back to article Google: Our 'freedom of expression' should trump punters' privacy

Google has called on the EU's highest court to uphold its right to display links to published "valid legal material" in the face of calls from Spain's data protection authority to remove links on the grounds of privacy. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is due today to stage a hearing on a case in which it has …

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I don't get it

Is this about the right to be forgotten, or is this about results for web pages which link to another web page Google is not supposed to crawl?

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WTF?

Re: I don't get it

I'm not sure why Google is particularly to blame. If the issue is the publication of information that Google is linking to, surely the way to protect people's privacy is to ask the hosting site to take down the source material rather than playing search engine whack-a-mole deleting all the links to such material.

The EU do know that there are other search engines besides Google, right? Right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't get it

Whether its right to be forgotten, or companies unapologetically reviving deleted 'zombie' cookies using Flash & ETAGS as reported on the Hulu site, what worries me is how we got here so quickly....?! And with such lack of oversight. IMHO it is because politicians and bureaucrats just DON'T GET IT! Its the same with financial regulation. Its been made incredibly complex and therefore will be an easily exploitable Swiss cheese set of holes for Wall Street....

There should be simple rules with huge downsides for offending parties. The writer and ex-options trader Nassim Taleb talks about this with the Code-of-Hammurabi... It applies equally to privacy because it isn't possible to write all encompassing legaleese that will cover every possible angle of privacy never ever conceived before.... G**gle are making a reasonable point here for a change by highlighting a grey area. But what it really highlights is the complex brave new world we inhabit. Privacy is being stretched on the rack!

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Anonymous Coward

More reasons not to use Facebook or Android / Google.

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Anonymous Coward

But you don't have to be using Facebook/G+ to be on it.

If you know someone (and you probably know lots) who are on it, you will be on there.

From manually tagged photographs to synced address books, they will know who you are and what you look like.

You might as well go on there to set yourself as hidden and get an alert when someone talks about you in a negative way.

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Paris Hilton

Re: But you don't have to be using Facebook/G+ to be on it.

Interesting post.

I avoid fb and twitworld like the plague, but people I know and like in real life post things from me on both, and other people I know and like IRL tell me that they've seen the posts, although there's no real-life or even Internet social network connection between posters and people who say they've seen things posted. The latter tell me I have something of an ID on both sites.

Don't like your suggestion (sign up or you won't know what's going on), I prefer to vote with my virtual feet and just stay away.

If you or any other fellow commentard has links to entertaining or informative info on this, I'm sure I would not be the only appreciative reader.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But you don't have to be using Facebook/G+ to be on it.

If you know someone (and you probably know lots) who are on it, you will be on there.

From manually tagged photographs to synced address books, they will know who you are and what you look like.

You might as well go on there to set yourself as hidden and get an alert when someone talks about you in a negative way.

-

The problem with that, is that Farcebook often makes changes to your privacy settings or changes how said settings act on your private information, I'd rather stay off of there completely rather than have a dormant account.

I'm lucky I don't have many IRL friends and also don't attend any pubs or nightclubs so I guess I'm golden.

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Odd

First time I've heard the word expression to mean 'data mine and target ads'.

Maybe if I Google it I'll get the answer.

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Anonymous Coward

I Thought Publication Of Legal Notices Was Mandatory

I am having trouble understanding the (lack) of logic in this case. It appears to me that Google are blamed for linking to (a) a notice required under law advising of a situation with regard to legal proceedings for property forfeiture and (b) legal processes relating to a fraud or other proceedings linked to a politician(s).

Since publicity is require in one case, the property might well have other claimants holding an interest and thus a right to know about the action and in the other, the public as the employers of politicians have a right to information useful to making informed choices

On the other hand I can understand the political types not being happy that their little foibles are exposed.

Correct me if I am wrong but this is not a NOW type set up but in reality part of the outcome of legal processes with every right for publication.

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MASSIVE red flag here

I think the arguments in this case throw up a massive red flag - Google used the exact one argument they should never be allowed to get away with, irrespective of the actual issue at hand.

The red flag is for using the argument "we are a US company (but Google Spain actually isn't) so we should be wallowed to fully ignore EU law whilst collecting revenue here". That argument should not be allowed to stand in any way, shape or form as it would make a mockery of EU data laws.

Now, the actual issue is interesting, because it has come about by Google manoeuvring itself into the pole position of "path to find things on the Internet" by being what used to be about the best search engine (it still is, but that may not last as result ranking and advertising is starting to make a mess of it and increasingly demonstrates the risk of someone having a monopoly position in that respect). Thus, Google has become part of the route we use to find information - and has thus considerable influence on our ability to find or not find information.

The question in this case is thus if Google can get away with claiming to be the equivalent of a common carrier. I'm on the fence on this one. Sure, it's a massive thing to get to grips with personal information, but given that (AFAIK) Google collects in excess of requirement without adequate permission makes it almost a given that Google has thus saddled itself with the burden of having to take care of that information - if only because they could be ordered to destroy that in a more thorough fashion than they did with the Streetview data.

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Re: MASSIVE red flag here

I agree with you mostly, however the Common Carrier argument is lost the moment any processing is carried out on the stream to alter it in anyway. By censoring anything, even at the laws request, it is devoid of the moral high ground that pipe providers have, by injecting it's choice of adverts into the stream of results, it is not a common carrier.

IMO

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Re: MASSIVE red flag here

You mean like removing links due to DMCA notices? What's the difference between a DMCA notice and a privacy notice from the EU apart from the originating country?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MASSIVE red flag here

You mean like removing links due to DMCA notices? What's the difference between a DMCA notice and a privacy notice from the EU apart from the originating country?

One is a complaint about losing imaginary funds from lost sales that never were, and the other is a potential harm to ones reputation from something on Google, both instances are silly, except the privacy one does carry albeit slightly more weight e,g Farcebook and co photo tagging etc.

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I'm minded to think that Google have a point

I .. <choking on my words> .. agree with Google.

Not because they are a US company and EU laws shouldn't apply (they operate here, even if only in the virtual sense, so tough), or because freedom of expression should be allowed - but simply because I accept the argument that if material is legally published on the web then it is nonsensical to try to limit further publication.

There may be a counter-argument on copyright or defamation grounds, but that doesn't seem to be the thrust of the case against Google.

Perhaps the EU should focus on Data Protection from the point of view that is understood by most of it's citizens - the collection and processing of data specific to an individual. That is a hard enough job, it seems, without trying to stretch it it to cover 'right to be forgotten' issues.

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Re: I'm minded to think that Google have a point

The problem is that privacy and obscurity are often the same thing in the real world. And that any process that joins the dots of obscure information can end up infringing privacy simply because information that used to be obscure is now common knowledge.

It's like the fact that you can't hide going into a sex shop, so anyone that sees you going in could match that to the rest of your life and make life quite unpleasant however it's too hard for most people to be able to join up those sorts of dots, as such your privacy is preserved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm minded to think that Google have a point

It's like the fact that you can't hide going into a sex shop, so anyone that sees you going in could match that to the rest of your life and make life quite unpleasant however it's too hard for most people to be able to join up those sorts of dots, as such your privacy is preserved.

I rather like that argument, insofar that it touches on the amount of effort involved to chart your life. To get a full picture of someone's physical life requires a considerable amount of surveillance resources. This is why the lone private eye stalking is not entirely realistic - if you want a complete picture of a reasonably aware target you need at least 3 different people. Your normal exposure of your personal, umm, "habits" is thus purely by chance.

This starts to change the moment you automate surveillance. Google is basically asking to be allowed to install cameras pointing at the entrance of said shop, and use the facial recognition they have (as well as Facebook) to then identify you (keep in mind it's analogy, think Amazon as shop, for instance). Ditto for pharmacies, clinics, hotels - etc etc etc. Basically they are mounting a mass stalking operation on a scary amount of people, but because they draw in so many different sources it doesn't look like it. Like any good surveillance, splitting it up means the subject never recognises it for the stalking it is.

This is what I don't like about Google: they are very sneaky about what they do, and they flat out lie in some cases in their "helpful" explanations of why they do things. I see no reason whatsoever to grant these people MORE rights - I think they really, really need to be brought back under control, and quickly so. We don't even grant our own law enforcement such deep capabilities unless there is reasonable cause, why would we allow a foreign entity to do even worse without any supervision or control?

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Anonymous Coward

So, it's like this then

USA can do what it wants, if it's a US company.

Rest of world must do what the USA wants, even if they are not.

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Scarily agree with Google!

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually agree with Google on this one. If there's a legitimate reason under EU law to have information about you taken down then you should be making that demand on the website, not the search engine. Surely the point is to prevent people from accessing that information about you, in which case simply taking it off Google hasn't done that. If you can't justify taking it down from the website under EU law then how do justify taking it down from Google?

Once taken down from the website of course it's a different matter, and if Google don't then remove the entry from their listing, and more importantly their cache, then there's obviously a case to answer.

It feels like anyone taking this route is either being lazy, feeling it's easier to make the request from a large organisation like Google rather than a smaller website, or they know the request lacks merit under EU law and would be rejected by the smaller website owner.

Agree with Fred's comment about Google siting their being a US company though. It's a stupid argument, and you have to wonder how many people end up thinking "I agree with your premise, but you've pissed me off with that comment so now I'm against you".

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Re: Scarily agree with Google!

That is where we all lose out by saying goodbye to a very handy Google feature.

If Google is actually caching the data then their argument is a lot weaker than if they can say "but we are merely pointing to something that is legitimately there." Google know this so they are phasing out their cache availability. Cached content is already a lot harder to access than it used to be and I expect Google will eventually cite the decline in usage to get rid of it altogether.

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EU vs US

"Google has argued that as its search engine business is based in the US the EU's Data Protection Directive should not be applied to it."

Presumably by the same logic an EU company with a US subsidiary could claim exemption from US laws?

I'd love to see how that would work out.

WRT the actual case, as I understand it, the complaint is that the information must be published by law, but they don't want anyone to be able to find it.

Wouldn't a suitable robots.txt provide a solution for this?

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The law is an attempt to return to a bygone age

The point is, if I commit (say) a driving offence, and it gets reported in the paper, I get convicted, and then the conviction becomes spent years later, the following happens:

1) Pre-Internet, this information was available by searching through microfiches in libraries, or looking up court records, but you had to be committed.

2) Post-Internet, a quick search of a newspaper website or Google finds that Mr Smith of Example Road was convicted of speeding.

This is the difference between "available" and "readily available". Long-past events in ones' history, for example being arrested -- but never even charged -- for an offence maybe shouldn't be easily accessible for anyone who wants to look for it with a few presses of the button.

At any rate, this is a debate for the EU and its citizens, and Google can fuck off. We will inform them of any decision that we have taken, and they can then obey the law or, again, fuck off.

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Go

Re: The law is an attempt to return to a bygone age

Good luck getting any media organisation to remove data of the sort you mention from a website - the Public Interest defence would hold up in court 99 times out of 100.

Now if they have published that you commited a crime and you were acquitted, then you could probably force them to print a retraction (those good ol' english libel laws), and hopefully that would show up in the search results as well.

So we're back to where we are now...

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Re: The law is an attempt to return to a bygone age

The point was that data on the internet doesn't age and get archived, so the effort required to dredge up your past approaches zero.

Now currently it's not illegal to do this, however the right to be forgotten my mean that companies need to find some archiving mechanism that still allows access but makes it harder as time goes on.

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Pirate

Re: The law is an attempt to return to a bygone age

Well, exactly. That's what happens post-internet. Since we *are* post-internet, that's the situation. The genie is not going back into the bottle. Perhaps we should be more concerned with how we move forwards *given that* it's readily available, instead of trying to selectively maintain certain properties of a particular moment in time before the internet but after the invention of microfiche. (In fact, following your argument, I'm thinking microfiche may have been a really bad idea too. In fact, the very concept of an index is suspect.)

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Re: The law is an attempt to return to a bygone age

The internet does exist. Bandwidth and storage space permitting, you, me or, for example, Google could archive the publicly accessible portion of the internet as frequently as our heart's desire. No amount of laws from Spain or the EU will change that.

I like legislators who think that creating laws in defiance of reality will somehow change it. And if they are going to descend into insanity, at least let it be for a good purpose. Bring on the EU law that forbids rain on Fridays - 'cause nobody likes getting wet on the way to the pub.

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Re: The law is an attempt to return to a bygone age

"The internet does exist. Bandwidth and storage space permitting, you, me or, for example, Google could archive the publicly accessible portion of the internet as frequently as our heart's desire. No amount of laws from Spain or the EU will change that.

I like legislators who think that creating laws in defiance of reality will somehow change it. And if they are going to descend into insanity, at least let it be for a good purpose. Bring on the EU law that forbids rain on Fridays - 'cause nobody likes getting wet on the way to the pub."

That is an argument against any law. E.g., post-invention of gun: "manufacturing capacity permitting, anyone could produce guns. No amount of laws can change that." The implication being that we shouldn't legislate against gun ownership, but we do. (Note, this is an EU debate. If you are American, pick a different example, like abortion.)

Just because technology allows somebody to do something, doesn't mean that we should automatically let them.

And @lglethal: there is no public interest defence for, when searching for a guy's name, you find out he was convicted of speeding in 1997. It certainly wouldn't override any subsequent law on privacy. If they guy is a murderer or kiddie-fiddler possibly, but even then: Jon Venables.

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Shoot the messenger!

Seems to me like this is a case of "Shoot the messenger".

Surely if someone has an issue with some content, then they should raise it with the publisher of the content. If the publisher subsequently removes it, fine, then so too should Google, until that time though, it's fair game.

I think Googles privacy practices suck, but isn't really about that. At the same time, it doesn't seem to be to do with the "right to be forgotten" which I was under the impression was concerning the right to force a company to delete data that they hold about you when you leave or close your account. I could be wrong about this though.

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I sort of agree with Google..... Their search engine indexes publicly available material.....

When that material is removed, then remove it....

But when it comes to things such as their gmail etc... if I want to be forgotten I should be able to do that too

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Holmes

Interesting Concurrent Parallels with the Bulger Case

Guardian; Google, Facebook and Twitter ordered to delete photos of James Bulger killers

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Meh

Admin Issue?

Stopping Google indexing is trivial. If they have material they don't want indexed why don't they prevent it? I'd be having a sit down with my site admin before I made an international kerfuffle out of the issue.

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Anonymous Coward

They're talking about 180-odd sample complaints - its just possible that Google are talking up the least defensible

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Defending Google?

Surely the privacy complaint should be directed at the entity hosting the objectionable content, not the search engine indexing it.

If this comes to pass, let's hope Google pastes the complaints to ChillingEffects...

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Re: Defending Google?

"If this comes to pass, let's hope Google pastes the complaints to ChillingEffects..."

If these privacy notices are produced by courts, expect a Google paste to ChillingEffects to not be looked highly upon by a judge. See, for example, Apple's close call with contempt of court regarding the Samsung judgement.

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Anonymous Coward

Rather than say "we're merkins, your laws do not apply" they could choose to DO NO EVIL. They might want to look that phrase up, unless their cache of old interwebs has been wiped...

Anon so they don't quote me in the future

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Anonymous Coward

This is completely a freedom of speech issue and bugger-all to do with privacy.

If something is publicly published, then anyone of us - including Google - should be free to talk about, write about or refer to it. No ifs or buts to that. Should big corporations be allowed to stop us talking about their products? Should politicians be able to ban us from talking about their policies? Of course not, and the same applies here.

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FAIL

Corporations Are People Too!

America has already decided that corporations are people who have greater rights than real people.

Do a search for the Supreme Court ruling.

This is the vision the corps have for the rest of the world.

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One rule to ring them

The whole "But we're an American corporation, your laws don't apply to us" is beginning to wind me up. Fine, if thats the way you want to play it fair enough, internet based companies can only be held accountable in their country of origin.

But it does mean the USA has tp stop doing crap like this as well

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/20/kentucky_domain_name_seizure_upheld/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One rule to ring them

@Scrumble - Great Post with interesting link!

Judge: "Yeah, we don't want you sitting there at home causing self-harm through gambling, when you could be out there instead buying guns and mowing down children"! WTF??? Who is really behind US online gambling bans? Is it all coming from the Vegas Casino lobbyists? The US is so skewed: No sex please, No vulgarity, but its ok with us if you buy assault weapons. We won't force any pesky background checks on you, because guns are less dangerous than gambling!

[Forgive the semi-rant, my family was a victim of US gun violence!]

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Anonymous Coward

Excuse me?

When did a corp have the same rights as a person? no freedom of expression or anything else for that matter.

I will only believe a corp is a person when Texas executes one!

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