it may not be a coincidence that google.co.uk went down for approximately 10 minutes shortly before 11am UK time.
So that's what caused it. Barstools.
Google's publicity stunt this week, in which it de-linked selected mass media articles and posts from its search results and informed the journalists in question it had done so, appears to have been illegal. The gigantic advertising company now faces the prospect of having to re-link to articles it has de-linked in the UK in …
But a court may request the link was taken down if the guy contested it with a well paid team of lawyers - and I bet some of his friends would chip in for them too. And public interest doesnt normally sue so what would you do?
But what the hell it would still be available on google.com/ncr anyway.
"When Google receives a request to de-link, it must consider whether any damage to the person making the request is outweighed by a relevant public interest in keeping the link. In the case of [Merrill Lynch chairman] Sean O'Neal [original here], it's a no-brainer, there's a clear public interest in that information remaining available."
That's an interesting idea but I am unsure it holds up: Google *must* wheigh the individual's rights against the public interest if Google wants to *keep* the link.
The same does not necessarily apply if Google does not want to keep the link. At the moment, it is difficult to imagine where a legal requirement for Google to keep up a link would come from. It cannot be privacy legislation as the personal data processed (and now removed) is the data of the complaining subject, thus the removal happened with the data subject's consent. The publisher can not claim illegal removal of privacy relevant data as the data does not refer to him as a data subject.
So the only legal requirement for Google to keep up a link that comes to my mind is competition law. There, requiring a company to do something is far more constrained than stopping a company from certain actions. Google might have a defence that while Google factually affects the business whose content is no longer accessible, it would otherwise have to screen the content and thus incurr costs for the benefit of this business. I wonder whether Google's "falling over" could really be seen as "illegal".
It is of course an own goal regarding their political lobbying.
> it's a no-brainer, there's a clear public interest in that information remaining available.
The "forget me" request apparently wasn't about the article but a comment left on the article and you can't forget one without the other.
I don’t know which comment was contentious or why it was. Perhaps somebody was critical of an organisation they now wish to work for or made a dumb comment which now haunts them.
In any case, the information in the article (but not the comment) exists in many other forms on other sites so "forgetting" this one page does not forget* the information or hinder the public's interest in finding the information but it does make it difficult to find the comment.
Removing search results for every article that links Stan O’Neal with the débâcle at Merrill Lynch would be against the public interest but you could certainly argue forgetting a single one out of the many thousands doesn't hinder the public interest at all.
Its never black and white which is why
blood sucking leeches lawyers exist.
Who is Google to decide if something is in the public interest? Can you even define what "in the public interest" is, or is it one of the I know it when I see it type things?
They are a company so they only care about what is in the companies interest, if they don't de-list something they could end up with court costs defending that.
If the request comes from Joe Average guy, they can ignore it. From a lawyer, or a corporation? Link is toast. Only in the most black and white cases will they not remove the link.
As I said before this will be just like Youtube and the DMCA. If Youtube get a takedown request your video is toast. Even if it perfectly legal and it's now your problem to get it put back. This is abused on purpose to get rid of stuff people don't like, or in error by automatic systems. I have personally experienced this when one division of a major record label proved me with material to promote a bands appearance and approved the final site, but a different division of the same company had the site taken down with a DMCA request a day later.
"Google was failing to comply with English (and EU) data protection obligations and weigh the public's right to freedom of expression to read those articles."
surely Google is only interfering with the public's right to freedom of expression to read those articles if it removes the articles themselves? Only an idiot - or a lawyer (there's an interesting Venn diagram project for someone out there) - would claim that removing an item from a table of contents or an index actually removes the item itself.
You're right about the politics, but sense when has politics had even the slightest connection with reasonableness? A reasonable person would not attempt to claim for mortgage payments on a mortgage that has been paid off, or £8k-worth of cleaning, for example ...
The value to a search engine of keeping any random link indexed is essentially zero. The cost of going through some consultation/appeal process with the original publisher, or referring it to the ICO, is significant in manhour terms alone. Why on earth would any rational search provider expend resources pondering the public interest and it's balance with privacy rights? They won't, they'll just delist the link.
Incidentally the same dilemma confronts every blog, forum, or similar publisher - it simply isn't worth the effort to dispute anything other than the most egregious cases of abuse of any "right to be forgotten".
How can it be illegal for Google to remove one of its own links? The EU ruling just says that Google must remove a link if an individual requests it, unless there is a public interest angle. The ruling does not say the opposite (that if there is public interest then the link must remain.)
It can be illegal where the removal of links is an attempt to hide certain points of view that are competely legal to express, information about certain businesses that compete with Google or its partners, or information that is public interest to know.
For most web users, Google is the primary content index for the Internet. If something is not in Google, then it's not on the Internet, and can't be found.
I can guarantee you that if Google removed the term "Facebook" from its index, you would get a flurry of calls from your non-technical friends asking you if you knew Facebook was broken.
Google must play the role of a neutral deliverer of information, because as soon as they start to make editorial decisions, they lose the Safe Harbour protections they currently enjoy, and they become legally responsible for the accuracy and balance of the results they present.
Yes to most of what you say, but you're not saying it's illegal.
Some aspects of Google manipulating its search results could be anticompetitive where the removed or demoted items concern competing services (think the recent Springer complaint). But after that, I'm not sure Google have any *legal* obligation w.r.t free speech, censorship or telling the truth than the BBC, Daily Mirror or any other media organisation.
"Google must play the role of a neutral deliverer of information, because as soon as they start to make editorial decisions, they lose the Safe Harbour protections they currently enjoy, and they become legally responsible for the accuracy and balance of the results they present."
I wish that were true, but the ECJ's insistence in chasing search engines rather than the original publishers of an article suggests that the concept has no legal standing over here.
He's sort of right, although Safe Harbour is a technical term that doesn't apply here. Applied metaphorically, he's on the right lines.
The ECJ wasn't "chasing search engines" - it has to apply European data protection law as it's written. There is an exemption (a "derogation") for publishers and Google could have applied to be one. And saved itself all this both. But it declined to take that route.
If the EU wants search engines to be exempt it will have to pass a rule that says they are. But given Google's behaviour with regard to data protection, that's not very likely now. And even less likely given how it's behaved in response to Gonzalez.
> removal of links is an attempt to hide certain points of view
Removal of a link does _not_ hide the point of view. The article is still accessible. It can still be found via other search criteria and other links.
> if Google removed the term "Facebook" from its index,
Searching for a person's name, or other content, would still show links to Facebook.
Google makes editorial decisions every day. It made 12 million domains disappear one day. Google has some more responsibilities because it can no longer evade EU law, but these are nowhere near as onerous as Google makes out.
(Google would not be in this position if it had chosen the option of protection as a publisher - an option it declined.)
You are free to argue for the abolition of data protection laws in the EU, but if they're there, you can't argue Your Favourite Corporation doesn't have to abide by them.
I can't see how any law can specify that an internet search provider has to provide links or not provide links to other sites.
I can accept the BBC has a public interest obligation, and therefore have to provide educational articles and undertake certain activities: they're funded by the tax payer!
"I am the government and YOU WILL provide links to my pages on the Taxation".
There is nothing in data protection law that forces an indexer to index particular websites.
If there was, you can guarantee Googles very highly paid lawyers would have brought that up in EU case, and would preclude them removing links to file sharing sites without a court order.
If they were hosting the original data, that's a different matter, but there not. they are a search engine. I suspect your legal adviser is getting these matters confused....
I agree with you in relation to Data Protection Act, I don't think it even applies here.
Data protection act is about companies keeping private information on you and the terms under which they are allowed to do so.
But having researched a little, this court action is based on an EU directive in 1995 specifying privacy rules and data protection. As I understand it, (and I'm not an expert), EU member states have to enshrine in their own country legislation those EU directives.
I wonder if UK data protection legislation does include it?
The EU rule is to do with a company deleting personal data at the request of the individual. That seems fair and reasonable, we should be able to request a private company to delete data they hold on us, but this rule shouldn't really apply to Google, they're not actually holding the data, they're linking to it and it's held in the system of another company.
The European Court of Justice disagreed.
I can't believe the EC directive of 1995 ( or any other) forces a company to retain personal information if it is in the public interest to do do. This introduces a whole new can of worms, who decides if it is in the public interest? Google? And what if their view on a particular piece of data is different to a court of law?
The concept of being 'in the public interest' applies to organisations with the power to prosecute, such as the crown prosecution service, where they have the ability to make a decision to prosecute and the criteria for doing so is "in the public interest", but in the now case of Google, to have two parties making the determination of whether the data held is in the public interest or not, Google and the ECJ (or another court), gives rise to a difference of opinion and Google risk being prosecuted for every breach in the future where it has made a determination which is in opposition to a court of law. It's a farce.
How does a company resolve such a matter and prevent it self from being prosecuted? Is it to have every decision it is thinking of making in relation to the deletion of data reviewed by the ECJ or some other court first, so that it can then make the same decision and prevent a prosecution from occurring?
It's not practical. And I don't think the ECJ has this particularly well thought out.
The fundamental issue in this I feel is that of the actual companies publishing the personal data in the first place. If an individual doesn't want their old historic data to be viewed, they need to go to the companies and their websites which are the publishers of the data and not Google and request deletion of the data, issue take down notices.
If that were to be enforced, the legal mechanisms put in place to allow that to happen (not saying it's easy with the original information can be distributed across web servers in different countries and there then becomes a problem of jurasdiction) then these conflicts about data being in the public interest and courts of law trying to dictate to private companies what data they should retain go away.
This is not a backfire. It is, in fact, quite possibly the best way to position regulation you're opposed to as poorly thought out, confusing, expensive, destructive and nothing more than unnecessary populist politicizing.
I'm not saying those are my opinions up there, but the deliberate misinterpretation of rules to create a platform to speak from and bring an attentive audience to listen, is a time honored tactic. It's effective in general, and even more so when targeting government. Regardless of ones political leanings, most people don't actually expect their government to not fuck everything up. So the masses will at least listen when nongovernment actors cause a stir over government actions.
Will it work? It already has. The purpose is to broaden the audience who hears your complaints. That being the case, this is a 100% success.
"Will it work? It already has. The purpose is to broaden the audience who hears your complaints. That being the case, this is a 100% success."
I am not so sure. The answer to El Reg' subbie's rhetorical question is of course, IMHO, that like so many other examples of BigCorp, they figured that they could do what they liked. I don't think that the current public mood (in Europe at any rate) is particularly well disposed to arrogant multinationals. 100% success? I would not bet the farm on that.
"What constitutes an invasion of privacy is the snippets of the search results that Google displays - but with a blog post or newspaper article, these only ever show the headline and first paragraph. The commenter can't logically have been the complainant."
Yes well, that's bollocks because what is displayed in the "snippet" is entirely related to the search you perform, in this case - if someone had Googled the name of the commenter, the only place his name appears is in the comments.
For instance - right now because of all the search noise I have to add "bbc" to search term, but a Google search (on the US Site) for "Peter Dragomer bbc" returns a snippet on page 1 from the 2007 article that says:
"Oct 29, 2007 - At 11:32 AM on 29 Oct 2007,; Peter Dragomer wrote: Amazing ! as an ex ML employee I would never have thought any serious financial ..."
now it is entirely possible that before the last few days, it would not have been necessary to have added the word "bbc" to the search to get this snippet. It is entirely possible that Peter Dragomer regrets informing the world that he is an ex ML employee - it may in fact be affecting him professionally.
Exactly. You search that guys name and a fairly prominent result is his negative comments about ML, which he could regret.
Also, there is a guy by the same name (could be the same guy, or just the same name) who is by the looks of it launching a new politically related social app. He could probably do without any negative comments found when searching his name reflecting badly on him.
Imagine you are this guy trying to launch a business, or get funding. Someone searches your name and finds that negative looking comment... it could cause you issues.
So it's not beyond reason to assume this guy may have requested the removal of the page.
sure a few well-chosen notices in prominent positions trafficked by large numbers of people both online and in meatspace would have got the job done.
If only Google had access to a wide-ranging and effective advertising outfit...
"it's a no-brainer, there's a clear public interest in that information remaining available."
Google hasn't removed the original article. Google is also not paid (at least not directely) to provide some form of library service as you would get from a public body.
It is a private entity that, based on some some and mirrors arcane algoritm, decides where an article appears in a search result. But I don't see how they can be obligated to make sure that a particular result is displayed - unless one decides to drag in the regulators with their "Fairness" definitions.
Publicity gaff - most certainly.
Looking like kids who spat the dummy Yep! got that one covered.
Showing that the EU law is poorly conceived - I'll grant them that.
Breaking the law - don't quite see it.
IANAL - but hey that's never stopped Reg Commentards offering opinions.
"I think you are overlooking the obvious. There's a team that just became redundant. With fewer applications, more idle hands, and Devil's work to do, it won't be long before doing no evil becomes impractical."
This is an internet era phenomenom which has been coined as the "Streisand Effect" - in which the attempt to censor a piece of information has the unintended consequences of publicizing the information more widely than it ever would have been had the plaintiff has simply let it be.
Some good examples on the wiki link.
It's the meatspace equivalent of asking your friend to go through his old photographs of that time back in 2002 when you got really drunk at that party and ended up naked and tried shagging a potplant.
The rest of the people at that party had forgotten the incident, but when they find out that your trying to get your friend to find the photo to destroy it, they end up looking for it as well (and there's a lot more of them that want to save the embarrassing photo from destruction).
Upon finding it, remembering how hilarious it was, they then start reproducing it and sharing it with all their friends, and their friends of friends - and pretty soon it's gone from a few people who knew you as the "Pot Plant Lover" years ago and had forgotten, to you being known everywhere by people you've never even met, as the "Pot Plant Lover" - every time you're introduced to someone new it's "Oh, you're the Pot Plant Lover!".
So every journalist in print, tv and the web currently gets a judges ruling before writing any article to decide if it's in the public interest? They must be busy these judges!
Google can decide to ignore a request, if they believe it is in the public interest that a link remains up. But they may have to defend that in court, or they can just remove it.
Where on earth has this idea come from that Google have any legal obligation to provide a link to any content on the web?
If they choose to remove their link, that's up to them, and whether they did it to score points or not neither the EU commission nor anybody else can tell them to put it back, and I'm sure they know that.
I have to feel a little sympathy for Google here as they can't do right for doing wrong.
The new idea that they broke the law by de-listing something is possibly even more crazy than the original ruling. Surely as a business they have the right to remove anything they like from their index at any time? They never made any promises to anyone that they would always list anything that may be in the public interest. I can't help feeling this is just a case of "the powers that be" badly misunderstanding the internet and thinking that google == internet.
As for the original right to be forgotten ruling I'm not completely against it in principle. In the actual case I'd say the wrong decision was made but I can imagine cases where forcing a de-listing is an appropriate course of action.
"Surely as a business they have the right to remove anything they like from their index at any time?". Perhaps not that simple. Perhaps they removed everything SAP because Oracle made it an exellent business or just for fun as they as a business have the right to remove anything they like from their index at any time.
"but with a blog post or newspaper article, these only ever show the headline and first paragraph. The commenter can't logically have been the complainant."
Not necessarily. If you look at the actual BBC blog post in question, some of the commenters have real names displayed. The top one is Peter Dragomer. A Google search for this guy links to the blog post, shows the blog post's title, but then shows part of his comment in the snippet. He just so happens to be an ex-employee of the company in question in the post, and certainly isn't singing their praises. A prospective employer might find this interesting.
Now the fact that the result is still showing at all (and the fact the "some results may have been removed.. blah blah" comment appears at the bottom) suggests it wasn't him, but logically it COULD have been one of the commenters who requested it.
There's an interesting article about it
""but with a blog post or newspaper article, these only ever show the headline and first paragraph. The commenter can't logically have been the complainant."
Not necessarily. If you look at the actual BBC blog post in question, some of the commenters have real names displayed. The top one is Peter Dragomer. A Google search for this guy links to the blog post, shows the blog post's title, but then shows part of his comment in the snippet"
Exactly - one of the comments I was going to make was that the snippet is usually contextual based on the search term.
Another was that the search term suggested by the Guardian bloke demonstrates a lack of understanding of how to search on Google anyway.
His suggested search term: "Dougle McDonald Guardian" - which now shows a number of links on this subject.
A slightly better search term: "Dougie McDonald" +site:guardian.co.uk - which shows the three 'missing' results from his original search term, right there at the top.
I take Andew's point that Google may be re-linking such articles1, but I note their little caveat that some things may have been removed is still present.
This is all getting silly.
1. We won't really know until we hit on a search that definitely has links missing, and not just assumed to be missing, which then magically reappear for the search term later. In the meantime, knickers are not for twisting.
It's potentially illegal because they've been told to weigh the merits and not just de-list everything that gets requested.
Yes, Google doesn't have to index the data, but they can't then turn around to various journalists and say that they're de-listing their articles because they've received a request to forget, otherwise they're implicitly tying themselves in to the court's instructions to weigh the merits. Which it doesn't look like they have been.
If it was a commenter that had requested the de-listing then it would shirley be the indexing to their identifying data that should be removed rather than the index of the entire article, thereby retaining the public interest angle but complying with the right to privacy.
Eh? Are you saying they should delist parts of the article/page?
Google don't host the page, they have no control over the content of the page. So they can't censor the page which loads in the users browser. That idea has all sorts of wrong written all over it.
Google simply index the content of the page, and then weigh search terms against it. They could maybe add excluded keywords against a page, so that page doesn't come back for certain keywords, but the EU ruling is that the actual page should be removed from the index.
It could be that one of the commenters has requested the removal, because that comment they left has caused them over the years to miss out on job opportunities etc etc. So you weigh how important that information about ML is (it's no secret what happened, and there are articles all over the internet about it) against 1 guys struggle to shake off a comment he made 7 years ago.... that actually seems like a fairly straight forward call to me.
It does seem odd that Google doesn't tell the BBC the relevant name, but that comes down to the reputation of the site. Some news sites have, for a long time, removed problematic comments, leaving a placeholder marker. And if a news site did that, shouldn't the commenter ask the news site first?
But if you might trust the BBC enough to talk to them first, that isn't a universal. What do you do about 4chan?
I'll venture that, when this settles down, reputable news sites might take down comments. But there will be a lot where your only chance is Google. And rich and poor alike will be prohibited from sleeping under the bridges of Paris.
First, Google is told it is illegal to keep links that are irrelevant. And now, it is said to be illegal to remove links that are relevant?
This would mean that no matter what it shows, Google can be sued for showing or not showing what somebody does not like? And the right to decide what is correct belongs to the courts?
No wonder they are complaining like hell about it.
This morning Peter Barron (Google's head of communications) was on Radio 4, along with Robert Peston and Barron went on the record to say that it was a commentor who had made the request, not O'Neil.
I don't question the premise that Google is playing games here, but much of this article seems to have ignored this event.
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