a snippet referencing the conviction in the search results.

          That's a big distinction for me. They can't just claim to be linking to an existing article when they themselves are re-publishing details of the conviction. It also makes it trivially easy to find the conviction details without even the effort of clicking through to the links.

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: I'm with Google here...

        Maybe the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act should be updated to include rules on how to handle News content published online.

        Nice theory, but how?

        Search term is "TN1" Google has many pages/articles/references. How does Google decide that a given reference relates to a spent conviction? It would need some very clever AI, loaded with all the rules, and even then it would probably get it wrong. And simply blocking links to every instance of TN1 would be equally wrong, as it may include relevant unspent convictions, or morally questionable (but technically legal) behaviour.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: I'm with Google here...

          @Pen-y-gors exactly, which is why we have the right to be forgotten. The person affected turns to the search engines (it isn't just about Google) and gives them the specific links that should be delisted in searches using their name (and only search terms including their name).

          So searching for "TN1" won't return the information, nor will "TN1 conviction", "TN1 criminal" etc. but searching for "Alpha", "fraud" etc. would still return the relevant articles.

          If Google would actually worry more about following the law, rather than thinking to itself, that it is cheaper to send lawyers on a wild googe chase, rather than follow the law, this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

    2. frank ly

      Re: I'm with Google here...

      According to http://hub.unlock.org.uk/knowledgebase/a-simple-guide-to-the-roa/

      "The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 gives people with spent convictions and cautions the right not to disclose them when applying for most jobs, and buying insurance."

      It doesn't indicate that a potential employer can't turn you down on the basis of a previous conviction they read about in an old newspaper or via a Google search.

      That's not the same as your post:

      "... that there are circumstances in which certain offences can't be considered ... on a job application ten years later."

      I think it would be relevant if you get a job and then your employer later finds out about a spent conviction and decides to dismiss you because of that. e.g. you have a job as an accounts clerk and the managing director finds out about your 10 year old weed possession conviction and sacks you.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm with Google here...

      "Now, if the information presented were untrue, that would a very different problem."

      Which it will be to some extent if any aquittal or successful appeal isn't reported in an accessible way in the same search.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: I'm with Google here...

      The thing is, with your demo example, if you search for "Zippy's Sausage Factory", you don't get any information about you being fined for protesting at the demo. If you search for the demo, you get the results.

      The information is still there and it is still searchable and accessible, using terms that are deemed "legal".

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Accessibility

    That's the thing that makes me think.

    Take Google out of the frame, and if anyone wanted to find out about the guy they'd have to go digging - and make the value judgement as to whether it was worth the effort.

    With Google there, you just type in the name and apparently the conviction is the first thing that comes up. No effort needed, and no judgement either.

    A difficult decision for that judge - glad it's not me.

    1. AdamT

      Re: Accessibility

      Completely agree.

      I think there is similar feeling about Street View too. Sure, everything you can see on Street View is something that you could see by just going there and looking, and (in most cases) would be entitled to photograph too. But it does take on a different feel when you don't have to actually get up and go and do it yourself or pay someone else to do it.

      Modern technology seems to be exposing a lot of areas of the Law and societal convention where things didn't used to need laws or conventions simply because they weren't possible or at least weren't practical - but now they are. The dangerous aspect is that there doesn't seem to be a legal/political/social discussion on that wider point (except on El Reg, obviously!) but instead it is currently being worked out by trying to shoehorn the existing 20th century law into the 21st century issue.

      Even in this current example where data protection laws are actually more recent it still seems like this is fundamentally missing the point - this case shouldn't be about the technicality of whether Google is breaching data protection by holding a small snippet of info in its index or cache.

      But, to be honest, I'm not sure I could write down in one sentence what it should be about!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accessibility

      >With Google there, you just type in the name and apparently the conviction is the first thing that comes up. No effort needed, and no judgement either.

      Maybe effort is needed on the part of the convicted to do things that give them more positive publicity and top search results. If the first results were links to a personal website, charity work or something else other than a crime from 10+ years ago then it wouldn't be so much of a problem. Perhaps NT1 should have moved on with their life in a positive manner...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        If the first results were links to a personal website, charity work

        Yes, there are companies that will attempt to clean your reputation using fake data submitted by bots or paid people, a sort o SEO. Maybe a simple delisting is better....

    3. Bob Wheeler

      Re: Accessibility

      @Will Godfrey

      I think you have touched on the nub of it here.

      In the past, you would have had some memory of "wasn't that the guy who....", then that might spur you to go to the local reference library and trawl thought the daily paper of your choice, or maybe spend a day in Fleet St. itself.

      Nowadays you don't even have to have a the foggiest notation that 'that guy' was involved, or not, in anything at all.

      On balance, I'm more on goggle's side in this than not.

    4. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Accessibility

      Hur. I can probably summarise the problem more succinctly.

      Mentally processing this class of data *fairly* is hard. If people find hard-to-process data easily, it will probably be processed *unfairly*.

      Hard-to-process data should be hard to find, so only people willing to try 'hard' can get it, which increases the odds of it being processed fairly.

      Put the cookies on the top shelf. The dumb kids can't gorge till they puke. The smart kids can still get it, and are much less likely to gorge.

      <DouglasAdams>To summarise the summary of the summary : "People are a Problem"</DouglasAdams>

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Things can and do come back to haunt you

    I have a conviction for Drunk and Disordlerly from 1974[1]. It still gets brought up on Job Interviews.

    Don't need to say anything else but that needs to be forgotten as it is irellevant to my life today but will Google do that? *** No.

    [1] We were out celebrating passing our HNC exams and had more than a few too many.

    1. Alister

      Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

      @AC

      So where does Google get the reference to your D&D conviction from?

      Maybe instead of whinging about Google, you should get the original source to remove it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

        I tried to find out where the post that Google linked to came from but I can't say in case I get sued for Libel. I have my suspicions but no real proof. The site hosting it is not in this country and where it is does not have anything like a DMCA law to force the reference to be removed.

        Needless to say, the site won't remove it becaise I didn't post it in the first place. Catch-22 rulez!

        It is all rather moot now as I've retired.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

      Haunt you? If I was interviewing I would be quite likely to shortlist you based on those facts alone.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

      Being D&I in 1974 is a little bit different from being a corporate fraudster.

      Public interest in the D&I?

      Nil.

      Public interest in the fraud? Substantial.

      1. DavCrav

        Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

        "Public interest in the fraud? Substantial."

        Not according to the RoO Act. That defines the public interest (in the legal sense) of various convictions. Of interest to the public is not the same as public interest.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "Public interest in the fraud? Substantial."

        Maybe, but it can't be Google to decide what it is public interest or not, Who put Google in charge of it? Where's the accountability?

        Google has of course cunningly chosen a detestable man to gain simpathy - but the law can't work judging people on how likeable they are.

    4. GruntyMcPugh

      Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

      1974?

      I hadn't realised google had digitised the paper punch tape newspapers used to store data back then.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

        @Grunty

        I hadn't realised google had digitised the paper punch tape newspapers used to store data back then.

        Google hasn't but others have digitised and OCRed the images of the printed newspapers. e.g. Times online

        1. GruntyMcPugh

          Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

          The British Newspaper Archive is behind a paywall so not accessible via Google. Also, for the OP to make it into The Times, it must have been an epic bender.

    5. Joe Harrison

      Re: Things can and do come back to haunt you

      I once had a manager whose name was Duncan and it didn't take us long to give him the moniker of Duncan Disorderly. Bet he wants that to be forgotten.

  6. Andytug

    If this goes against Google

    Presumably every website and library, etc. will have to go and delete every single crime report older than x years, and then on an ongoing basis.

    Crazy.

    1. Alister

      Re: If this goes against Google

      Presumably every website and library, etc. will have to go and delete every single crime report older than x years, and then on an ongoing basis.

      Well no, I don't think so, as they can legitimately claim journalistic exemption, unlike Google, who can't.

      The problem with this, and similar cases, is that government, judiciary and individuals all seem to think that forcing Google to delist search results is the same as removing the content from the web.

      It isn't, and they should be going after the sources of the content, and not Google.

      Incidentally, why don't cases like this challenge other search engines? I know Google is by far the most common, but even if Google loses this case and has to delist the references to NT1, they'll still be available on Bing, Baidu and so on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If this goes against Google

        "The problem with this, and similar cases, is that government, judiciary and individuals all seem to think that forcing Google to delist search results is the same as removing the content from the web."

        No. they don't, they clearly understand the difference, and they're explicitly not asking to modify the source. The point is /only/ to delist people's names from search engines, no more, no less, It's a point that keep being missed by many commenters here, it seems.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If this goes against Google

        "Well no, I don't think so, as they [libraries and newspapers] can legitimately claim journalistic exemption, unlike Google, who can't."

        A library allows you to access material from newspapers - either on paper or microfilm. It does not create the stories in the original newspapers.

        The same information may also be stored on the Web.

        Google allows you to access the Web version. It does not create the stories in the original newspapers.

        1. David Nash

          Re: If this goes against Google

          "Google allows you to access the Web version"

          No, Google has no influence on your ability to access the Web version. It only makes it easier to find it by reference to its content. Delisting NT1 from Google does not remove the original or mean you can't access it, in the same way that the local library might have a copy of the newspaper but does not have an index connecting NT1 to it (probably!).

    2. David Nash
      FAIL

      Re: If this goes against Google

      "have to go and delete every single crime report older than x years,"

      It seems you are wilfully misunderstanding the point. It's been said several times that the original news sources are not threatened with deletion, only Google's linking of NT1's name to them.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: If this goes against Google

        "It's been said several times that the original news sources are not threatened with deletion"

        Except that they were threatened and it was found by the courts that they were fully entitled to keep the articles online.

        It was only after failing to get the articles taken down that NT1 went after Google.

        Bear in mind this was a substantial fraud with a large number of victims and not only was NT1 convicted and sentenced but his conviction was upheld on appeal.

        This is _NOT_ a trivial case of an old drunk and disorderly or someone who was acquitted.

        NT1's beef is that people find his financial crimes history online and then decline to have financial dealings with him, presumably in the same line of work (I would too, given the scale of the crime ).

        If he'd gone into another line of business then it'd probably be regarded as irrelevant but a convicted fraudster almost by definition is one of the worst types of sociopath and very few of them feel they deserve whatever punishment was handed out.

        Blaming someone else in the company is pretty much standard operating procedure for a fraudster when they can't flat out deny things and his evasiveness on the stand should be noted. This is not the behaviour of a clean set of hands.

        1. LucreLout

          Re: If this goes against Google

          a convicted fraudster almost by definition is one of the worst types of sociopath and very few of them feel they deserve whatever punishment was handed out

          My experience of criminals indicates they mostly feel like somehow they're the victim; and irony too rich for them to contemplate.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: If this goes against Google

      No, it doesn't mean that at all. Public record cannot be deleted.

      By removing certain keywords from the index, those crime reports won't be listed when searching for specific people, but will be returned on other keywords.

      That is the whole point if the RTBF. The original article (and the majority of keyword searches) will still work, only those searches using the name of the affected party will not turn up those results.

      (E.g. using the original article, searching for fraud or Alpha or any number of other keywords will turn up these results somewhere along the line, but using TN1 in the search result won't.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a tough one this so I'll ask a question of where you stand given this hypothetical back story? Do you still have the same opinion?

    Man becomes a homeless drug addict, steals from shop, gets arrested and it's covered in the news.

    10 years later he is clean and sorted himself out, done lots of voluntary work however he can't seem to get a paying job and has been told it's due to his past.

    Should he have the right to be forgotten or should his past affect his life forever?

    Don't get me wrong I am with google but you do have to wonder.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

      but that doesn't mean it never happened.

      If the law says convictions are spent then they would have a case against the potential employer for discrimination, as the law says (presumably) you can no longer take it into account.

      Trying to re write history is a completely different argument which amounts to "I don't want it to be easy to find out what I did before", and that's wrong.

      There is also, however, a good proportion on people who think that if you do a minor crime in the stupidity of youth it should count against you forever, which is what the law was created to guard against.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

        Yes but no one is going to write a letter or send an email saying we found you on google, we're not employing you.

        The reason for the hypothetical question is to remove opinion based on crime because that will have a factor in how people view what the outcome should be.

        The reason we have "spent" convictions is so that criminals have paid for their offence and shouldn't keep paying for it for the rest of their life, otherwise you would have no incentive to turn straight.

        If we end up in a situation where someones criminal past is forever available on google that will lead to increased re-offending.

        As I said I side with google but I don't think from reading the comments that people are factoring everything in because it's a fraud case.

        Don't ask me how you solve the problem because I haven't a clue because another hypothetical situation could be a domestic abuser so what do you do with that?

        1. local_man

          Re: The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

          Unfortunately, more and more employers are doing just that...

          They advertise a position and as part of the overall sifting / interview - they are performing their own DBS checks by using internet search engines and then not shortlisting or even worse - retracting job offers / ending employment in probation period due to what they have found on the internet.

          The RoO Act therefore is pointless unless individuals are allowed to request internet search engines remove links to align with the requirements of the RoO Act

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

            Good points and a bit more further thinking leads to the following.

            What's to stop companies just searching local news websites directly for people?

            Therefore removing it from google is just a hindrance because you have someones CV so know which ones to look at or roughly do.

          2. LucreLout

            Re: The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

            The RoO Act therefore is pointless unless individuals are allowed to request internet search engines remove links to align with the requirements of the RoO Act

            That won't change anything if employers still have other routes such as "Are you elligible for the USA visa waiver program? Yes/No" Obviously anyone ticking No may have a criminal recrod, or communicable disease - the latter will show up on medical background screening, leading to the obvious conclusion there is a spent criminal offence.

            I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but Google isn't the real issue in regards to working around the RoA Act. There's offshore databases employers can check for that kind of thing if they are so minded.

        2. LucreLout

          Re: The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

          If we end up in a situation where someones criminal past is forever available on google that will lead to increased re-offending.

          Will it?

          I know there are a lot of countries without an Rehab Act, where convictions are forever with you. Some of my American collagues have trivial records from youth that they have to disclose in their 50s.

          What I don't know, is what evidence there is that disclosure would cause reoffending? Certainly disclosure hasn't led my colleagues to reoffend, nor has it seemingly hampered their careers.

          I'm not asking to pick a fight, by the way, I'm asking because I;d be interested to read any citations you have?

      2. DavCrav

        Re: The law says your conviction is spent after x years, legally....

        "Trying to re write history is a completely different argument which amounts to "I don't want it to be easy to find out what I did before", and that's wrong."

        Actually, not only is it right, it was the default position until about 2000. It's only the last decade or two where this has been a problem. So the more interesting question is why do you suddenly think it's your right to find out about every single conviction anyone has ever had at the press of a button?

    2. LucreLout

      Man becomes a homeless drug addict, steals from shop, gets arrested and it's covered in the news.

      10 years later he is clean and sorted himself out, done lots of voluntary work however he can't seem to get a paying job and has been told it's due to his past.

      Should he have the right to be forgotten or should his past affect his life forever?

      In my opinion, no. Victims don't choose to be victims and they don't stop being victims just because the offender has had a small slap on the wrist and now wants to move on with their life.

      However, in the hypothetical case you give, I'd probably seriously consider hiring the guy. He's obviously had some tough times, and gone on to fight and win some very tough battles. He clearly has a drive to improve himself and will probably reward anyone giving him a chance with dedication and hard work. If he screws up worse than anyone else, you can always fire him - we're talking 4 weeks notice here, not a job for life.

      I'll be honest though, I wouldn't hire a rapist or a nonce. There are some lines when crossed that you can't simply step back over, no matter what the Rehab Act may say.

  8. Jediben

    This court hearing, is it public? Can I wander in and have a look at the bloke and know that he's a wrong 'un just by virtue of him being there? Do I really need Google?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You can. Will you? No, it's too much effort. And that's what matters here, Google et al. have made the bar of entry so low that with the same information being public, it's actually changing the effect on the lives of people. So it's really a question worth asking.

      Remember, the information can be public, it's really not the same when it's available with a couple of clicks or inside a locked cabinet with a sign that says "Beware of the leopard".

  9. JimmyPage
    Stop

    Googles problem is

    that it makes it's money from manipulating search results.

    So - to quote GBS - this is more arguing over the price ...

  10. BebopWeBop

    In the 1990s, NT1 was the majority shareholder in "a controversial property business", which we are banned from naming by a reporting restriction order but can refer to as Alpha. The activities of Alpha attracted the attention of national newspapers, the Inland Revenue (as was), and ultimately the criminal courts. NT1 himself was found guilty in the late 1990s of conspiracy to account falsely and lost his attempt to appeal against conviction.

    Enough to find the miscreant - although I obviously will not mention the neerdowell's name of course.....

    1. Joe Harrison

      I always get an irresistible compulsion to find out who it is I'm not supposed to know about, even though I wouldn't have the least interest otherwise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Joe Harrison

        Google "Streisand Effect". Or is that now blocked under the right to be forgotten?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Enough to find the miscreant?

          Says you. I've been trying to figure out exactly who it was, but I already have a list of 4-5 people who got convicted of accounting falsely in the late 90s and lost their appeal. It's hard to know which it is, and there are probably a few more.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Enough to find the miscreant

      That's why they do it. The press all whined about super-injunctions, but it was entirely their fault. Judges would put on reporting restrictions for perfectly good reasons in cases. So the press would loudly shout enough info that you could just go and look stuff up, then when the info was all over the internet go back to the judge and say, "look guv everyone knows anyway, why can't we publish now?"

      Hence the reporting restrictions get more and more onerous.

      This is in some ways a similar situation to the right to be forgotten thing. The info on spent convictions has always been around if you needed to search for it specifically. But wasn't generally available to everyone without effort. Similarly there's always a certain number of people with connections in the media/law/politics who know this sort of stuff from gossip. So if you drank with those people, then you also knew lots of juicy gossip/scandal that didn't make the papers for weeks/at all. The internet makes it easy for the press to drop a hint, and people can go off for a quick google and find stuff out.

      Where there's public interest, like the Guardian outing Trafigura I'm fine with it. But in this case there's an ongoing court case to decide the very fucking issue - and so it's rather distasteful.

      It'll be interesting to see what the judge will do. As business fraud might not count as private life. But I don't see why people shouldn't have a right to have a go at the courts in relative anonymity, and we can all shout how they're a wrong-un if they lose. A bit like giving alleged victims of blackmail anonymity, as otherwise the blackmailer wins even when they lose.

    3. Adam 52 Silver badge

      "Enough to find the miscreant"

      If it is, Gareth is guilty of contempt of court. It's a strict liability offence so there's almost no defence. Many a promising journalistic career ruined that way.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Couple of points...

        1. Do NOT speculate about NT1's identity. The reporting restriction order prohibits publication of his name among about a dozen other things (in theory it's a public document, though you'll have to ask Carter-Ruck to get a copy of it or go to the Royal Courts of Justice and find the one pinned to the courtroom door). If you post NT1's identity, or enough extra material that leads others to it, you've just breached the order.

        2. The identifying details that are included have been specifically agreed as OK for publication by the parties and the judge. That means you DO NOT go further than what is in the article. Incidentally, it also means I'm not going down with you if you decide you're going to play at being Inspector Clouseau.

        3. If you don't like this, I will set about you with the banhammer. Simples!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Operation of Rehabilitation of Offenders law

    IANAL, but:

    Interestingly, under rehabilitation law the you can be sued for stating, e.g., that a particular politician was jailed for Perjury in a Court of Law even though a public record of that fact exists in the Court Transcripts and in the Newspapers of the time, which are otherwise available in public libraries or online.

    There are two key tests - firstly the jail sentence must be no more than four years to allow the conviction to ever be spent.

    Secondly, if under four years, then, once 'spent' any repetition of the fact of conviction is then subject to defamation law - if the repetition was determined to be made with "malicious intent" - the determination of which could be rather subjective.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Operation of Rehabilitation of Offenders law

      "There are two key tests"

      There's another one. RoO only applies for the first conviction. It's a "one use only" item.

      Someone with a history of offences can't have them covered up.

      WRT the politician there are also public interest issues to be taken into account and a convicted perjurer in public office would have a great deal of difficulty suing anyone who pointed the conviction out for defamation no matter how much time had passed.

      There are two politicians I can think of who got their convictions as a result of trying to shut up newspapers. Their perjury sentences will never disappear from public view due to the seriousness of what they attempted to achieve.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If...

    If I was starting a property business, I would NEED to know if a potential partner had committed property fraud 1 year or 81 years ago. If I did not do enough research, I would not have done my job and could expect disgruntled shareholders or customers.

    Alternatively, if someone got convicted of animal cruelty, I would need to know that there is a welfare question there if that was my business model.

    It is against the rules to discriminate over spent convictions. It is also against the rules to leave, even reformed, foxes in charge of henhouses...

    1. DavCrav

      Re: If...

      "It is also against the rules to leave, even reformed, foxes in charge of henhouses..."

      I'm not sure it is except for certain jobs, where spent convictions are taken into account (DBS, vetting for national security, etc.). If you are dealing with national security positions, you aren't getting your information from Google. If you aren't dealing with national security or DBS jobs etc., then the RoO Act applies.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thoughts

    The ROA is about mandatory disclosure ie when spent, you don't disclose. I suspect that the complainant is unhappy that business deals fell through, when his criminal convictions came to light (a trust issue perhaps, brought about by non-disclosure). this is not PI, but rather information about some one, of which he is not the sole owner. What about the original sitting judge and prosecution...what happens if they ask Google to keep the data? I think it is time to learn that the internet does not really forget. So the issue may be changing people's attitudes to the relevance of spent convictions, rather than deleting it from history

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: thoughts

      The internet does not forget currently, due to its design. Because Google choose to show spent convictions. The information exists and nobody is suggesting changing that. This is all an argument about the ease of access to that data.

      Basically Google have become a monopoly and a vital public utility. That means they're going to suffer regulation of what they do - as what they do becomes increasinly important.

      To make up for that pain, they made nearly $17 billion last year - almost all of it from selling adverts against search results. That profitability will fall a bit. I'm sure they'll cope.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: thoughts

        Basically Google have become a monopoly and a vital public utility. That means they're going to suffer regulation of what they do - as what they do becomes increasinly important.

        Will they? How so?

        Lets say the judge rules in the criminals favour here and orders google to stop indexing the hits. The ROA applies only to the UK, so people wanting to do a cursory background check will just go to google.com instead of google.co.uk The ROA is pretty much toast at this point, as there's really no way to put the genie back in the bottle.

        I can't say I'm upset. The courts may regard the gang that hospitalised me as having served their tariff and they're free to go, but I don't. My injuries will never heal, and thus I will continue to ensure the consequences of their offences are known to those I consider need to know them. If they don't like that, tough, they should have thought about that before choosing to become my assailants.

        Criminals always choose to be criminals and always choose their victims. They shouldn't be too upset if some of their victims choose to fight back in ways they hadn't fully considered.

  14. Phil Bennett

    Difficult case, this.

    On one side, I can see the arguments in favour of keeping records around of fraudsters activity for a long period of time to prevent them getting up to the same mischief again. On the other hand, it's a bit unfair to make someone continue to suffer after their punishment is in theory over.

    Possibly some kind of financial version of the sex offenders register?

    It's equally difficult to root for Google, the omnihoover of personal information, or someone engaging Carter-Fuck...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Difficult case, this.

      "On one side, I can see the arguments in favour of keeping records around of fraudsters activity for a long period of time"

      A number of fraudsters suffer from personality traits which according to psychiatrists are not mental illnesses and are untreatable, in other words something like paedophilia. I think there is a case for a Financial Offenders' Register, but looking at some Parliamentary careers there might be pushback from the political parties.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't CRB/DBS blow the RoA away anyway ?

    since they effectively meant all convictions "spent" or not had to be disclosed ?

    1. DavCrav

      Re: Didn't CRB/DBS blow the RoA away anyway ?

      "Didn't CRB/DBS blow the RoA away anyway? Since they effectively meant all convictions "spent" or not had to be disclosed?"

      RoO Act has, I was under the impression, never applied to cases of child safety, national security, or other situations in which DBS/DV is used. There are different levels of DBS for different situations. Standard DBS does not release spent convictions, very high ones release arrests without charge, police intelligence and even hearsay.

      1. local_man

        Re: Didn't CRB/DBS blow the RoA away anyway ?

        DBS is Basic, Standard and Enhanced - Standard and Enhanced also show unspent convictions and when you apply for a job in say Finance, Legal, Education etc. you may need an enhanced check.

        They show spent convictions as well as unspent.

        The problem with employers these days is that Google is a free DBS and is being used for that purpose - individuals are not allowed the ability to be rehabilitated.

        1. DavCrav

          Re: Didn't CRB/DBS blow the RoA away anyway ?

          "DBS is Basic, Standard and Enhanced - Standard and Enhanced also show unspent convictions and when you apply for a job in say Finance, Legal, Education etc. you may need an enhanced check."

          Whoops. Yes, I actually meant the standard DBS, not the Standard DBS check... You cannot tell that since it is at the start of the sentence.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Didn't CRB/DBS blow the RoA away anyway ?

      Also DBS can come with advice.

      I know of a case of someone who was on the sex offenders register, not for offenses against children, and so the police official advice was therefore to still allow them access to children under the normal chaperoning rules that are already in place for theatrical productions using kids. As that person wasn't deemed a risk to children.

      I'm not sure whether they had to ask for that advice specifically, or whether it came with the DBS results - though I believe that to be the case.

      But at least with the DBS system there's the opportunity for responsible disclosure and an attempt to use reasonable risk assessment. With Google you can just avoid all wrong-uns. At which point we get no chance at rehabilitation and higher re-offending rates.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are over 65 million people in the UK. There is a very small chance their name is unique. More probably there are many people with that name - possibly even with the same "middle" name qualifiers.

    So a search is going to throw up many different social events for that name. The longer it is after the event - then the less likely it will be applicable to your particular person of that name. You then have to start digging - probably by more conventional means - which you could have used in the first place if it was considered important.

  17. tiggity Silver badge

    Maybe a bit of truth

    "NT1 had been emailed by potential business partners who had googled him and discovered the reports of his previous conviction."

    Maybe the ex con could just be up front with potential business partners and tell them what happened, explain why they are now a reformed character etc, etc.

    When a conviction is spent you no longer have to declare it - but you can if you want to.

    1. local_man

      Re: Maybe a bit of truth

      You dont have to disclose a spent conviction - the problem with internet search engines is that employers are using them to research potential employees therefore making the RoO Act pointless unless it is changed.

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Maybe a bit of truth

      "

      When a conviction is spent you no longer have to declare it - but you can if you want to.

      "

      Sure, just as you do not have to declare what political party you voted for, or your sexuality and how many sexual partners you have had, or your religion. But obviously you can if you want, together with an explanation.

      And when Google (or similar) gets to the stage where it is gathering, correlating and sorting so much information from so many sources that a search on your name will bring up all the above, you may well find you need to explain yourself.

  18. local_man

    The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was brought in back in 1974 to ensure that people who had a conviction that was spent would not have to declare it unless they were working in a particular field - that is where the DBS service comes into play.

    They can provide Basic, Standard and Enhanced for anyone working say with children, finance or certain other employments.

    What the RoO Act cannot and does not prevent is where a prospective employer can Google/Bing an individual and therefore finds out about a conviction that is spent but is online in a local rag and then makes a decision not to employ them - in those circumstances, the RoO Act is worthless and we are not allowing people the opportunity to get on with their lives - the internet search engine effect is preventing rehabilitation and therefore goes against everything that the RoO Act was designed to introduce.

    This is not preventing the newspaper from reporting the story initially and the RoO Act allows for the most serious of crimes never to be spent but with the Right to Be Forgotten - especially in the context of the GDPR and the new Data Protection Bill 2018 - if an individual who has a conviction that is spent, requests that the news story is either anonymised, or deleted and that the search engines also reflect that in the indexing.

    Surely, that protects freedom of speech (the story still exists in the local hard copy paper) and also ensures that those members of society who want to get on with their lives, can do so and are adequately protected from the negativity that search engines can inflict. Society is also aware about those criminals with serious convictions - they are never spent.

    Just on a separate point - I am aware that the Lords and Commons are trying to strengthen the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 by allowing individuals the ability to remove the search engine links to them where appropriate.

    1. LucreLout

      Just on a separate point - I am aware that the Lords and Commons are trying to strengthen the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 by allowing individuals the ability to remove the search engine links to them where appropriate.

      Try as they might its a functional dead end. ROA applies only onshore, so any offshore instance of your favourite search engine will still return the links.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course

    Of course the guy has a right to be forgotten - how can he move on with his life??? He can't - he is forever tarred by a mistake he made 20 years ago. Have you ever made a mistake? We all have and we learn from them and try to become better citizens. This guy still has a criminal record and yet some tech giant feels it should brandish him forever because it has designed a search engine that favours clickbait.

    Otherwise, what is the point of rehabilitating offenders? Do we want our society to become less productive? It will only put pressure on our welfare system if more and more people are unable to contribute to society. Let's just send them all to the gulag!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course

      You're quite correct. It's unfortunate but there are only a few of us who are sufficiently enlightened to allow this poor guy to move on with his life. All the other plebs would tar and feather him and run him out of town brandishing their pitchforks and torches. We clearly can't produce an enlightened society by educating the plebs - censorship is the only way.

  20. standardraise

    Impact on minorities/unique names

    Google's search also disproportionately impacts minorities or individuals with unique names - nothing gets buried because you are the only one. I am naming my child X X !

  21. Cereberus

    A legal judgement?

    This is a complex issue, and whilst the focus is on one particular person and his actions the consequences of the judgement could have much wider implications.

    As has been mentioned certain offenses will always have to be disclosed, as they should be whilst others could be seen as irrelevant. Should somebody suffer after being in the papers 20 or 30 years ago after stealing a bar of chocolate when they were 10 years old? At the same time should a company have to take the risk that they have someone guilty of fraud employed in a financial / senior business capacity?

    On the other hand should someone who has been punished have to suffer the stigma for ever ore of what may be a one time mistake (whatever the reasons they did it)?

    The more I think about this the more I feel there should be a statute of limitations which would be declared based on the offense and the level of offense. The RoO should then take this into account and it would work along the lines (purely hypothetical based around the case in point).

    You defrauded the company of £1,000 - the offense is linked to your name for 5 years after serving time

    You defrauded the company of £1,000,000 - the offense is linked to your name for20 years after serving time

    alongside would run the following

    You committed one offense, the above applies

    You have committed the offense more than once - no statute applies and your name will forever be linked to the offense(s).

    Essentially this means you make a mistake and after a period of time based on the seriousness and impact your name search does not show against the offense, but if you are a repeat offender you give up that right. This means that a mistake / poor judgement does not impact the rest of your life but if you are shown to be a repeat offender your impact on others is reduced as it is demonstrably no longer a mistake / poor judgement.

    The details would be issued as to length of term as part of sentencing.

  22. The_H

    So where does this end?

    Does Nexis Lexis have to delete the information from its search results?

    Does Hansard have to delete the information from its search results if the name had been disclosed under Parliamentary privilege?

    And what about the Internet Wayback Machine?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's all moot anyway

    If you are actually doing a background check then get on to AWS, Azure or the cloud of your choice. Rent a VM in the land of the free (or some other place that does not care about EU law) and run your search from there.

  24. Bucky 2

    This all seems to me like a case of the wrong tool for the job.

    If people are illegally taking into account spent convictions, those are the criminals that need to be stopped.

    Playing with the truth instead feels like a failure to even try.

    1. LucreLout

      This all seems to me like a case of the wrong tool for the job.

      If people are illegally taking into account spent convictions, those are the criminals that need to be stopped.

      Perhaps. Or perhaps if enough of society feels like the justice system isn't delivering criminals that have been punished & rehabilitated enough, and is seeking ways to evade the ROA, then the problem should be tackled at source - extend declaration periods to the point people aren't evading the ROA, or abolish it altogether.

      There's literally no point in having a law that most people don't obey, whatever peoples personal moral viewpoint.

  25. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Alternative remedy

    The alternative is, of course, that any person who does not like what Google's search result comes up with when their name is entered, should change their name to "John Smith" or some other name that is so common that the millions of hits will make the result meaningless. As an interim alternative, just make any job applications & similar using a pseudonym - which is perfectly legal so long as there is no intention to defraud or obtain pecuniary advantage.

  26. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Question....

    Being in the US, I understand the rules are different. Here in the States, an employer could and would call the local plod to run a check on a potential employer. It might take a few days but the plod would let the employer know what the arrest records indicated. Some departments only reported what they had, and others checked some larger database.

    So the question: Isn't there or wasn't there a similar process in the UK before Google? If there was, have the employers/investors or whatever either forgot about the plod checks and become just lazy?

  27. bugalugs

    The problem here

    Is that TN1 got convicted of fraud, presumably involving the loss of other people's money. That's a form of theft and there was a time when the penalty for that was Death, not just ostracism. If I was looking to do business with TN1, particularly if it involved me giving any sort of credit, and found that he had a conviction for fraud I would certainly drastically reconsider that business and that is as it should be. The man stole once and was convicted of it and rightly punished. Round here that's known as " form ".

  28. razorfishsl

    Same rules apply,

    There should be no "right to be forgotten" as long as the original data remains in the court file.

    When they destroy ALL records of the court case held in the legal files, all news paper articles and any other sources THEN google should be required to remove the data.

    in the UK you can go back 400 years , in some court cases "pendle witch trials" springs to mind.

    Surely those people who were acquitted also have the "right to be forgotten", let's start by burning and destroying ALL historic records of legal cases.

    1. LucreLout

      ..let's start by burning and destroying ALL historic records of legal cases.

      In a precedent based legal system, such as ours, that might be a bit of a problem. Messers Arkle & Pressdram may very much wish to be forgotten, but thanks to Private Eye's use of historic legal records, that is now most unlikely.

  29. mark l 2 Silver badge
    Trollface

    If NT1 wants to pay me the same money he is paying his high priced London Solicitors I will create some a few blogs, websites and social media pages and do some SEO so that they outrank whatever news articles are showing at the top of Google.

  30. x 7

    "Carter-Ruck"????

    Have you got that name right? Private Eye always calls them Carter-Fuck, has done for years so I'm sure you've made a mishtake shomewhere

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