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Privacy EU Google The Courts Your Rights Online

EU Court of Justice Paves Way For "Right To Be Forgotten" Online 199

Posted by timothy
from the youthful-indiscretions dept.
Mark.JUK (1222360) writes "The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has today ruled that Google, Bing and others, acting as internet search engine operators, are responsible for the processing that they carry out of personal data which appears on web pages published by third parties. As a result any searches made on the basis of a person's name that returns links/descriptions for web pages containing information on the person in question can, upon request by the related individual, be removed. The decision supports calls for a so-called 'right to be forgotten' by Internet privacy advocates, which ironically the European Commission are already working to implement via new legislation. Google failed to argue that such a decision would be unfair because the information was already legally in the public domain."
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EU Court of Justice Paves Way For "Right To Be Forgotten" Online

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  • Paris may forget you cheri, but marketers never will.

  • Safe to say that corporations now have the same inalienable rights to removing incriminating evidence?
  • by scsirob (246572) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:51AM (#46988425)

    I can't help wonder what happens is a person who wants to be forgotten is referred to by someone else. Removing search results regarding some particular person may mean unintentional removal of content that someone else created and want visible.

    • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:13AM (#46988605)

      There's been a lot of FUD and confusion about this particular law on Slashdot, some people seem to think you can just somehow use your bat signal to say "I want to be forgotten on everything online ever!" but it's more simplistic than that.

      What it does, is gives you the right to go to a company, that is storing information on you, and ask that they remove it. Nothing more, nothing less. That means if Google has indexed search results and their index includes information on you they simply have to remove that from their index - they do not have to go to the sites they indexed and asked them to remove the information too or any such thing, it's up to you to contact each specific company and the company must oblige.

      This isn't really as big a deal as often made out, there was an argument you already had this right to an extent in many jurisdictions such as under the data protection act in the UK, which states that companies may not be passed information on you without your consent, so unless you gave it to them in the first place or consented to someone else giving it to them then they shouldn't be holding it regardless.

      This law just formalises that and makes it clear that that remains true even in the age of user generated content, it simply makes it clear that companies can't shirk their data protection rules by saying "but a user gave us that content!" or "but a machine gathered that information!".

      I don't believe this creates the hardship that it's claimed it creates, if companies were adhering to the likes of the UK's data protection act in the first place (which stems back to 1998) then they should've had procedures in place for over a decade and a half now to delete personal details that they had no legal right to hold.

      If there are concerns about other content being deleted at the same time then that's not a problem with the law, but entirely a problem with how companies choose to go about eliminating data that should no longer be held.

      If I have entered no agreement with a company, if a company is not acting as a data processor for a data controller I do have an agreement, and if I have not myself passed personal data to a company, then they never had a legal right (apart from under a handful of very specific exceptions) to hold it in the first place. The only extension this adds is that it makes it clear that you can also retroactively have information removed even if they did have the right to hold it in the past - even this existed in the likes of the DPA though, that companies shouldn't hold it for longer than necessary for the agreed purpose or when a data subject has ceased their relationship with the firm. The problem with that part it was never explicit as to exactly how long a company could hold data on you after that point so it was down to a fairly arbitrary decision by a court.

      Honestly, I don't see the problem, if a company doesn't have control of the data it owns to be able to delete data it shouldn't hold on request then it's not fit to be holding any kind of data in the first place.

      • by Raenex (947668) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:51AM (#46989473)

        What it does, is gives you the right to go to a company, that is storing information on you, and ask that they remove it. Nothing more, nothing less. That means if Google has indexed search results and their index includes information on you they simply have to remove that from their index - they do not have to go to the sites they indexed and asked them to remove the information too or any such thing, it's up to you to contact each specific company and the company must oblige.

        Oh, is that all? So the data is still there, except the most popular search engine on the planet can't list it. Wow, that's a relief. Here I thought there was censorship of public information going on, but clearly there isn't. (For the impaired, yes, this is sarcasm.)

        From the article:

        The case itself occurred after a Spanish man (Mario Costeja Gonzalez) complained that the detail of an auction notice for his former home, which was repossessed after he failed to pay his taxes, appeared in Google's search results.

        The notice itself was made public on the third-party website (twice via a newspaper called La Vanguardia) and Mr Gonzalez wanted the source material edited and the Google result removed because the proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years, thus he felt as though the reference to them was now "entirely irrelevant".

        Mercifully the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) rejected the complaint against La Vanguardia, which correctly ruled that the information in question had been lawfully published by it. But the AEPD then ruled that Google should still delete the related references to the page, which Google perhaps understandably viewed as unfair because the information was already in the public domain, and so began the court battle until today's ECJ verdict.

        • by Xest (935314)

          I'm not entirely sure what you're being sarcastic about or what point you were actually trying to make with your quote?

          Newspapers have long been deemed to be public record, and so of course it shouldn't be censored. Public record can comfortably sit behind the public interest defence. But Google is a business that makes money providing services based on public record, that does not in itself make it public record, and so it becomes difficult for it to make a case for public interest - it's tried to make thi

          • by Raenex (947668) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:14PM (#46990431)

            Newspapers have long been deemed to be public record, and so of course it shouldn't be censored. Public record can comfortably sit behind the public interest defence. But Google is a business that makes money providing services based on public record, that does not in itself make it public record, and so it becomes difficult for it to make a case for public interest - it's tried to make this case and failed, hence the ruling.

            This argument is absurd. Newspapers (when not state run) are also commercial interests. One entity publishes things in the public record, and another makes those things searchable. To argue that what Google does is so different and doesn't deserve protection is preposterous, even more so to claim that there isn't censorship going on.

            • In the EU simply because some information is public does not mean it's free for all commercial entities to use. For example, if a crime is considered spent (usually some time after punishment ends the guilty party no longer has to declare it to employers) then an employer can't just go looking back through the newspaper archives for the stories reporting it. You can't set up an agency that records crimes and reports them to employers for a fee, even if they are considered legally spent. The information is public, anyone who kept a copy or who can be bothered to visit the library and scan through microfiche can find it, but that doesn't give them a right to use it commercially without that person's consent.

              You have to remember that in the EU corporations are not people. They don't get the same freedoms and rights that people do.

              • by Xest (935314)

                Yep exactly. As I pointed out in another post credit reference agencies are the perfect example as they've long been living by the standards Google is now being asked to because they were historically one of those with a data protection act exemption.

                The problem is a new one because historically most businesses have had absolutely fuck all reason to gather people's embarrassing data and the data protection act made it clear they had no right to as well. The law hasn't played catch up on the internet, but cr

              • by Raenex (947668)

                The information is public, anyone who kept a copy or who can be bothered to visit the library and scan through microfiche can find it, but that doesn't give them a right to use it commercially without that person's consent.

                It's public but it isn't. Right.

                You have to remember that in the EU corporations are not people. They don't get the same freedoms and rights that people do.

                A completely irrelevant point, as point the newspaper in question and Google are commercial entities. It's just that one was allowed to keep their page up as a matter of public record, and was disallowed to index it, which is absurd.

            • by Xest (935314)

              Newspapers report on and record current events, they're a record of facts based on the perspective of the paper in question, and they can be sued for libel if they get it wrong and forced to print corrections.

              In contrast, Google has none of this. Would your preference instead be that Google's search facilities are declared public record but it can be sued for libel for everything wrong it indexes about someone? How else do you suggest dealing with incorrect or irrelevant information that is harmful to an in

              • by Raenex (947668)

                In contrast, Google has none of this. Would your preference instead be that Google's search facilities are declared public record but it can be sued for libel for everything wrong it indexes about someone?

                For this case, it is irrelevant. The information is true, not libel, and already ruled and acknowledged by you to be public record, and the newspaper can leave the page online. Yet you hold that this same "public record" information cannot be indexed by a search engine. That's a farce.

                Okay there is censorship going on, but there's always censorship going on. Using censorship as a go to argument against everything is one of the worst fallacies Slashdot is prone to.

                At least now you admit there is censorship occurring. And really, censorship is the one of the worst fallacies on Slashdot? Gee, that freedom of speech, so unimportant, hardly worth consideration! Let's just brush the issue un

                • by Xest (935314)

                  "Yet you hold that this same "public record" information cannot be indexed by a search engine."

                  But it's just not being indexed, unless you get the definition of data processor as in data protection law then I don't know how else I can explain to you why this is different. There's a specific legal definition, and Google falls foul of it. It's not a farce, a farce would be allowing internet companies like Google to keep being a special case that does not have to adhere to data protection law whilst everyone e

          • But Google is a business that makes money providing services based on public record

            Do you think Newspapers are doing it for the free hugs or something?

            • by Xest (935314)

              You're missing the subtle difference - newspapers make money by establishing public record. Google makes money off of re-use of public record.

              If Google was establishing public record it would be protected, but it's not, it's merely re-using it.

              Fundamentally newspapers produce a historic log as time goes by - Google doesn't do this, it represents a pretty much live state of the internet.

              It does beg the question whether Google could work round the problem by, rather than deleting links, creating a separate li

      • I think part of the problem is that some of us still remember the two German Killers who tried to get Wikipedia to remove the entries listing them and the crimes they committed as part of a "right to be forgotten." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/us/13wiki.html?_r=0 [nytimes.com]

        Thankfully, it looks like Wikipedia is still listing the names [wikipedia.org]. If this "right to be forgotten" is upheld, how long until it is used to erase past misdeeds from online sources? What is the limit to the power to erase bad things about you onli

        • by Xest (935314)

          They've done a decent job of writing the law so it essentially comes down to a question of weighing public interest against the right to privacy. In difficult cases this would have to be decided in court, but most of the time it's going to be clear cut. There's clearly no public interest in keeping some pictures of a drunken teenager doing something stupid up so that she can be bullied into suicide, but there is clear public interest in recording and reporting on the crimes of serial killers.

          A lot of people

          • There's clearly no public interest in keeping some pictures of a drunken teenager doing something stupid up so that she can be bullied into suicide, but there is clear public interest in recording and reporting on the crimes of serial killers.

            Based on what principle did you make that distinction?

            • by Xest (935314)

              It doesn't matter what my personal morals are or aren't, public interest is a thing that has been defined over the years, and that is an example that would fit into the existing legal definition.

              So if you're trying to enter a debate about "Who am I to dictate public interest" or whatever, then you're out of luck. See here for more information:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

              Currently, I do not see a problem with the definition of public interest. It's not unreasonable.

              • By that definition, the serial killers would be elligible to have the news of their past crime supressed. A representative member of the public would be neither harmed nor benefitted by being aware of that information.

                • by Xest (935314)

                  I'm not a judge so I can't pass judgement on that, but I'd wager a judge would disagree with you based on the argument that it's in the interests of the welfare and wellbeing of the public to know if someone has killed multiple people in the past.

                  It's about balancing the rights of the individual against the rights of the public - is it more important for the individual to be given a second chance, or more important for the public to know that although the person has now been through a rehabilitation program

                  • They've been paroled so there's a legal presumption they're not likely to kill again. That being the case, how is the fact they killed people decades ago at all relelvant to your life, other than morbid curiousity?

      • by Psyborgue (699890)
        There is a website I made about a deceptive woman who refers kids to abusive programs a while back. All the information on there is true. It serves to warn others away, and it works. Should this person be able to remove *my* website from Google's results? I've already won a WIPO dispute over it.
        • by Xest (935314)

          Well it's tricky, as I've said to others who have represented such cases it ultimately would have to come down to a decision in the courts as to whether the public interest in the information is more important than the individuals right to privacy.

          If you have continuing evidence of the issue and you're reporting on it then you could claim a public interest defence, but if it's something that happened 10 years ago then there's a question as to whether you should be able to keep trying to ruin her life when s

          • by Psyborgue (699890)
            Yes, but the way i'm reading this, it won't be the courts who decide whether a matter is of public interest, it will be the responsibility of the service providers. Even if this is not the case, at least in the states "public interest" is more often than not interpreted to mean "been discussed by the legislature". In that respect, it seems sort of like the DMCA (automatic take down, then the onus is the user to provide proof it doesn't infringe).

            It seems like this provides a haven for cult leaders and tho
      • by Ardyvee (2447206)

        What if I write an article discussing X event about Y person and due to the nature of X event it is for the best interest of the reader to know Z personal information about Y? Can Y then ask to google to stop linking to my article? Can I fight it? Can I get payment for any lost revenue due to loss of traffic (if applicable)? Do I, as the author of the article, even get notified about this?

      • by Psyborgue (699890)
        Privacy is not censoring what other people have to say about you. That's not even mentioning the potential for abuse.
  • by davecb (6526)
    Courts are based on both sides arguing their case: Google needs to gain standing and appeal.
    • by dcw3 (649211)

      Appeal to who? According to this, the court making this decision is the highest in Europe:
      http://www.usatoday.com/story/... [usatoday.com]

      • by davecb (6526)
        The court, of course: they purportedly complained that Google hadn't made their case. That's why I mentioned "standing". Supreme courts of different jurisdictions have differing rules about rehearings, but almost all require an application to be considered, just because they are supreme.
      • by davecb (6526)
        Followup: looking at the ruling, there's a contradiction between "processing" and "search", where Google has failed to argue that their result ranking is either fair or dictated by necessary. This may take an additional case, to distinguish when one can legitimately ask to be removed and when one can't. I'm guessing Google will argue that they would have had to to engage in at least malfeasance to qualify for removal of results (;-))
  • so by the wave of legislator's arms, all information about us online is simply going to disappear?

    i call shenanigans.

    i mean really...do these people surf the same web as i do?

    • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:01AM (#46988505)

      You could try reading TFS, if not TFA.

      They specifically point out that even if Site X has a legitimate reason to have that personal information online, it does not automatically mean that Service Y (in this case, Google), has a legitimate reason to process that data in the ways they do.

      Site X will still be available. It might not be easy to find it, of course, but cue the "the internet routes around censorship" mantra.

      • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:12AM (#46988593) Homepage

        so legislators are going to start deciding what public information search companies are able to aggregate?

        uhhh....no thanks...ill opt out of that reality.

        • Yes - and while it's terribly cliché, I need only point to child pornography materials to show that this is already happening, and generally opted into (by both the general populace, and by businesses themselves, voluntarily).

          • please tell me you are not equating child pornography to publicly available information....please???

            • Okay, bomb making materials, then. (various governments)

              Or Nazi propaganda materials. (Germany)

              Or anything that tends to tick people of a certain religion off (various governments)

              Or anything that offends a certain king (various governments).

              I'm sure we can find something along the scale of publicly available material (and yes, child pornography is also publicly available, even if not 'a matter of official public record') where we can both contemplate whether that material not being easily found through ser

              • its all just government censorship....don't you see that??

                the promise of the internet has always been information wants to free.

                man, slashdot is changing nowadays...i can't believe that i am even debating this point on this particular forum...wow.

                • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:14AM (#46989105)

                  Slashdot has always supported the idea that information wants to be free, but it's also supported the idea that privacy matters.

                  It's also true that not all information should be free, most people don't want their password, debit card pin, or private conversations to be "free".

                  I mean, what is your argument, that everything the NSA and GCHQ did is fine, and of course they should be able to follow your every conversation, because of course, information wants to be free? I mean why shouldn't GCHQ and the NSA hold all your information, information wants to be free, it wants them to know everything about us!

                  Should Slashdot remove Anonymous Coward and make everyone post with their real names, because we should all get to know who exactly they are, because information wants to be free? Maybe you should have to publicly post your address and telephone number and e-mail and workplace details and salary too. Are you willing to put your money where you mouth is and make a start?

                  Yes information wants to be free, except when we're talking about privacy, and privacy concerns should trump that.

                  • I don't post as an anonymous coward to hide my identity. I've posted when I was clearly in the minority, but I still post, and I've taken some crazy karma hits for it too. My karma is pretty good, so I don't mind the occasional hit because I'm not in the majority opinion, but I don't write inflammatory or troll posts either.

                    I'm pretty sure a lot of the commentary would be better off without AC posts as well.

                • its all just government censorship....don't you see that??

                  Of course I see that - the debate would be about whether that is always undesirable.

                  the promise of the internet has always been information wants to free.

                  To which I would suggest that yes, you always find it undesirable.

                  Unfortunately, that's not the reality we live in. Though there's always darknets.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            I need only point to child pornography materials to show that this is already happening

            And we need only point out that it's being incompetently ran, has tons of false positives (and therefore false negatives), and frequently leads to stupid scenarios like sex education [cnet.com] and other legitimate stuff being blocked while the stuff it's supposed to block still gets through.

            These kinds of filters simply don't work at a technical level without blocking legitimate stuff.

            Hell, at a company I used to work for their int

            • by Xest (935314)

              I think when he referred to CP he wasn't talking about filter, but the fact that sites like Google already remove links to such sites from their indexes as soon as it's been pointed out to them.

              And that does work 100% of the time. Because it's not hard to check an index is what someone is claiming it is and hit 'remove' on it once that confirmation has occured.

              This is not the same thing as filtering, which I agree is a broken non-workable idea.

        • by Sique (173459)
          It gets a little deeper into European privacy law. It is actually forbidden to compile personal information into a searchable database without the explicit permission of the person the data is about. Exceptions to this rule have to be specified by law. So yes, the information is in the public, and you are allowed to spread them, but you are not allowed to collect them into a database. If Google presents the information in a list of search results, this counts as including the information into a database, an
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          so legislators are going to start deciding what public information search companies are able to aggregate?

          Yes. In the past if you had a criminal conviction it might have been written about in the paper. Years later you have served your time and the conviction is spent, do you don't have to tell employers about it. That helps reformed criminals who have not re-offended to re-integrate into society. The only way and employer could find out is to go to a library and scan through tens of thousands of microfiche looking for your name by hand.

          Now Google will pull up that news site article from 1998 in a few clicks. T

        • by houghi (78078)

          I want to opt out of them gathering MY data. That is not possible now.
          And this is not about just putting a robot.txt on my website.

          And limiting companies in favour of people? Yes please. If there is a choice between people and companies, governements should pick the people each and every time. They are made by the people, for the people.

          Hey: "For the people. By the people." could be a great motto for a governement.

    • By the same merit, some people want a similar sweep of the legislators arm to stop tracking on the internet, and as many of those people post here I'm pretty sure they surf the same web as we do.

    • by Xest (935314)

      "so by the wave of legislator's arms, all information about us online is simply going to disappear?"

      No, but upon receipt of a formal request it's not unreasonable to expect that companies have control of the data they display on the internet and can hence delete it from their services. Because this is what it's actually about, not some fanciful idea of being able to declare in some unspecified place that all information about you on the internet should vanish, an idea that seems to have been magicked up in

      • Honestly, if companies can make a profit off of harvesting and displaying personal details, often against the will of the person in question, then it's really not too much to ask that when the subject asks for it to be removed that they do so. If someone breaks into your house and steals your personal photos, financial records, and whatever else and posts it all online and Google harvests it up with it's automated systems and makes a bit of money from ad impressions for people that stumble across it I don't think it's really a lot to ask that you also have the right to tell them to delete it the fuck off their servers when you find it too.

        Your analogy is way off the mark. This case (and other examples that have made the news) are about citizens who wish for factual but embarrassing parts of their history to be harder to find. Facts that are considered public record. Facts that they have no standing to actually remove, but this ruling says they can shutdown someone who helps make this public information accessible. Instead, you offer a hypothetical example of a crime and detailed financial records illegally posted online. In your ill consider

  • cool (Score:4, Funny)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:01AM (#46988499)

    Donald Sterling's going to love this.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:30AM (#46988731) Homepage
    There are cases where a disgruntled X does nasty things - from posting nude photos of women to falsely claiming a man was arrested for molesting a child.

    Not to mention numerous cases of old, bad information, such as bankruptcy, actual arrest records, etc.

    Worst of all there are several companies who exist solely to blackmail individuals into paying to remove negative information. All totally legal in some jurisdictions.

    This is a good law we need it.

    P.S. Someone mentioned companies and/or other large organizations using it. They already get the same thing done by paying large amounts of money to lawyers to sue people for 'copyright' infringement over videos of them committing crimes.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Companies can't use the right to be forgotten. It only applies to individuals, and in the EU companies are not people.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      So sue. That's what defamation law is there for. Works pretty much anywhere, even in the states. And as an added bonus, it gets to the problem at it's source.
  • Wonder how this will be enforced when a page might consider a first and last name only, and there are many people with the same combination. Now Google will have to be the arbiter of whether a request is legitimate, and not being made by someone unconnected, but simply having the same name.

    • When I read about this decision in the news, I immediately went to the Google and checked my full name (first, middle, last).

      It's an unusual name.

      And yet, there was someone else on the web with the same first, middle, last name as mine. Born in the same year as me, in fact....

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:57AM (#46988961)

    is the Right to be Tracked.

    If I want to call up $company and tell them "delete everything you know about me from your index." This implies that without asking them, I've granted them the ability to track me.

    This also puts quite a burden on me to call them up and say, "Hey, I just joined BowlingLeague.com as user StrikesAPlenty, please delete me from your index.

    Also, how do you prove that a given user really is you? Your name probably isn't that unique. Which "Bob Smith" are you?

    • by dublin (31215)

      This is the really scary aspect of this decision, and it seems to be lost on most of the commenters here -

      In order for Google (or any other provider of information services) to even putatively be *able* to delete all information they have regarding you, they first have to have all information about and relating to you tagged with your identity.

      This effectively means they must (by law) keep an auditable log of everything you ever do on the net.

      What could possibly go wrong with that? I'm telling you, Hitler

  • Hurray for Europe and it's newly inaugurated right to revise history! I'm sure the Hitlers, Mussolinis, and Francos are going to take great advantage of this ruling now that those situations have been resolved. No more embarrassment!

  • It seems to me as if Google and other search companies can simply treat this right of privacy as simply being another type of take down request. An alternative way of looking at this is that an individual has a sort of "copyright" privilege over certain aspects of their private history.
  • If someone wants to escape their past, they need to get a retraction of the DATA itself, not all links to the data.

    In the case oif the spaniard who wanted his bankruptcy to go unnoticed, he needs to get the owner of that factoid to remove it. If the fact remains online, then it's most certainly *not* someone else's responsibility to route others around the minefield you've laid.

    This ruling is censorship, pure and ugly.

  • Just use Baidu or Yandex or another search engine..., it's a multipartite world, choose your poison :)

    The decision is effectively unenforcable globally. For example, baidu is great for searching google-MPAA-censored content, etc.

  • I don't think that word means what you think it does.

    Oh, it's timothy...

    Never mind. At least this one's readable and has complete sentences.
  • any searches made on the basis of a person's name that returns links/descriptions for web pages containing information on the person in question can, upon request by the related individual, be removed.

    SEO.

    Companies are persons. This gives them more control of their name.

    They certainly won't want any competitors' links to be listed in search results, or ads, when their name is searched.

    Now they just need to exercise their "right" of removal.

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