back to article Google to appeal against €7m fine from Swedish watchdog for failing to remove search results under GDPR

Google is to appeal against a €7m fine from Sweden for failing to follow Europe's General Data Protection Regulation. The Swedish Data Protection Authority fined Google SEK75m (€7m, £6.13m) for failures relating to the right to have search results removed, granted under GDPR. Under the European rules, individuals have the …

  1. Woodnag

    legal basis

    "Google does not have a legal basis for informing site-owners when search result listings are removed."

    I suspect that the law doesn't say that Google can't inform site-owners when search result listings are removed...

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: legal basis

      "I suspect that the law doesn't say that Google can't inform site-owners when search result listings are removed..."

      I don't know about Swedish law, but under UK law you definitely would be hauled before the beak for failing to abide by the spirit of the law. Which is a thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: legal basis

        Please explain your rationale. It seems quite reasonable for Google to tell a site owner "I'm sorry, but we're being required to delist your site for reason xyz" - after all, if the site owner removes the restricted information, then they could be relisted. Why punish a site owner (presumably not in a GDPR-regulated country) by prohibiting search engines from finding them, while making it illegal to tell them that they're being delisted and why?

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: legal basis

        I don't know about Swedish law, but under UK law you definitely would be hauled before the beak for failing to abide by the spirit of the law. Which is a thing.

        No it isn't. Which is exactly the conversation my business unit has been having with ever business secretary and every chancellor since Tony Blair and Gordon Clown used to be in charge.

        The law is a series of words written, hopefully with appropriate due diligence, by hopefully competent people. It has no spirit other than the intent expressed by the words as written. Court orders on the other hand you probably want to do what you thought the judge wanted you to do when he drafted it.

        1. Springsmith

          For Viewers Listening in Scotland

          "The law has no spirit other than the intent expressed by the words as written."

          No...

          "The jurisdiction of the Court of Session extends beyond statutory and common law powers, with the Court having an equitable and inherent jurisdiction called the nobile officium, unique among British courts. The nobile officium enables the court to provide a legal remedy where statute or the common law are silent, and prevent mistakes in procedure or practice that would lead to injustice. The exercise of this power is limited by adherence to precedent, and when legislation or the common law DO NOT already specify the relevant remedy. Thus, the court cannot set aside a statutory power, but can deal with situations where the law is silent, or where there is an omission in statute. Such an omission is sometimes termed a casus improvisus."

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Session#Nobile_officium

          (This was why some of the rushed Brexit legislation ended up being heard in Scotland)

      3. ratfox

        Re: legal basis

        I think wanting Google to keep quiet about delistings to prevent the site owners from republishing it misses the point of the Right To Be Forgotten. First, if the site owners are determined to disseminate that information, not even Google can prevent them. Second, if the site owners are determined to disseminate that information, then that information is not irrelevant or obsolete.

        If the goal was to prevent site owners from disseminating the information, then they would be ordered to take down the page; but that is not the case. If the goal was to prevent users to find the information if they look for it, then the page would be delisted for all search terms; but that is not the case either.

        The point of the Right To Be Forgotten is only that Google should not display this information when nobody particularly wants to disseminate it and nobody is particularly looking for it.

        As far as I know, in all those years, Google has informed site owners in every EU country, and though some people complained, no other country has forced them to stop.

    2. Zane-insane

      Re: legal basis

      It's down to privacy law and consent, collecting personal data and using it for a purpose that it was not collected for. Passing on the name of who requested the delisting (and remember it is simply relisting the result in association with the persons name, and not desliting in other circumstance - the search result will still appear against other search terms), is likely a breach of Swedish law. The person requesting the delisting is asking Google to deslist, and not the actual original publisher - so the relevance of passing on information is hard to justify, especially if the motivation is to allow the publisher to republish, and nullify the delisting request. Most countries do not look kindly to loopholes, and those trying to circumvent the law. The judgement will give details on the reasoning in Swedish law, I would assume it is not legal unless there is a "legal basis" for passing on personal information like a persons name. How things are worded in other countries just differ, so I wouldn't get hung up about how it is translated from Swedish to English

  2. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    Hmmm

    Do I take the risk of mingling with the populace to get in the popcorn and is there a limit on how much I could buy as I suspect this could go on a while as it is not only money Google will want to keep but it establishes a clear precedent that they have to obey the laws of countries outside the US even if they have not had a chance to buy a lower impact version

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Google does not have a legal basis for informing site-owners when search result listings are removed"

    Excuse me? Sorry, no, the way the law works is every person has a 'legal basis' to say any damn thing they like, UNLESS a court rules otherwise.

    The correct form of words is 'The regulator does not have a legal basis for preventing Google from informing'

    1. Billy Whiz

      "Excuse me? Sorry, no, the way the law works is every person has a 'legal basis' to say any damn thing they like, UNLESS a court rules otherwise."

      That may be so in US of A, but in the civilised world, the opposite is is true.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Civilized?

        Everything being forbidden by default, i.e., if not explicitly permitted, is a staple of dictatorships. It gives a lot more leeway for repression, whenever needed.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        "That may be so in US of A, but in the civilised world, the opposite is is true."

        Do you have a legal basis to say that? I don't think you do. May I see your papers on that comment?

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Do you have a legal basis to say that? I don't think you do. May I see your papers on that comment?

          While Billy has undoubtedly tripped over himself in his headlong rush to bitch about America regardless of the topic under discussion, he isn't completely wrong. There are legal systems in the world (not usually the civilised parts mind) that grant a range of permissions and all else is verbotten.

          1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

            I may be wrong but I seem to recall that French Law came from Napoleonic era rules which said 'forbidden unless specifically permitted' unlike UK Common law which was 'permitted unless specifically forbidden'. My favourite in UK law is from the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 which says it is an offence to have an erection on the Village Green.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, this is the main difference between civil law and common law. In civil law, permissions are granted to do things, and in common law, things are forbidden to be done. UK and descendants are mainly common law, almost everywhere else is civil law.

    3. Zane-insane

      I've not read the judgement, it is in Swedish - but under GDPR you need a legal basis to pass on personal information that you have requested, like someones name to another organisation, unless you have consent. I'm fairly sure when someone submits a delisting request, they are not doing it so the publisher can circumvent the request by republishing it, and likely make the result a higher as opposed to lower ranking. EU countries thankfully have more of a balance between privacy and freedom of information, meaning that the little guy doesn't get screwed quite as often.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: That may be so in US of A, but in the civilised world, the opposite is is true.

    Putting aside the contentious definition of "civilised", it's also the case in the UK too.

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    Eh?

    "In one case the regulator ruled that Google took too narrow an interpretation of what web addresses needed to be removed"

    Maybe the regulator needed to provide a clear instruction for which web addresses need removing. If it is open to such interpretation I can only assume the instructions were not specific and allowed interpretation.

    "Google does not have a legal basis for informing site-owners when search result listings are removed"

    By not having legal basis does that mean its illegal or that the regulator assumes dictatorship where blowing your nose requires their permission?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      But if they said exactly what needed to be taken down clearly and with little room for interpretation they couldn't extract fines.

    2. Zane-insane

      Re: Eh?

      The judgement will spell it out, it is in Swedish though. Basically they interpreted it as not complying with privacy law, where you need consent and a legal basis to pass on personal information to another party. Personal information is only supposed to be used for the reasons it was collected. Reporting the name to the original publisher so they can circumvent the delisting request is probably not good enough.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    The wrong target?

    I'm constantly re-surprised by an apparent assumption that a search engine has the primary responsibility for taking down (in the widest sense) content under privacy legislation. The listing only exists because the content in question exists, so the primary responsibility should rest with the publisher, not the search engine that merely lists the published content. I'm no fan of Gooooooogle, but in cases like this I think the wrong party is being prosecuted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The wrong target?

      In some cases they have no authority over the publisher so they rely on multi-nations like Google and Facebook to delist the content in Europe. Though in such cases use of smaller and mostly foreign (at least as far as the EU is concerned) search engines will turn up delisted result assuming you have an idea about the nature of what was delisted.

    2. Zane-insane

      Re: The wrong target?

      But back in the real world, no-one will have the funds to go after multiple sites in multiple countries to take down information, many of whom will not be known, and may not cooperate. Besides, delisting isn't about removing the information entirely, it is about removing the search link between an individuals name and the content. Even with delsiting, the same content will still appear under different search terms

  7. Barrie Shepherd

    I was under the impression that the right to be forgotten rules, as they applied to Search Engines, were about preventing searches by name revealing web pages that covered the matter the respondet wanted to be forgotten - NOT taking the page off the interwebs.

    e.g. If dirty rotten scoundrel did not want his name to be used to find a connection to his involvemnt in the fleecing of old age pensioners then Search Engines had to make sure a search for his name did not turn up the pages about the fleecing of pensioners. There was no obligation to NOT report the pages in a search for the term " fleecing pensioners".

    The BBC used to report on instances where some of their news pages had been de listed from named person searches but were still availabe in context search results. https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/entries/1d765aa8-600b-4f32-b110-d02fbf7fd379

    The pages were still available on line and in search reults if other search terms are used.

    To be completely forgotten a responent would need the Courts to deliver takedown orders to individual web hosting organisations which won't work for those outside of the Courts jurisdiction.

    On the face of the article, as reported, it does seem that Google has been dealt a raw hand by the Swedish Courts, who appear to want to operate as a world censor. Maybe the takedown orders that Google have "mishandled" related to a wealthy Swedish businessman/politician?

    1. aks

      Almost by definition, it's people who don't want you to know about their shady past who're demanding this kind of take-down.

      Anybody got a direct link to this legitimate information?

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