back to article Get that OFF dot-com, hysterical France screeches at Google

The French privacy watchdog has dug its heels in over Google’s refusal to apply the so-called Right To Be Forgotten* to all of its domain names, including Google.com. In June, CNIL ordered Google to de-link outdated and irrelevent information from its Google.com domains within two weeks, or face a fine. The search monster …

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  1. James O'Shea Silver badge

    If I were running Google

    About here I'd kill Google.fr, remove all aspects of everything Google from inside France... and make damn sure that all those links that the French are so worked up about are available from Google.com. And tell the French government to stuff it if they want a 'fine'.

    I wonder how many days, make that how many hours, of not having any Google ads would elapse before French companies have a quiet word with the government.

    No, France, you can't tell Google what to do outside of France. If the French government really wants to not have those links available, then perhaps they should, oh, block Google from France. That should work well and have no side-effects. Or perhaps not.

    1. Pascal

      Re: If I were running Google

      Meanwhile, in the real world, Google would prefer to keep doing business in France (or anywhere else for that matter, see China for example), not do a PR stunt that would backfire in their face across all europe instantly.

      So they'll simply comply after the proper amount of "taking a stand for freedom!!" PR.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: If I were running Google

        "not do a PR stunt that would backfire in their face across all europe instantly."

        You mean like they did with the news media aggregation stuff?

        I'm pretty sure the blowback wouldn't be on Google.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If I were running Google

        Yet if Google were to comply with the French order, they'd be in a whole lot of hurt in the US. Now, which market do you suppose is bigger?

    2. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: If I were running Google

      > No, France, you can't tell Google what to do outside of France.

      Well the US likes to tell people outside the US what to do.

      But where will this all end? Should China be able to say what political websites should be allowed? Should the Saudi's be allowed to outlaw French wine production.

      This whole pile of smelly stuff needs resolving in an international arena, letting individual judges decide foreign policy isn't ever going to have a happy ending.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: If I were running Google

        Do you mean a country has no rights to protect its citizens rights? And has Google rights to index, use, sell data hosted in a foreign country without abiding to that country laws?

        It's the same old tune, Google wants to assert it is a "superior" entity for which laws don't apply. Unless it's China or Russia when they have no problems to kick Google butts as much as they like, and ensure citizens use local search engines... in that situations Google is fully ready to comply with local rules.

        Maybe if EU acts like China and threatens to shut off Google from Europe.... after all Yandex and Baidu shown alternatives to Google can be created...

        1. Indolent Wretch

          Re: If I were running Google

          >> Do you mean a country has no rights to protect its citizens rights?

          If my country say I have the right to see and easily find this information why should another country that has nothing to do with me be able to stop me?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: If I were running Google

            Good question. So, why is Google preventing me to see results blocked by DMCA censorship, even on google.fr? It has nothing to do with me.

            Also, you are one of those people who still don't get it: it only applies to France. Google can perfectly handle different results for a given country. Nobody has asked them to interfere with other countries (well, except the US, obviously, since they claim worldwide jurisdiction).

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: If I were running Google

              "Google can perfectly handle different results for a given country"

              No, it can't. IP assignment records simply aren't accurate enough.

          2. LDS Silver badge

            Re: If I were running Google

            Do you mean if someone posts stolen OPM records US has no right to ask me not to look at them?

          3. Jonathan Richards 1

            @Indolent Wretch

            > If my country say[s] I have the right to see and easily find this information why should another country that has nothing to do with me be able to stop me?

            Take that entire sentiment, and put it in the context of Kim DotCom. The USA wishes to extradite him from New Zealand for the crime of making information available, which the USA says should have been suppressed from the Internet.

            For what it's worth, I don't believe that every person in the world has an inalienable right to access every bit of information. Misused personal information can cause immediate and definite damage to individuals. That is what the EU Data Protection laws are designed to mitigate. Compliance is not optional.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: If I were running Google

      Err... There is a rather interesting entity called European Union and to be more exact European Economic Area which constitutes:

      1. A significant percentage of Google's turnover (probably > 20%).

      2. 100% of its tax avoidance methodology as a part of various double Irish-Dutch sandwiches. Son on top of the 20%+ loss in turnover you just got 28% effective tax rates on profits which you end up having to repatriate.

      3. Odds and sods, like R&D, real estate, etc.

      So Google shareholders should probably be thankful that you do not run Google. Now, should Google have gone there in the first place or Twitter strategy which is to stay US-bound and wave the safe harbor agreement at everyone is better is a different story.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      "I wonder how many days, make that how many hours, of not having any Google ads"

      Well, that's a good definition of a monopoly, or at least an abuse of dominant position.

      It's also time to tackle this issue as well...

  2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    But, but, but...

    If this was in America though.... by God, if those damned foreigners don't apply our rules world wide they'll be trouble (see various copyright laws for details).

    Also as mentioned, above. Forget a fine, just have a ban for a set period of time. Job done.

    1. dogged

      Re: But, but, but...

      yeah, that's not how it works for Irish emails.

  3. msknight Silver badge

    If I were in France...

    I wouldn't impose a fine ... I'd kill Google. Kick them out of the country. Encourage people to alternatives, as many do exist, and some without all the faffery that google are dong to the search results.

    They have too much control ... and are not paying their due, either morally or financially. The best bit is although google have been looking over their shoulders for the next google, they have missed the many little googles that are already there.

    1. Blane Bramble

      Re: If I were in France...

      It's not as simple as that.

      Will French internet companies agree to be censored by the US government? The Chinese? The North Koreans?

      If every company on the internet has to comply by every law passed in every country, we will not have an Internet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If I were in France...

        What goes around, comes around.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: If I were in France...

        Well, every company working in China *has* actually agreed to be censored. North Koreans have no money to spend, so you can pretend to be good and avoid to make much business there...

  4. Jagged

    Some sympathy

    I am quite anti-google but this is one situation where I have some sympathy for them. I really don't believe search engines should be punished because of the crap other people put on the interwebs.

    1. Pascal

      Re: Some sympathy

      They're not a mom and pop shop here, they're a multinational making billions in profit a year.

      Like it or not, search engines regulate access to content so they'll run afoul of all sorts of legislations, this isn't the first nor the last time.

      If they want to have any chance of complying with all the crap various courts all over the world will ask of them, they need to regulate search results based on where the search comes from, not what google ccTLD the request is sent to.

      Sure, complying with the ruling is going to be annoying. They'll bitch and moan about the impossibility and unfairness of it all. But I wouldn't call it a big technical challenge for the likes of Google.

      1. Jagged

        Re: Some sympathy

        @Pascal

        This just means that the information is only hidden from people who don't know other ways to search the web. The information is still there for those that know and the uninformed think its gone.

        That is in no way a good thing.

    2. msknight Silver badge

      Re: Some sympathy

      @Jagged

      But should people be punished for the crap that other people put on the interwebs?

      And if not, then how else would you stop such punishment? Especially when the crap is on servers in a country over which the country of the person being punished in, has no jurisdiction over?

      The easiest way is to kill the index to the book. Yes, the page is still there, but it's a damn sight harder for someone to find the offending page ... and the internet is a bloody big book to read cover to cover!

      Censorship is a double edged sword ... that's why we have laws for slander ... but those laws aren't internationally enforceable.

  5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Madness

    Whitakker's Books In Print once listed one of my publications as being about Whitley Bay instead of Whitby. I ***DEMAND*** that Whittakers go out there and destroy every single copy of that erroneous "link" to my publication!!!!! (foams at mouth)

  6. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Devil

    Fun...

    If that's the case, then should we presume the French government are fine with American law applying, without exception, to everything Google does in France, as well as French law, then?

    So if the NSA asks for the data from a French government minister's personal gmail account, Google should just say "oui, certainement" and hand it over?

    Just asking...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Fun...

      Actually, that's what the FBI already did with mails stored in Ireland.

      And that's another reason why it should be forbidden for any public official to store anything on a US-controlled system.

      Anyway, if you offer your products/services in a country, you have to abide to that country laws. It doesn't matter where your product or services are from, it matters where you offer them. An India based call center can't bypass my country rules to call whenever they like my not-allowed-for-commercial-calls number. A China company still needs to comply with EU safety rules (and warranty terms), if it wants to do business here.

      Does google.com offer a service in France too? If so, it has to abide to French rules. Google can remove google.com accessibility from France, and redirect it to google.fr, if it likes, so it hasn't to comply.

      The last thing that should be allowed is to let entities like Google to become sort of "extrastates" because of their distributed nature. Too easy to be US, Irish, Dutch, etc. at the same time, using each time what makes your business better while crushing citizens rights.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fun...

      Why, but that is *precisely* what the US are trying to assert right now, by demanding that Microsoft hand over data stored in Ireland while completely bypassing Irish laws.

      Also, this has nothing to do with the current case, of applying French laws on French territory. In case you've not realized, Google is already giving different answers depending on your IP address geolocation, so they can do it.

  7. The JP

    Geo-blocking?

    Surely the obvious solution is to just geo-block requests from France rather than censure the whole of Google.com.

    The interesting thing is why neither the CNIL nor Google are talking about this. Perhaps some huffing and puffing and manoeuvring from each before they actually get down to business and sort this out?

    (And yes geo-blocking isn't perfect, and yes maybe you would have to apply geo-blocking to proxy servers, but what's the alternative).

    1. Indolent Wretch

      Re: Geo-blocking?

      >> but what's the alternative

      Stop having mind bendingly stupid laws that make it hard to find information in the public domain rather than going after the people actually hosting the information if it's defamatory or wrong?

      That would be my suggestion.

      I don't doubt a "right to be forgotten" law may have some merit but the design and application of it are utterly shocking.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Geo-blocking?

        Just like google.com, there could be good chances the defamatory site could be hosted somewhere else... do you believe, say, GoDaddy will take down a US based site without a US court asking it? Or OVH taking down a French site without a French court asking it?

        And there's also bulletproof hosting in some "rogue" country... look at who difficult is to shutdown spammers.

        1. ratfox Silver badge

          Re: Geo-blocking?

          This isn't about information that is wrong or defamatory. Nobody has the right to force website to take down the data. They only have the right to tell Google to stop showing it in their results.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Geo-blocking?

        It's not about defamatory content, nor about wrong content. The content is perfectly good, legit, and truthful.

        It's about the right of an individual to not get his/her past coming back at them forever, even after decades past, by simply typing his/her name in a search engine. Which nowadays every employer does as a matter of course.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1
          Stop

          Re: Geo-blocking?

          > nowadays every employer does as a matter of course.

          I guess you mean prospective employer, and the harm that we are discussing is the failure of an individual to be given a job when "his/her past com[es] back at them".

          When an employer obtains personal information about a prospective employee, the employer is immediately a Data Controller with respect to that information, and (in the EU) has to process it in accordance with national laws which all align with the EU Data Protection Directive. If the employer then uses some or all of that information which is out-of-date, erroneous or irrelevant, to make decisions affecting the Data Subject, then that is the offence. A responsible employer would look at a report of, oh, I dunno, outrageous behaviour with a dead pig, and decide whether that was relevant in giving an individual a responsible post.

          Availability of links to the information from a general-purpose Internet search engine is a secondary issue, although to read all the coverage, you'd think that it was the whole point.

      3. Flat Phillip

        Re: Geo-blocking?

        It doesn't have to be defamatory or wrong, it just needs to be old or not the current situation. The classic example being someone has gone bankrupt not payed his creditors etc and its reported in the paper. Fast forward a few years later and he is no longer bankrupt, debts are gone etc but you search for their name and the first few hits are those old reports.

        The reports are true, just old.

        The problem with this sort of law is what is old and what is not relevant? If I am a politician and have done some shady stuff a few years ago, should that data be "forgotten"? What about a hotel with bad reviews?

        Also, if I don't like all the other Flat Phillips and want all the hits to be about me, why not just send in a report for all those other websites so I get the first hit on searching.

  8. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    IP geolocation?

    I'm pretty certain Google roughly knows where the user is in the world (or at least, it tries to). Why don't they simply filter the results whenever the user is in Europe, and display everything otherwise?

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: IP geolocation?

      Because humans screw that up too. My entire company's web traffic emerges from Germany - I'm not in Germany.

      We also have a Geoblocking list. It gets corrections constantly. The world refuses to stop changing and users refuse to stay still. It's almost as if IP's weren't *meant* to be geolocked.

      People just take Google's expertise for granted. They are the miracle men. They can do anything, so logically they can do anything we order them to do. If Google does not have a geofilter in front of google.com, then what the court just ordered is to perhaps slow down and deform the design of the largest rapid database lookup system in the world. Hey, not our problem. You work it out smartboy.

      Each new layer of court rulings will accumulate, and they really won't care what the effects are on the system. Every individual request in the world might need to be checked against them. Can you imagine that number ever going down?

  9. Paul Herber

    Could somebody explain to me why:

    if this information is so out-of-date and irrelevant then why can the information not just be removed/hidden on the offending website(s)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The information is not obsolete, and nobody, again, NO-BO-DY IS ASKING TO REMOVE THE INFORMATION.

      Only the search results based on the NAME OF AN INDIVIDUAL are to be removed. Because, you know, typing your name in the search field and seeing automated suggestions for things past is not cool after you effectively paid your debt to society.

      Caps to emphasize points that are clearly not understood yet, however often the judges repeat them.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        "Only the search results based on the NAME OF AN INDIVIDUAL are to be removed"

        I thought it was slightly finer than that - it's the link between the $INDIVIDUAL node and a $PARTICULARTHING node that is explicitely and soley cut, so searches for one or the other will bring them up, but neither will reference the other. Dots and lines. This cuts lines. It doesn't delete dots.

        My particular bugbear is that if the link returns to relevance (e.g. someone lied/things changed), who knows there's a link to uncut? Maybe it actually does become a form of censorship at that point.

    2. ratfox Silver badge

      The law does not force the website to remove the information. Some of them may even official government websites which are legally mandated to make the information available forever. This goes counter to the idea that irrelevant information should not be displayed.

      The idea of the EU is that you can both have your cake and eat it by keeping the data on the website, and telling Google not to display these results in queries for personal names.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        > the idea that irrelevant information should not be displayed

        Whatever the merits of that idea, it is not the idea that the EU Data Protection Directive tries to realise. Misuse of information is forbidden, not display.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Because it may be outside your jurisdiction, or that information could have reasons to stay there (i.e. historical values, for example an article which was later corrected by another, a search could return the former, but not the latter, or legal records which cannot be deleted, you may be find guilty and then, on appeal, find innocent, and so on).

      Search engines carry a big responsibility today, because they became gateways to information. Like airports, for example, they went beyond offering the basic, simple technical implementation to allow a given medium work. Today an international airport needs to offer far more than simply assistance to planes landing and taking off. It needs to ensure security, implement customs boundaries and checks, etc. etc. Why? Because becoming the main travel gateways they also became focus points for a lot of issues. That happened to search engines. What information they return has a big chance to become what people think and/or remember. It's a big responsibility, and like running an airport, has associated costs. Google wants just the big money that role can bring, without sustaining the costs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's a big responsibility, and like running an airport, has associated costs. Google wants just the big money that role can bring, without sustaining the costs.

        It would cost nothing to Google to block these results outside as well as inside Europe. They already have the system to accept and treat requests, and to filter the results in Europe; extending the filtering to google.com is literally just a change in some configuration file.

        What they don't like is the idea that one government can decide what results people in another country are allowed to see. They fear that if start that way, they will soon have to submit to all kind of rules which will effectively kill their search engine, or make it lose its lead on the competition.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          So you mean if someone is in an US blacklist, he or she should allowed to fly to US if leaving from France in a French plane?

          Again, the rule is valid only in France. Google can still shown results outside it, but can't offer an easy way to bypass French laws. Or do you mean outside the US we are free to copy US films, music, software, etc. etc. and US companies can't do anything about it abroad?

          1. Aedile

            Per the ruling they have to block the results on the .com domain which means the world. And yes if the country you are in does not have any copyright protections you can copy to your heart's content. This is why the US pushes so hard for treaty agreements that include copyright rules/laws.

          2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            @ LDS

            " So you mean if someone is in an US blacklist, he or she should allowed to fly to US if leaving from France in a French plane? ... Or do you mean outside the US we are free to copy US films, music, software, etc. etc. and US companies can't do anything about it abroad?"

            The issues you mention are governed by international agreements, such that there is reciprocity*. There is no such international agreement in place here, so your examples fall flat.

            * Well, in the sense that the USA gets its way everywhere, and screw everyone else.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google.com has already abandoned objectivity

    Haven't they already agreed to push piracy sites lower in the list? Sites they deem to be using dishonest SEO tactics get pushed down or delisted too (not a bad thing, but it's still tweaking results). Or recently they hid 8chan (home of Gamergate) based on abuse reports with dubious motivations.

    It's been a long time since google simply applied a magic algorithm and kept their hands off, if indeed that was ever true. I don't quite understand why this "right to be forgotten" thing is such a big deal to them.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Google.com has already abandoned objectivity

      Never was any such thing. Code is a programmer's frozen thoughts. Google's search result is an opinion. Maths is the only objective purity, and there is no Maths for generating opinion. There is not and never will be an opinion that everyone agrees with.

      The only question is: do you trust their opinion?

      As for the big deal, think of it as the Courts telling someone what their opinion should be.

  11. Aedile

    So TechDirt wrote an article about one Thomas Goolnik who asked to have that article memory holed. An article about that memory holing then also got shoved down the memory hole. Now with the third story up:

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150903/12192632159/thomas-goolnik-really-wants-to-be-forgotten-google-disappears-our-post-about-his-right-to-be-forgotten-request.shtml

    I'm wondering if TechDirt will sue if he tries to memory hole the stories that can be found on the Google.com domain.

    If TechDirt does sue (and I'm pretty sure the US will find opposite of the EU) then which court does Google listen to?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is about censorship by cowards and thieves

    Since when does committing a crime win you a pass to oblivion? Never happened before and shouldn't now. The only reason why something should be removed is if it is incorrect but the content host is the culpable party, NOT the search provider.

    A search engines sole purpose is make it easy to find information on all subjects via the World Wide Web. Too bad that all your information (HOSTED by companies that are not controlled by Google) is all over the Internet. YOU did the crime, now YOU do the time. Google isn't hosting the data, why are they the object of contempt?

    I call bullshit. This only about idiotic politics and blackmail by thieving lying politicians who ran out of other peoples money to spend so they are trying to fine Google to make up for the money they already spent but never had.

    Not one of you can give me one GOOD reason why a convicted child molester or an embezzler or common thief or a lying corrupt politician get a chance to expunge information about their deeds? The public deserves to know all the facts so they can make an informed decision. For example...

    Hmmm, Johnny C. was picked up two years ago for endangering the welfare of a child. Looks like we can scrub that candidate off the list of babysitters. Politician D.C. was arrested on corruption charges for taking a bribe four years ago. He might not be a good candidate for Attorney General.

    Honestly, wouldn't you want to know that? If you open the door to court ordered censorship once, it will stay open always.

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