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Spanish Company Tests 'Right To Be Forgotten' Against Google 200

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the with-a-side-of-bacon dept.
suraj.sun writes with an excerpt from an article over at Ars Technica: "Los Alfaques, a bucolic campground near the Spanish town of Tarragona, isn't happy with Google. That's because searches for 'camping Alfaques' bring up horrific images of charred human flesh — not good for business when you're trying to sell people on the idea of relaxation. The campground believes it has the right to demand that Google stop showing 'negative' links, even though the links aren't mistakes at all. Are such lawsuits an aberration, or the future of Europe's Internet experience in the wake of its new 'right to be forgotten' proposals? Legal scholars like Jeffrey Rosen remain skeptical that such a right won't lead to all sorts of problems for free expression. But in Spain, the debate continues. Last week, Los Alfaques lost its case — but only because it needed to sue (U.S.-based) Google directly. Mario Gianni, the owner of Los Alfaques, is currently deciding whether such a suit is worth pursuing."
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Spanish Company Tests 'Right To Be Forgotten' Against Google

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  • by maugle (1369813) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:30PM (#39181755)
    Next up: Germany uses the "right to be forgotten" on all events between 1939 and 1945.
  • by Shikaku (1129753) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:36PM (#39181783)


    History is history. PR and marketting be damned!

  • by enoz (1181117) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:36PM (#39181785)

    Wouldn't it be cheaper, easier, and more effective to simply rename the campground?

  • by Skapare (16644) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:41PM (#39181819) Homepage

    If the campground sues and wins, then we forget about the campground, but that won't affect the disaster. The campground does not own the disaster. To forget the disaster, then the disaster must sue.

    What about MY right to remember history the way it truly happened?

  • by Latent Heat (558884) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:44PM (#39181843)
    If the owners or operators of the resort campground had any degree of responsibility, culpability, or negligence in the accident that had happened there, I might agree with your reasoning. As far as I can tell, that a petrochemical company had a hazardous load on a tanker truck blow up on the road outside the resort has absolutely no correlation or comparison with the complicity of the German people, either active or silent, in the events you describe.

    You are going to have to come up with a better argument in favor of Google, a commercial entitity, in reminding people about a tragedy of which another commercial entity was an innocent victim. Your snarky post has me siding with the folks in Spain.

  • by jdgeorge (18767) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:58PM (#39181901)

    The events of history should not be erased simply because they are unfortunate. In my view, you have the right to pursue success, but you don't have the right to be successful. In this case, the campground operator doesn't have any right to be successful, no matter how much it wishes its context or were different.

    As others have suggested, the easy solution is to choose a new name. Asking Google to "forget" is foolish, and does a disservice to people who are interested or were affected by the disaster.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:22PM (#39182029)

    a better argument in favor of Google, a commercial entitity, in reminding people about a tragedy of which another commercial entity was an innocent victim

    The 217 people who were incinerated should be erased from history because a commercial entity would rather no one knew about it?

    That was the most important thing that has happened at that place, it's perfectly correct that it should be one of the first things that comes up on a search for that name.

    If I operated a camping ground at Auschwitz, should I sue to make the concentration camp not turn up on searches? I That wasn't my fault, why should I have to suffer the negative publicity?

  • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:25PM (#39182045)

    Let's look at this another way. Why should this campground in its present day form be considered more relevant/important than the historical facts surrounding the 1978 disaster that happened to occur at the site? Search engines are in the business of providing results weighted by relevancy and importance.

    Nobody is being slandered here. History is simply being reported.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:52PM (#39182177)

    I wouldn't call the Santorum/santorum situation irrelevant. The term, and the website behind it, began several years before the man became a presidential aspirant, as a response to his medieval views on sex and his desire to get the government involved in it. Since he still espouses those same views, I'd say that lower-case "s" santorum is still very relevant.

    Americans forget past transgressions by politicians far too quickly. How else to explain Newt Gingrich ever polling above 5%? Or Ollie Fucking North working in a job that doesn't involve busing tables? As soon as it stops getting ratings, the media moves on, and no one cares anymore. I'd like to see more "Google problems" haunting people like that, not fewer.

  • by bmo (77928) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:53PM (#39182187)

    Why should they sue the hosts? Historical fact is neither libel nor slander, nor is it hosted with malice.

    Removing history we don't like is called censorship and is Orwellian in the extreme.

    BMO - doubleplusungood.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @12:00AM (#39182209)

    If I want to visit Nuremberg on business I don't necessarily need a slew of results about Nuremberg laws. If I'm going to China I probably want to see Tianamen square, just as I would want to see Trafalgar square in the UK. One happened to have a massacre in it, but unless that massacre is happening *right now* I care more about directions, parking etc.

    It's not that there's a problem to have results that list all of the terrible things that have happened somewhere in the past, it's that they are just that, history, and if you want to go camping something that happened 34 years ago is not really relevant. It's not that the links shouldn't be there, just they should maybe be slightly deprioritized over current events or status. If there's a flood in Nuremberg I'd rather that be at the top of the list, than an event, horrific as it may be, that happened 70 years ago.

    Do you really want a world where the first search for Kansas is about bleeding kansas and the fight over slavery that happened there 160 years ago? That might be history, and it might make for some historical sites worth visiting (having never been to kansas I have no idea), but I may care more about a map than about one specific event that happened to be the worst thing to ever happen to a place. The history of the world is full of dirty laundry, that's important, but it's probably more relevant that the top result for anything be somewhat current.

    We might be arguing about degree. If I search for Tianamen square should the first 3 results be: a map, tourist info, and the offical website of the place or should it be a series of things about the 'protests' of 1989 and videos of tank man? How about the "National Mall" in DC (I think that's what it's called) where there have been a few shootings over the years? Should a search for verden (a town in germany) produce a page full of results for a massacre in verden ordered by Charlemange in 782, before information such as the local government webpage, or a map? I tend to think the first few results should be relevant to right now, and the lower results still have all of the messy history, and, especially in Europe, lets face it, there are a LOT of layers of history, you kinda get used to it, and focus on today even if your local bank branch is in a 900 year old castle.

  • by webnut77 (1326189) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @12:09AM (#39182253)

    Isn't this a matter or SEO? Get positive links to your site?

    And on the flip side, don't these other sites, the ones that have info about the disaster, deserve their place in the search listing?

    This sounds like: "Please adjust the rules in my favor"

  • by maj1k (33968) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @12:12AM (#39182263)
    google 'tianamen square map' google 'tianamen square tourist info' google 'tianamen square official website' is that really that hard?
  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @12:53AM (#39182429) Journal
    Unfortunately for those in favor of the status quo, we have a whole lot of people now writing history from a vast amount of perspectives.
  • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @01:37AM (#39182563)

    If I want to visit Nuremberg on business I don't necessarily need a slew of results about Nuremberg laws. If I'm going to China I probably want to see Tianamen square, just as I would want to see Trafalgar square in the UK. One happened to have a massacre in it, but unless that massacre is happening *right now* I care more about directions, parking etc.

    This is where the discussion shifts to "your personal needs versus the needs of the majority." Most people will never visit Nuremberg on business. Actually, most people will never visit Nuremberg at all. However, many people are interested in Nuremberg in a historical context. Your personal interest in Nuremberg massively pales in comparison to that of the majority. Why should your needs and interests suddenly gain precedence over those of the majority?

    There is, of course, an easy way to deliver relevant results either way. It's called "personalized search," but implementations of such ideas are the target of frequent and in some cases massive outcry from privacy advocates, because accurate personalized data mining requires having a whole bunch of data about you to work with.

    The world can't have it both ways.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @02:06AM (#39182653) Journal

    So basically you want to force search engines to only list nice, clean un-objectional results that don't offend anyone... all so you won't see anything that might upset you. Nice. That is how all censorship and oppression starts. Anything from censoring nudity to homo-sexuals being banned from kissing in public. Someone might be offended so it must be hidden.

    You are the enemy of any person who desires freedom. If we left things up to your kind we would life in a sanitized world were those who object to Telly Tubbies because one might be gay control all speech. And I will see you dead before that happens.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @02:13AM (#39182677)

    IIf I'm going to China I probably want to see Tianamen square, just as I would want to see Trafalgar square in the UK. One happened to have a massacre in it, but unless that massacre is happening *right now* I care more about directions, parking etc.

    Well, duh, if you want to know about parking in Tiananmen, ASK FOR THAT. How the hell is Google, or anyone, supposed to know what you want? []

    Is that hard?

    Failing that, the most widely discussed information is at top, which is about the massacre.

  • The sanitized web (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @02:35AM (#39182763) Journal

    This is not about the right to be forgotten,this is about the commercial sanitized web, where no search result may interfere with business and the business of marketing. Related to it are the religious nutters who want to censor the world of anything that might offend. The water-shed but also "Don't ask, don't tell" are symptoms of this. They might seem harmless but once you start giving into these extremists, freedom goes out the window.

    It after all never ends. Take this case, at what page of image search ARE the charred corpses allowed to start appearing? Bottom of the first page? 2nd page? For what search results? There is always more sanitizing to be done.

    Telly tubbies anyone? Lot of fuss because one of the characters supposedly was gay. Can't have that. Not because being gay is bad of course... it just needs to be hidden. From toddlers, from small children, from teens, from young adults, from adults... go into your ghetto and don't come out and upset right thinking people!

    Search engines and the internet have allowed us to do something unheard of in previous era's, to consume any information we want regardless of other human beings. If you were to ask in a christian town in the library for a book on homo's, you might not get what you want, information is easily censored on a local level. With the internet, you can get ANY opinion on the subject, good and bad and make up your own mind. Doesn't mean everyone will, but you can. And that is a great power to have.

    Censoring search results because someone doesn't like them might seem harmless in individual cases but cases set precedent and precedent is abused by those who know their individual case gets no symphaty.

    I am fairly certain a certain cruise company would like NOT to have a certain accident be linked to it constantly especially now it is again in the news with another ship. How far, how soon would you censor search results? The answer? Always to far and to soon.

    Freedom of speech dies fastest when you are free to speak but nobody is allowed to hear you.

  • by meerling (1487879) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @03:44AM (#39183021)
    Did it happen? Yes
    Is it public record? Yes
    Is the owner of the campsite trying to hide the facts? Yes
    Is he doing it out of respect for the hundreds dead and wounded in a tragic accident? No
    Is he doing it for monetary reasons? Yes

    If he didn't want the human bbq to 'taint' his reopening of the campground after this event, he should have picked a different location.
    I doubt he could have sold the place though, few people would want to buy someplace where those kinds of horrors have occurred.

    What he's trying to do is censorship or elimination of history for purposes of commercial gain. I don't care how you slice it, that just isn't ethical.

    Maybe he should try to embrace it, and have ghost hunter conventions there, or really spooky Halloween events. I don't know, but trying to deny the past is not the way to go about it.
  • by blackest_k (761565) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:30AM (#39183205) Homepage Journal

    It is an interesting and tragic story, largely of greed and incompetence on the part of a petro chemical company who overloaded the tanker, a tanker that was not designed for that load and the tank was weakened by stress corrosion cracking. The driver who was not trained in hazmat and apparently seems to have taken the route he did in order to avoid motorway tolls. It seems that the tanker had a tyre blow out possibly due to the overloading of the tanker who's weakened tank then struck the wall and leaked a huge cloud of highly inflammable gas which eventually ignited killing all those poor people.

    The responsibility is largely the petroleum companies and the regulations which they operated under and compensation has been made to the victims and their families and presumably to the camp ground operators. Due to the tragedy regulations have been changed and safety procedures improved.

    Probably the camp ground should have been bought out by the Petro Chemical ground and closed and left as a nature reserve and memorial to the people who died there. Even so as a destination for tourists it has been tainted and will be for the foreseeable future. It was a poor decision to rebuild the camp ground However it is clear that it's profitability is and always will be effected by the events that took place regardless of Google.

    Knowing what took place there would that effect your decision to stay there? If the answer is yes and you wouldn't stay there because of the history of the place, how would you feel if once you arrived you found out about the history of the place?

    I think if you try pulling the wool over peoples eyes they will be angry, if you have a family with young children how are they going to react once they find out they are staying in the death camp.

    Now if you know the truth you may decide that doesn't bother me, it is in a great location and book anyway. It might even appeal to some people. [] is in catalan but talks about ghosts seen at the site since 1980 (page 6 on the google results and About the first result which i thought might not be talking about the accident). The only place it seems it isn't mentioned is on the website for the campsite. Personally I think it is a mistake on their part not to mention it as it seems quite disrespectful to the victims of that fire.

    You see if your going to make an informed choice of where to holiday then you can't just not mention the horrific deaths that took place there, and they are mentioned a lot in this case. just like lockerbie, heisel , flixborough, mousehole and the loss of the penlee lifeboat crew.

    The village of mousehole turns off the christmas lights on the 19th of December in memory of the lifeboat crew who lost their lives that night in 1981. Honouring the dead, not ignoring them.

    I don't think it is in anyway reasonable to pretend that the tragedy didn't happen it is disrespectful to the victims and their families.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @04:49AM (#39183269)

    Every example I cited I specifically searched for in advance to be specifically illustrative of the problem

    What problem? Two links about he campsite, as a tourist venue, are on the first page.If that's what you wanted, you found it. If you were planing to go on holiday to a place that had a huge toxic waste disaster, you might want to read up on that too. So, no problem at all.

  • by mr_gorkajuice (1347383) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @05:13AM (#39183359)
    tbh, sorting of search results, and which additional parameters may or may not be required to reach certain specifics... it seems entirely irrelevant for the case that camp owner is trying to make.
    "The right to be forgotten". If the information is available one way or another, with any string of additional parameters attached or not, it was not forgotten. So either Google erases history, or they fail to comply.
    As for finding relevant results and sorting them properly, it's in Google's best interest to do the best possible job at sorting by relevance. It's probably not an easy job, but I think it's pretty obvious that Google wants to rank campsites and maps higher than historical tragedies, if Google does in fact realize that you're looking for campsites and maps.

    I'm not a Google fan, but forcing them by law to improve their already excellent search algorithms seems entirely unreasonable. I do however find it interesting to see the right to be forgotten being put to the test.
    If Joe Average bangs a 50 year old woman at the age of 20, and this somehow ends up on the internet, it might unfairly prevent him from getting a job at a retirement home some 20 years later.
    What obligations do Google have in preventing access to sex tapes of Paris Hilton, and pictues of Britney Spears' pussy? Is your right to be forgotten void when you're a celebrity, or only practically unenforceable?
    What if Arnold Schwarzenegger wants the world to forget his part in Conan?

    I'm thinking that the right to be forgotten is intended for personal matters, and although the line can sometimes get blurry, I'm pretty confident that the Alfaques disaster is to be considered a historical event.

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari