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European Commission Spokesman: Google Removing Link Was "not a Good Judgement" 210

Posted by samzenpus
from the we've-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this article from the BBC about Google's recent removal of a news story from search results. "Google's decision to remove a BBC article from some of its search results was "not a good judgement", a European Commission spokesman has said. A link to an article by Robert Peston was taken down under the European court's "right to be forgotten" ruling. But Ryan Heath, spokesman for the European Commission's vice-president, said he could not see a "reasonable public interest" for the action. He said the ruling should not allow people to "Photoshop their lives". The BBC understands that Google is sifting through more than 250,000 web links people wanted removed."
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European Commission Spokesman: Google Removing Link Was "not a Good Judgement"

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  • Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday July 04, 2014 @05:30AM (#47382309) Homepage

    ...but that's exactly what the ruling does. The original case was a businessman objecting to Google links to newpaper stories about his life. This is no different.

    Fact is, the court that issued this ruling screwed up big time. Perhaps, if Google can find a few more egregious deletions to make, the European Parliament will correct the error.

  • by lostandthedamned (907167) on Friday July 04, 2014 @05:33AM (#47382317)
    Apparently Robert Peston did some digging and it wasn't searching for the Article that was being removed but searching for one of the comments. Right to be forgotten is all well and good, but using that to try and remove a post you yourself put in a public place is a bit barmy. Props to the first person who changes their name to Anonymous Coward then makes the request for all their posts to be unsearchable.
  • My two cents... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2014 @05:40AM (#47382337)

    Google shouldn't have to make intelligent decisions as to what needs to be removed. It should all be automatic. Either everything is removed, or nothing is removed. Only by court orders otherwise.

    Those people, who want to be forgotten, should go after those hosting the material, not the search engine pointing. Don't we have an expectation to know where things are when searching? The search engine should be neutral is discovering the information.

    The existence of a site doesn't necessarily mean something is negative. Facts are facts. If it's copyright infringement, defamation, libel, whatever, then it's the site that should be dealt with, not someone pointing to it.

    To me, the E.U. isn't making progress. (I'm an American in the U.S.A.)

    How does the existence of facts make a person any less qualified to do a job, if said facts aren't relevant? Employers, lenders, whatever, shouldn't be allowed to take factor in certain things when it comes to hiring people. It should be illegal. Kind of like how when asking about criminal activity, here in the U.S., I don't think they can count convictions over 10 years old. Why not do that sort of thing for stuff over there? Wasn't this whole thing originally about some guy and his tax foreclosure on his house or something like that?

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2014 @05:48AM (#47382357)

    I rather suspect that was the point. Google is deliberately waving around the stupidest example of the implementation of the law they could find in hopes that somebody will notice what a bad idea the law was.

    It doesn't even take activism to inspire this, what business wants to pay someone to sort through people requesting that the picture of them kissing the fat chick while drunk be taken down?

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2014 @06:08AM (#47382411)

    "pretty obscure person" vs "very public CEO" is a matter of *your* perspective. If you're looking to go into business with the "pretty obscure person" then it's highly relevant for you. In both cases they are public articles by newspapers.

    What should happen is these requests should be put to the newspapers themselves, except then everyone would realize that it's censorship. And that's exactly what it is. So instead we have the silliness of asking a rich search company to do contortions to do filtering instead.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zocalo (252965) on Friday July 04, 2014 @06:15AM (#47382451) Homepage

    Fact is, the court that issued this ruling screwed up big time. Perhaps, if Google can find a few more egregious deletions to make, the European Parliament will correct the error.

    Fact is, the European Parliament passed a law that was so full of holes that it was inevitably going to be abused before it was passed and, despite this being pointed out frequently, they went ahead and passed the law anyway instead of maybe taking a bit of time to plug some of the holes and clarifing under what circumstances is could and, more importantly, could not be used. At least it's starting to look like some members of the EC are starting to realise that the EP messed up, but somehow I doubt that they are going to be able to convince their colleagues to do anything about it because that would entail them effectively admitting that they messed up.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday July 04, 2014 @06:20AM (#47382463)

    agreed... the eu had a stupid ruling that is having predictably stupid consequences.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday July 04, 2014 @06:21AM (#47382467) Homepage Journal

    The original case was a newspaper notice of a personal bankruptcy of a pretty obscure person, while this is a story about a very public CEO resignation.

    And yet, that is completely and utterly irrelevant because either way, the public interest is harmed, not served, by permitting someone to hide facts. That will never make the world a better place.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Friday July 04, 2014 @06:22AM (#47382473) Homepage

    ...but that's exactly what the ruling does. The original case was a businessman objecting to Google links to newpaper stories about his life. This is no different.

    Fact is, the court that issued this ruling screwed up big time. Perhaps, if Google can find a few more egregious deletions to make, the European Parliament will correct the error.

    I think the big problem here is that Google are expected to be the judge, jury and executioner and are getting smacked down when someone thinks they made the wrong judgement call. This stuff should be going to an independent judge instead of expecting Google to uphold a new law that has a fairly vague scope.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday July 04, 2014 @07:07AM (#47382589)

    I think the main issue I have is that this EC spokesman is expecting Google to make decisions regarding the public interest rather than erring on the side of caution and removing everything - the moment they do make decisions regarding the public interest, you can bet your arse they will be hauled back into court and have to justify themselves.

    So by going to the extreme and implementing the ruling across the board (barring obvious requests that can be rejected), Google is protecting themselves and showing what a stupid ruling it is in the first place. There is no alternative approach that Google can take that doesn't open them up to further legal action.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jabuzz (182671) on Friday July 04, 2014 @07:30AM (#47382657) Homepage

    Requiring the removal of incorrect data anywhere is perfectly reasonable. The problem is that now links to 100% factually correct data has to be removed if the person involved no longer likes it.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Friday July 04, 2014 @07:50AM (#47382707)

    The original case was a newspaper notice of a personal bankruptcy of a pretty obscure person, while this is a story about a very public CEO resignation. The decision is a bit of a mess, I agree, but this case pretty clearly falls outside its scope, which explicitly says that stories involving public roles are excluded (which resigning as CEO of Merill Lynch certainly counts as).

    From the explanatory summary (pdf) [europa.eu] that accompanied the decision, explaining when search-engine operators may turn down removal requests:

    The request may for example be turned down where the search engine operator concludes that for particular reasons, such as for example the public role played by John Smith, the interest of the general public to have access to the information in question justifies showing the links in Google search results.

    I don't believe you understand why google's pissed.

    They're a for-profit American corporation. They make money selling information to people. They keep costs low but refusing to use actual humans to do any of the work, when computer algorithm will work fine.

    But this ruling specifically assumes they have an actual person sitting around, with nothing to do but read these requests, and then spend an hour trying to figure out if Jose Juerez in this story is a nobody who can use his right to be forgotten, or he's a Jose Juarez who is a figure of public interest. Moreover the guy has to know every EU language, every EU minority language (so Sorbian with an 'o' counts, because German citizen Sorbians are also EU Citizens), prominent local non-EU languages (such as Serbian, with an e), and probably also at least a smattering or major world languages like Russian and Chinese.

    Since that person does not actually exist, they either have to hire a staff of several dozen, or they have to hire a couple really good lawyers who know the more prominent EU languages (ie: a Frenchmen, an Englishman, a German, maybe a Scandinavian because most of them can at least BS their way through all four of those languages, etc.), and then pull poor Nicolo Popescu from his team in analytics when a Romanian has a request. Then you have to hope Nicolo (hired for his ability to see patterns in data, not his communications skills), and the EU-fluent-lawyer he's talking to can communicate some very sophisticated legal concepts to each-other.

    So even if they only have 50k requests, as the BBC reported, this is not a cheap program for them to administer. They're paying something on the order of $150-400 an hour per person they hire because you need multi-lingual lawyers, they need to bring in the random dude who happens to know Gaelic once a month, they need to do some pretty strong googling of their own to confirm the complaints aren't BS generated by Yahoo bots specifically to fuck over their bottom line, etc. 50,000 complaints times $150 is $7,500,000 so even if each one only takes an hour (and it'll be more like five, especially for EU languages that aren't world languages like Italian or Portuguese), 250k complaints (as in this summary) is nearly $40 million assuming that they only take an hour. It's probably gonna be closer to the $250 million range by the time they actually get done investigating. And that's in seven weeks. Over a full year this is is is almost certainly gonna cost them $1-$2 Billion.

    So in other words google has two option. Agree to hire it's own Eurocrats for roughly $1 Billion a year, or make an algorithm that automatically accepts any request. As an American corporation they are loathe to spend that money on regulatory compliance until the actual regulators actually rule they actually have to have staff costing an actual $1 Billion. Note that, in general, each use of 'actual' in that last sentence requires at least one court ruling. American corporations really, really, really hate spending

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 04, 2014 @08:00AM (#47382737)

    We need more dicks like this, then, to point out the absurdity of the system. I hope Google responds to all such requests, and that they leave a gap on their search page with a message "This link has been removed in support of the right to be forgotten" in its place.

  • Re:Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Friday July 04, 2014 @08:37AM (#47382895) Homepage

    "A new law that has a fairly vague scope"? It's a law which dates back to 1995, and its scope is fairly clear. See the ECJ's Factsheet [europa.eu].

    The whole idea of treating a news report as "personal data" seems completely flawed to me.

    But in any case, there seems to be a "public interest" judgement to be made, with respect to this law. In general I think "public interest" judgements need to be made by judges and other public organisations within an established framework, rather than as ad-hoc judgements by private businesses.

  • Re: Well, duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mjtaylor24601 (820998) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:21AM (#47383135)

    If the cost of ethically maintaining their services becomes excessive, they can bear the cost ir shut down.

    The cost of "ethically" maintaining their service is that sometimes a case will fall through the cracks and information that probably should have remained available will be unduly censored because Google can't afford to do exhaustive analysis of every request that comes in. And that's a cost we all get to bear.

  • Re: Well, duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thaylin (555395) on Friday July 04, 2014 @09:22AM (#47383149)
    Umm, they are not the stewards of the information, they just point to it. It is not their jobs to police the internet for you.

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