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Google EU Privacy

How Google Handles 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the conveniently-forgets-about-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In response to an inquiry from European data protection regulators, Google has detailed how they evaluate and act on requests to de-index search results. Google's procedures for responding to "right-to-be-forgotten" requests are explained in a lengthy document that was made publicly available. "Google of course claims its own economic interest does not come into play when making these rtbf judgements — beyond an 'abstract consideration' of a search engine needing to help people find the most relevant information for their query. ... Google also goes into lengthy detail to justify its decision to inform publishers when it has removed links to content on their sites — a decision which has resulted in media outlets writing new articles about delisted content, thereby resulting in the rtbf ruling causing the opposite effect to that intended (i.e. fresh publicity, not fair obscurity)."
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How Google Handles 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2014 @07:30PM (#47591179)

    Anybody who expected "right to be forgotten" requests to be handled quietly is delusional. Of course the information will get additional publicity!

    • Of course the information will get additional publicity!

      <kneejerk>Sure it will, right up until the police turn up at Google's European workplaces and start arresting their corporate officers for contempt of court.</kneejerk>

      That possibility may or may not be hyperbole, of course.

      However, one certainty is that US corporations are playing with fire if they attempt to circumvent the spirit of European court rulings based on technicalities. I do wonder whether, sooner or later, some European judge is going to make an example of someone, even if it's not

      • by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @08:13PM (#47591313) Homepage

        So the end result will be publishers pinging google every day to see if any of the stories they published are still google-able...

        This is a stupid regulation. If someone doesn't want to have their story "out there" , they should just approach the publisher directly. Google isn't the one publishing or storing (for public consumption) this data... so they're a wrong target for this regulation.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Google isn't the one publishing or storing (for public consumption) this data... so they're a wrong target for this regulation.

          The way we find information has changed.
          Why shouldn't laws change to reflect how we want to interact with the new reality?

          • by Wycliffe (116160) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:39PM (#47591963) Homepage

            The way we find information has changed.
            Why shouldn't laws change to reflect how we want to interact with the new reality?

            Because that's just it, it's the way we find information, it's not the information itself.
            This is the equivalent of making google maps and/or rand mcnally not list strip clubs on their maps.
            The strip club is still there. It's still operating, it's just slightly harder to find.
            If you don't like strip clubs then go after the strip club not the map maker.

        • by N1AK (864906)

          This is a stupid regulation. If someone doesn't want to have their story "out there" , they should just approach the publisher directly.

          It is stupid regulation, but your alternative solution is also pretty stupid. Firstly, it makes no sense for publishers to put any effort into deciding if they need to remove content or not without a potential legal consequence, and secondly the majority of web content is outside UK jurisdiction. They are going after search engines because trying to get a website hosted in

          • Oh, I never claimed that my solution would actually work (and yes, it is stupid). But if you have an issue with say New York Times publishing something about you, approach New York Times and complain that it's wrong, etc., whatever, not that it will get you far in most situations, but who knows.

            Approaching Google and asking them to drop the New York Times article about you from their index is just wrong. (and in those situations, New York Times is well within their rights to ping google, notice that the art

            • by N1AK (864906)
              That assumes you start from the premise that it is wrong for the law to ever compel something be removed from the internet. There are many who think that it should be possible to force certain things off the internet. If that is your position then relying on asking a foriegn body nicely to stop isn't going to seem like a viable solution. Ultimately I don't think the internet should magically change how things are treated. If I could require a UK based site to remove/amend content via the courts, then I shou
        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          Yes but the politicians are "frit" of the media moguls who are the ones that behave badly.
      • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @08:30PM (#47591389) Homepage
        I do not see how this can be considered circumvention or contempt. Google has a long history of being transparent in this way. They make public what content they delist because of copyright violations and it is only right that they inform a website when they do similar for "right to be forgotten". You might argue that it is really the website's duty to begin with to comply with rights to be forgotten, and they are the only ones responsible for any possible contempt, but since no one contacted them to begin with asking to be forgotten I think that they are legally in the clear.
        • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday August 02, 2014 @09:10PM (#47591545) Homepage Journal

          I do not see how this can be considered circumvention or contempt. Google has a long history of being transparent in this way. They make public what content they delist because of copyright violations and it is only right that they inform a website when they do similar for "right to be forgotten".

          Further, if you read Google's document they indicate that in the case of data protection removals they inform the webmaster of the URL that has been de-listed, with no information about the details of the request or the requester. This seems like a sensible and serious attempt to balance the right of the webmaster to know that his content is no longer being indexed (for some searches) with the right of privacy of the person requesting removal.

          It also seems to be the cause of the hoopla a few weeks back which put Google in the crosshairs of many who claimed the company was trying to sensationalize the removals. Google had removed the link when the searched topic was the name of a commenter on the article (who asked for it to be removed), but not when the searched topic was person the article was about, or other relevant terms. The webmaster saw that the URL had be de-listed for some searches and the paper wrote an article about how the URL had been removed entirely, even though it was obviously in the public interest, asserting that Google was intentionally removing things that weren't justified under the law in order to provoke a backlash against it. The assumption that it had been removed entirely was incorrect, of course, but Google couldn't provide information about the rationale or scope of the removal without violating the privacy of the requester.

          I, personally, think the "right to be forgotten" is ridiculous, but it appears to me that Google is trying very hard to comply with it, letter and spirit.

          (Disclosure: I'm a Google employee, but I have nothing to do with any of this and know nothing about it beyond what I read in the press. Also, I'm not a company spokesperson of any sort; they pay me to sit at a desk and pound out code.)

        • You might argue that it is really the website's duty to begin with to comply with rights to be forgotten, and they are the only ones responsible for any possible contempt, but since no one contacted them to begin with asking to be forgotten I think that they are legally in the clear.

          It is the duty of every company which collects information about people to comply with the rights to be forgotten. Google is one of those companies, which collects data about people, and therefore they must legally co

          • Google collects metadata about people, but since that is secret stuff they keep to themselves no one asks them to forget it. Google also collects metadata about websites, which is publically searchable. But when Joe Smith wants some comment removed, Google did not have that data collected to begin with.
            • by Smauler (915644)

              No, Google collects data about people. That's how they can get a relevant search when you search for someone's name. It's not metadata, it's just data about individual people.

              That being said, I don't think it should be the responsibility of google to filter their data based on individual requests. It's really difficult to do, and the only reason they're complying is because the EU is a huge market.

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            So anyone told Rupert Murdoch that yet?
        • by Anonymous Coward

          The "right to be forgotten" is a heart-winning word for "censorship." While spreading misinformation may be bad, censorship is worse (who decided what is mis information versus valid and pertinent information? Someone you trust?)

          Remember, a censor is a person who knows more than he thinks you should.

        • by aepervius (535155) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:55PM (#47591833)
          The initial judgment was clear. The person which had debt but repaid them (the initial reason there was that judgement) did not have a right to change the news article because it was a fact, but they had a right to have the search engine not report them as a result. In fact this was how it worked before there was a search engine : if you wanted something forgotten you either moved out, or waited for some time. At that point if nobody checked the primary source directly (old journal article) then you were forgotten, as there was not a service/persons standing beside you permanently always telling everybody what you did wrong in the past. With google it is the case of having that person standing beside you telling everything you did so far as google can link it.

          It was clear from the judgement and the right to be forgotten that further reporting it wide of the removal would go against the very basis of it. After all there is no difference between "mister ABC has fone stuff XYZ" and "mister ABC has asked google to remove link to article where he did stuff XYZ". Even if it was an error the first time it was clear after the first reported removal went that way , that google by continuing to do that went against the spirit and the basis of the right to eb forgotten. In fact i would argue that google did it intentionally, knowingly and contemptuously, respecting the letter of the law but hoping with a two pronged way this would undermine the right to be forgotten : 1) they intentionally continued reporting the link removal when they are not forced by law to do so, and it was obviously counter productive to the spirit of the law to tell that to news agency and 2) they intentionally agreed to remove link which were not covered by the right to be forgotten, for example from politician and prominent person doing illegal stuff.


          Both actions shows this was not an accident and they did it to undermine the request. "doing no evil" is long gone. google now are clearly asshole.
          • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:16PM (#47591895) Homepage
            Of course it is not an accident, this is just Google following their long standing policy of transparency when delisting websites.
          • by jbolden (176878)

            . "doing no evil" is long gone. google now are clearly asshole.

            Fighting European censorship falls under doing good in my book. Your laws are evil. And its perfectly OK for different countries to feel that way. What's not OK is for Europeans to try and export their censorship globally.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        if a judge does decide to throw them in jail for a few days for contempt just to make their point abundantly clear.

        How is a European judge going to throw an American in jail? We had essentially the same conversation about Azure. If Europeans want products run in accordance with European law and culture they should create them, and stop using American products.

        Yandex, Seznam, Conduit, Vinden.nl are all European engines. If Europeans want European law then use those. The internet is open. Google shou

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @12:30PM (#47594395)

          How is a European judge going to throw an American in jail?

          Again, I emphasize that I was talking somewhat hyperbolically before.

          But in case you wanted a genuine answer, it is actually rather easy. Firstly, they'd go after the corporate officers based on Europe. Secondly, if any corporate officer who was American ever entered Europe (even flying over European airspace or in temporary transit through a connection at a European airport) they would be subject to arrest.

          If Europeans want products run in accordance with European law and culture they should create them, and stop using American products.

          As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. Particularly in regard to the Internet, control of infrastructure, exporting of laws, and surveillance, the US is not a popular country in Europe right now. Major US tech companies are already protesting about the damage to their reputations and ultimately profits that has been caused by various US government actions in recent years.

          For example, there are already on-line services that guarantee to store data only within the EEA, so the data protection rules about exports don't apply, and this is already becoming a commercial advantage for them over their US competitors. There are already questions being asked openly in security-sensitive organisations about whether once unquestioned US brands like Cisco, Dell and Apple are appropriate suppliers for computing and communications equipment. Now that governments have started doing things like seizing domain names, it is probably only a matter of time before ICANN loses its overall authority as well.

          As far as I can see, there is absolutely no possible upside to any of this for US businesses, and ultimately for the US economy and government. And it has effectively been brought about by the US doing exactly what we were talking about -- using dubious mechanisms to export its laws and culture abroad -- for some time now. The only difference is that this time, some of the rest of the world decided to do the same thing back, and the US doesn't like it when that sort of thing happens. It's used to everyone taking for granted that keeping the US friendly will be more important in the long run and letting minor transgressions slide is diplomatically justified, but in the current European political climate that assumption isn't what it used to be.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            For example, there are already on-line services that guarantee to store data only within the EEA, so the data protection rules about exports don't apply, and this is already becoming a commercial advantage for them over their US competitors. There are already questions being asked openly in security-sensitive organisations about whether once unquestioned US brands like Cisco, Dell and Apple are appropriate suppliers for computing and communications equipment. Now that governments have started doing things

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        Given that some country's supreme courts have expressed doubts maybe not - the problem with the EU is there is no revising chamber that sorts out the bugs in laws before they become law.

        The other problem is that each EU member implements these laws as they see fit so you can get widely differing implementation of laws in different countries.
    • by Uecker (1842596)

      I bet the most "right to be forgotten" requests will never get additional publicity. There is a reason it is called the Barbara Streisand effect and not the Jon Doe effect.

      I also do not fully understand the hatred against these rights. We aleady have intellectual property laws which limit the information flow on the internet in extreme ways. Why should indviduals not have some rights on information about themselves?

      • by yacc143 (975862)

        Well, it's simple.

        The American way of life (or understanding Privacy) is that information about Mr. X, that is collected by some company is the property of said company.

        The European concept in Privacy is that any data about Mr. X is basically always the property of Mr. X, and any company wanting to store/process/... that data needs a legal authorization to do so. (That can be explicit by law, there are some general cases where other laws imply the right to process data, e.g. accounting/taxing rules, or by p

        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          except when it's the traditional media your rights suddenly disappear
        • by rioki (1328185)

          To a certain degree you are wrong. Even under traditional European standards the law is odd.

          Traditionally companies can use as much data as is required for the normal operation of business and if they want to do more, they need your consent; that can be retreated. For example I can not demand the deletion of my data at credit rating agency, since that belongs to the normal business operations. In addition I agreed to each data point be inserted in the database with the interaction with my bank, telephone co

      • by jbolden (176878)

        We aleady have intellectual property laws which limit the information flow on the internet in extreme ways. Why should indviduals not have some rights on information about themselves?

        Because Google is an American company. In America speech about something, particularly critical speech, is strongly protected. One of the protections for speech is ownership and rights to your own speech. Person X has no right to control what person Y says about them. That's the very meaning of free speech.

        • by Uecker (1842596)

          We aleady have intellectual property laws which limit the information flow on the internet in extreme ways. Why should indviduals not have some rights on information about themselves?

          Because Google is an American company. In America speech about something, particularly critical speech, is strongly protected. One of the protections for speech is ownership and rights to your own speech. Person X has no right to control what person Y says about them. That's the very meaning of free speech.

          But how is this even related to free speech? It is not really about speech (opinions and ideas) but entries in a data base. It is not even a person speaking, it is a search engine. Also, the right to free speech is not absolute, but already limited even in the US in various ways, see hate speech, *bleep*, copyright...

          • by jbolden (176878)

            But how is this even related to free speech?

            Person Y states an opinion about Person X.
            Government G disagrees with that opinion because they like Person X and makes it a crime to reference it.
            Person Z makes reference to it and is punished.

            That's anti-free speech. What Google is being asked to do is deliberately and in a premeditated fashion lie to the people of Europe and tell them false government approved "truths" rather than actual truth. That's the core of censorship.

            . Also, the right to free speech

            • by Smauler (915644)

              Hate speech is not illegal in the United States. That's a European policy not an American one.

              Whilst there are fewer hate speech laws in the US, I'd guess there are more laws restricting speech against the government, ie sedition. "Seditious Conspiracy" is planning on bringing down the US government. No violence is necessary.

              The hate speech laws in the UK are rarely used. I absolutely agree with you that they should not have been passed. What's interesting is that they were passed in order to protect

              • by jbolden (176878)

                ie sedition. "Seditious Conspiracy" is planning on bringing down the US government. No violence is necessary.

                That's the same with any conspiracy.

                Speech: Mr. X should be die.
                Conspiracy: At 12:00 when Mr. X goes to lunch I'lll be wearing a bright green shirt and point him out. You fire your assault rifle from that window...

                One is the early stage of an act, the other is an opinion. Acts are regulated opinions are not. Same applies to sedition.

                The hate speech laws in the UK are rarely used. I absolutely


    • !#noindex

      There should be a right not to be indexed in the first place.

      This is much like robots.txt, but should apply to any social media website, including forums.
      Putting a special token somewhere in (e.g. the top) of a post, for example, could mean that the post should not be indexed, like I have done in this post.

      Of course, in the future, I will change my user-name to Striped !#noindex Cow.

      • by 2fuf (993808)

        Or you could, like, not post it to social media in the first place.

        How far does this token reach, will you zap everyone's memory who read your post too?
        What if they capture a screenshot and repost?

        Seriously take some responsibility for your own actions instead of blaming someone else when you screw up.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @07:34PM (#47591193) Journal

    Sure, I'd love for everyone to forget the stupid crap I do, but that isn't the way life works.

    • by diamondmagic (877411) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @07:36PM (#47591205) Homepage

      It's not so much "right to be forgotten" as it is "obligation for you to shut up," is it?

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @07:45PM (#47591225)

      ...that isn't the way life works.

      Actually, that's exactly the way life works, right up until some multi-billion-dollar megacorp decides to step in with technology that never forgets and that makes information (potentially including partial, inaccurate or misleading information) available more easily and to a much wider audience than would otherwise be the case.

      • Thanks, you beat me to it. It's ironic that those who depend on Google to "remember" the past are also the most susceptible to Google's astroturfing games about the present.
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by wisnoskij (1206448)
        "some multi-billion-dollar megacorp decides to step in with technology", you mean writing? I am not sure who invented writing, but I do not think it was a corporation.
        • by yacc143 (975862)

          Well, "writing" is not really an issue. What you might have meant was Gutenberg with the printing press. But even that's wrong, because printing something does not make the document accessible over long time spans. Even if it's published and widely circulated, after a surprising short time, only a tiny subset of the public (these that care about the subject) matter, might remember the original event and publication.

          That's what libraries have provided as a service for a long time:

          * books (and other publicati

      • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @08:52PM (#47591459)

        Actually no, that's not how life works.

        Go apply for a US government job with some clearance and see how far that forgetting works while they speak to your 1st grade teachers and anyone else that knew you since birth.

        And you can also apply that to anybody that would want to put the time and money to put a detective on you.

        Back in the 1960s (or today even) I could write a book with some embarrassing anecdote about someeone, would they be able to order that pulled off the shelves? No.

        The only difference here is "internet." Ah yes, now we're in the era of not just negative rights, which are relatively easy to enforce, and positive rights, which usually cause a clusterfuck wherever they are tried.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Actually no, that's not how life works.

          Go apply for a US government job with some clearance and see how far that forgetting works while they speak to your 1st grade teachers and anyone else that knew you since birth.

          And that is EXACTLY how the world worked before. Only actors willing to spend the resource (practically only governments, as your own example demonstrated) could know about your past that most people have forgotten, AND they cannot hide the fact someone IS doing the digging, and it is also possible for you to talk to your 1st grade teacher to know someone HAD asked about you.

          Compared to now where anyone can Google your past with practically zero cost expect their time, and you would not ever know about it

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Go apply for a US government job with some clearance and see how far that forgetting works while they speak to your 1st grade teachers and anyone else that knew you since birth.

          In the EU many things are specifically "forgotten" by law, e.g. spent criminal convictions don't have to be declared to potential employers. Employers could hire private detective agencies to dig that kind of information up, but generally they don't unless there is some very high level of security required. That was considered an acceptable balance - the information was not erased from history, but by not having to inform the employer most non-notable people could rehabilitate themselves successfully.

          Unfort

      • available more easily and to a much wider audience than would otherwise be the case.

        What the fuck does this even mean when 4chan and the Streisand Effect exist? Go leap in a tar pit, you're retarding the herd.

        • by Brulath (2765381) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:21PM (#47591735)

          The Streisand Effect is quite overrated; I have serious doubts that even one percent of cases would actually invoke it, and suspect the fraction is even smaller than that. Same goes for 4chan and, actually, the news media in general; they find a couple of things and blow those up into huge scandals using creative storytelling, and let the rest slip past.

          The Streisand Effect and 4chan are risks, but they're so unpredictable that it's probably not worth considering them as much of a factor in your decision to try and hide information.

      • That's the way life worked up until the invention of writing.
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        You've never been to a state library have you?

        Your tax dollars do the same thing. Libraries around the world archive and index newspapers and have for many years. Being able to look back into history did not start with the internet, and definitely did not start with Google.

        The audience is the same, the only thing that has happened is I can now look through history in the comfort of my home, whereas 30 years ago I would have had to put on pants and catch a train into town.

        • You've never been to a state library have you?

          I used to live right next to one of the UK's national reference libraries. I'm well aware of what they do.

          But that argument is missing the point. This isn't about whether information exists at all. It isn't about whether a historian who is willing to spend time properly investigating something should be able to look up the facts.

          This is about whether information -- specifically, information that is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive -- is easily available to a vast audience for negligible effor

    • In the old days if you did something stupid a few of your close friends/aquaintances would likely remember but other than that it would be largely forgotton. If you lived in a small town and it was something especially big the town might remember but you could still likely start afresh by moving to a new area.

      Nowadays information about people is being collated and indexed to a massive extent, so it can be much harder to get away from the stupid in your past. Especially if you have an uncommon name.

      Even crim

  • Government will mandate that MIB flashy things be installed in all communication devices.

    • GubMint will require a cellphone in possession at all times. additionally, it has to be ON and functioning according to their specifications. got an "old" one? violation and fine.
  • by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @08:15PM (#47591325)

    Let's just censor the press and get it over with. /sarcasm

    Saying things will be forgotten if it can't be Googled/Binged is like saying you won't get robbed so long as you don't post a sign that your door isn't locked. If a news outlet decides to "unforget" a person, then why not go after that media outlet, which is the source of the link that Google has indexed. I'm sure Google, even from a purely commercial point of view, won't keep serving dead links.

    • Saying things will be forgotten if it can't be Googled/Binged is like saying you won't get robbed so long as you don't post a sign that your door isn't locked.

      Or, it's like saying you won't be robbed in a functional decent community, with security patrolling the streets regularly and enforcing laws. It's not a 100% guarantee, but if you deliberately let the neighbourhood decay with gangs and drug dealers ruling the streets, well you're an idiot.

  • I don't think people like to be forgotten unless they've done something bad... and bad shouldn't have the right to be forgotten.

    I think this right to be forgotten is by people who want to control the news, as having knowledge of the non-historic past in the news is power... it allows people to discover how things were solved elsewhere and solved before, and that allows good to triumph over bad.

    Sorry bad, everything said in public that was captured and on an record should be available cheaply... the present

    • Should people who have done something mildly bad and learned from it have an opportunity to start over? In the initial right-to-forget case, somebody was finding that financial information about him, which would not have been available from a credit-reporting service, was being made available by Google, and that really hurt his business dealings. You can argue that people shouldn't do that, but you're not going to convince them otherwise. The choices are that he suffer forever for getting into money tro

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This still makes no sense at all. In order to protect people's privacy, people are not allowed to simply tell the website that hosts the offending article to take the article down, but rather they are allowed to tell Google to stop mentioning the fact that it exists? Are people so dumb that they want to simultaneously deny and allow free speech? Why is a search engine company expected to be the ones who are now exclusively responsible for deciding which privacy requests are valid and which are not? Why

  • Google has already mastered the art of Orwell's "memory hole" [wikipedia.org]. Just look at how Google manages to forget everything they know about search engines when it comes to their Usenet archives. Selectively applied, this is far more effective than anything so brute as Orwell's memory hole.

    • And while you pine for that which never was, I'll simply scratch my head and think, "Well, the Internet IS a single point of failure, innit?"

      • by Baldrson (78598) *

        Not ultimately, but proximately, it is. For instance, the guys at the Hackers Conference ceased bringing their fragmentary Usenet archives because DejaNews had everything online and then -- poof -- only for Google to pick it up again and then go, "Duh!" We'll see how long it takes for complete archive to be fully indexed. I'm sure it will happen eventually. Meanwhile... [youtube.com]

  • Forget Europe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pubwvj (1045960)

    I would like to suggest that Google forget the European regulators. That solves the problem.

    The Europeans have not right to hide information from the world nor do they have any right to determine how things are happening outside their countries. Google should simply refuse to 'forget'. At the very least 'forgetting' should only be for requests within the European dimwits's borders. The rest of the world should remember, remember...

  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Saturday August 02, 2014 @10:01PM (#47591707) Homepage Journal

    The EU ruling does not require the information on a website to be deleted. Quite the opposite, it upheld the ruling against that by previous courts.

    The EU ruling does not require Google to de-index the information. No, seriously, it doesn't.

    What the EU ruling states, and this is made painfully clear by the court and also in the summary document, is that the link to the information not be coupled with the personal name. How Google chooses to implement that is Google's affair.

    The Statute of Anne [wikipedia.org] is ultimately at the heart of this, because this is where ownership of information is first taken out of the hands of corporations and guilds, and placed squarely in the hands of individuals. The Data Protection Act, which stemmed from (again) corporations claiming ownership of information belonging to others - but this time often getting it wrong with life-threatening consequences, was in many ways a repeat of that battle.

    In the case of the DPA, the stakes were higher. Computer glitches and operator errors declaring living people to be dead spread from computer to computer like an incurable cancer. With no redress, even if it meant your bank account was closed, insurance got cancelled and house repossessed. Even if you got a company to fix the data, it would merely get reinfected. Politically aligned "vetting" companies were making a fortune selling bogus information to prospective employers, ensuring only ideologically approved candidates would get hired.

    I don't think people remember those days.

    European privacy rules are intended to transfer rights to individuals, as per Statute of Anne, and attempt to prevent malign, inaccurate data from harming said individual. So far, so good. I'm amazed at the number of libertarians who are opposed to individuals having rights. The more they oppose such a notion, the more I'm inclined to believe the philosophy suspect. If core elements can be ignored when convenient, they're not especially core.

    The EU laws and ruling might not be perfect, in fact I don't believe for a moment they are. But I reject the idea that a corporation has more rights than a person.

    Some time back, when I argued that freedom of the collective could not be neglected in pursuit of freedom of the individual, there was much opposition. Mostly along the lives that collectives have no physical reality. I fully expect these to be the people most opposed to the EU ruling, on the grounds that collectives (because that's what a corporation is) have freedoms.

    In other words, I believe people prefer cognitive dissonance to having self-consistent beliefs or to admitting error. Much better to split the mind than debug an ideology. Microsoft would be proud.

    I'd love to see a sane, rational discussion on the issue. Particularly with experts in IT security as part of it, as they're the experts in handling the conflict between access needs and access controls, and between risks vs benefits, especially on historical data which may include flawed data.

    • I don't think people remember those days.

      What you described is certainly a possible outcome, and a very, very bad one for the unfortunate individual concerned. It's akin to full-on identity theft in the damage it causes.

      However, bad data doesn't even have to spread virally as much as you described to devastate someone's life. A single error in a key database such as a tax office, credit reference agency or criminal records system is both sufficient to cause serious practical problems and difficult to get cleared up.

      I'd love to see a sane, rational discussion on the issue. Particularly with experts in IT security as part of it, as they're the experts in handling the conflict between access needs and access controls, and between risks vs benefits, especially on historical data which may include flawed data.

      Not that I disagree, but I think

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Assume that every opinion about you ever held by anyone who ever knew you was known and fully indexed.
        Assume that this was true about everyone in the world.
        Everyone has all sorts of people that hate them and have strongly negative opinions about them.
        Everyone has people that like them and have strongly positive opinions about them.

        Given this infinite database a reader can make a fairly good assessment of your actual character. Of the 18,700 that have an opinion about you if 400 think you are a liar and 12,

        • by jd (1658)

          Findings by researchers:

          Bad news/opinions spread faster than good.
          Bad news/opinions stay in the mind longer.
          Critical thinking is absent from the overwhelming majority.
          People don't think chronologically.
          Everyone is guilty of cognitive dissonance.
          People are less likely to hold good opinions of people they don't know.
          People will cling onto false beliefs even when shown their falseness.

          Conclusion: The average will always be against you. By a spectacularly large margin.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            This can be tested with American politicians. Over and over again the public's opinion of them rises quickly even when the negative information is out there as long as it isn't being aggressively pushed.

        • The solution to bad speech is more speech.

          There are certainly two ways to attack this problem: much more transparency or much less. And I have some sympathy with the idea that radical transparency is a better solution, at least in theory.

          The trouble is that in practice, radical transparency only works if you can reach a fairly extreme position, where all or at least a heavy majority of relevant information is available and where everyone interested in the topic will give equal weight to all of it. That is, everyone must speak with the same voice, a

      • Not that I disagree, but I think first we need a debate on what privacy means in light of modern technologies. The practical rules and assumptions of yesterday will not protect the same values and principles when faced with the technology of tomorrow. Put another way, for the spirit of the law to be preserved, the letter of the law may have to change, perhaps dramatically.

        The technologies of today have not substantially changed from the technologies we had 20 years ago when privacy rules were put

        • The essence of the technologies might not have changed, but their implications have changed dramatically. A friend photographing you having a good night out and e-mailing that picture to you is a fun memory for you to share. 853 people photographing you incidentally over the course of a few days and uploading their snaps along with accompanying time and place metadata to a photo sharing web site where they are run through image recognition and thereby connected with your own profiles in other database? That

    • by Anonymous Coward

      link to the information not be coupled with the personal name

      That is completely meaningless drivel. That Google must decide what it means, while simultaneously being attacked from all sides for whatever they do or don't do, just proves that this ruling is, in fact, an impossible task which was intended as a personal attack on the company. Not once did you mention any other of the numerous search engines in existence.

      The entirety of the rest of your post was somehow even more inane; just random bits of his

      • by jd (1658)

        http://www.google.com/url?sa=t... [google.com]

        Nobody has to decide what anything "means". The EU issued a very simple instruction - personal names cannot be used to search for outdated/false information. People who run businesses know part of the cost of business is that they'll be attacked. So long as they stick to the law, the attacks will fail. People complain and, in free countries, complain loudly on the Internet, TV and talk radio.

        I don't like irrational complaints, but as there's nowhere rational to go, I have to

    • by jbolden (176878)

      There isn't much to debate. The argument for most Americans (not just libertarians, I'm not a libertarian at all) is pretty clear. You own your opinions. You don't own other's opinions about you. If X has the right to control Y's speech then you simply don't have freedom. Americans simply do not want and will not tolerate a situation where their own government has the right to tell X what he can and cannot say about Y. They certainly do not want such a situation being imposed by governments in which

      • by jd (1658)

        Ok, let's take an example that Americans might understand better, the No Fly List.

        We know bad data is on the list. We know the list is searched by name and not by identity. We know this results in false positives.

        That is, nonetheless, a database of opinions. It is the opinion of the person adding the name that it belongs there. It is the opinion of the airport or airline security that some individual is the individual named.

        It is MY opinion that the moment some Joe Average Innocent gets hurt by this, that t

        • by jbolden (176878)

          What the EU prohibited was OUTDATED opinions and FALSE data being searchable under a person's name.

          What is an outdated opinion? Let's take the actual case. Person X's home went into foreclosure on date Y. A legal auction took place. Under his name the most prominent thing he had ever done, as defined by a listing in the most reliable sources was default on his mortgage. Google stated that by having this high on the search ranking. That is still true information today.

          Ok, let's take an example that

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        If X has the right to control Y's speech then you simply don't have freedom.

        This isn't about speech. As the GP pointed out, your right to speak is perfectly intact. This is about the desire of a commercial company to associate certain information with your name and provide it to others for profit, regardless of the consequences to you.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          The ability to freely say X about person Y is what free speech is about. What do you think free speech means?

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            How is that affected by this ruling? You can still say it, they can just request that Google doesn't link your site/post with their name.

            • by jbolden (176878)

              Google can't say it. The ruling wasn't about me, it was about them. They were the ones whose speech was censored.

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