back to article Google to 'forget me' man: Have you forgotten what you said earlier?

The man demanding Google deletes search links to interviews he gave about a criminal offence he committed has been accused of giving “demonstrably false” answers in court by Google’s barrister. That accusation came during yesterday’s final hearing in the Right To Be Forgotten trial at the High Court in London. Antony White QC …

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  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

    Add discriminating based on spent convictions to the discrimination legislation and be done with it.

    This way, there will be no need to edit history while at the same time those who discriminate against someone based on their spent convictions will suffer the consequences.

    Anything else aside, doing it this way will cause the Daily Beobachter moralist brigade a fit of apoplexy. So it is worth it just for that alone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

      How do you prove it?

      Do you think an employer is going to write or email confirming they aren't being employed because of a spent conviction found on google?

      1. local_man

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        That is what the DBS check is for - the official source (as declared in the new GDPR) for any employer who needs a prospective employee.

        By removing the index links will prevent the employer discriminating on them because of their conviction.

        The same applies to any protected characteristic - they can (and will) always be discriminated once they have attended the interview - you will never stop that but by removing links to articles about people with spent convictions (upon request) - we will at least be moving more towards an equal society.

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          Why don't we just not convict anyome, and have a perfectly equal society? It would save a lot of money...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

      "Add discriminating based on spent convictions to the discrimination legislation and be done with it."

      Speaking from the USA, this all seems rather strange. Here criminal convictions are a matter of public record. You can search the court sites for individuals and their records.

      So if I am understanding this correctly: If I was looking for an accountant, I wouldn't or shouldn't be able to see that one of the interviewees had 5 convictions for embezzlement, since the terms had been served?

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        "So if I am understanding this correctly: If I was looking for an accountant, I wouldn't or shouldn't be able to see that one of the interviewees had 5 convictions for embezzlement, since the terms had been served?"

        It depends upon the length of the sentence. If it was for more than four years (as seems likely for 5 counts of embezzlement) then the conviction never becomes spent. Even if it is spent, it still may have to be revealed for some jobs. But for mundane stuff, if you refuse to hire someone on the basis of spent convictions, then you are committing a crime. [SOURCE]

        In summary, the law attempts to balance the right to a second chance against the risk of recidivism.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          @Brewster: Thanks for the clarification. Here I would be bothered by the fact that violent crimes don't necessarily result in a significant amount of time served - or any at all. But it appears that is addressed in the source document you provided.

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          "In summary, the law attempts to balance the right to a second chance against the risk of recidivism."

          And a good thing too. The alternative is to punish someone for a crime they haven't committed.

        3. local_man

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          If you recruit someone in the Financial sector you apply for an enhanced DBS on that individual - even spent convictions show up on an Enhanced DBS therefore, you would be able to see the convictions and then able to make a decision based on that.

          That is the whole point of the DBS system.

          Google/Bing and all of the other search engines are not and should not be an alternative for the DBS.

          **NB DBS was formerly known as the CRB for those oldies out there.

      2. Vincent Ballard
        Coat

        Expunction

        @BlockChainToo, actually some states have a concept similar to spent convictions called expunction. Under certain conditions (which, of course, vary from state to state) you can apply to a judge to have your conviction removed from the public record.

      3. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        @BlockChainToo - That's pretty much it. The law sentenced him, he served his punishment and then he got his licen[cs]e back, as he was officially rehabilitated and the authorities deem him trustworthy now. The record may still be on the court site, but might not the first thing that appears if you Google his name. Though if you add "embezzlement" to your search, that's

        On the one hand, I don't get why this is Googles problem - he can hire an SEO firm to get negative hits pushed off the first page. Why should Google have to bear the cost of de-indexing him?

        On the other hand, I still don't get why Google search isn't just classed as a publisher. They seem to get the benefits of that classification, but not the responsibilities.

      4. veti Silver badge

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        @BlockChainToo: You'll be relieved to hear that accountants are specifically exempted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act: their convictions are never considered "spent".

        There's an odd list of professions this applies to: among others, it also includes doctors, nurses and pharmacists, vets, unit trust managers, taxi drivers and...

        wait for it...

        butlers.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          A butler does of course have to be of the utmost discretion, often being around when his employer meets/greets/wines/dines important guests and sensitive information might be discussed. Sure it's a holdover from "older times" but I see the rationale.

          1. local_man

            Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

            This will be more about the fact that a butler comes into contact with potentially vulnerable adults and also children.

            Any job that could come into contact with children needs an enhanced DBS check - that shows up all convictions regardless of whether they are spent or not.

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          " and...

          wait for it...

          butlers."

          Well obviously. A butler is a gentleman's gentleman.

          Now a valet *without* previous convictions would seem to be a terrible mistake.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

            No, a valet is a gentleman's gentleman - and I don't see any exemption for them.

            A butler is a household manager, with considerable authority for hiring and firing others. Plus, of course, they will almost by definition be employed only by stupidly rich people. I suspect that's the real issue.

      5. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        @BlockChainToo,

        Speaking from the USA, this all seems rather strange. Here criminal convictions are a matter of public record. You can search the court sites for individuals and their records.

        Convictions are also a matter of public record here too, but the idea is that only those who absolutely need to know about it should have access.

        The idea behind the legislation concerning rehabilitation of offenders, the irrelevance of most spent convictions, and the right to get back to normal life, is all about changing the mind-set of someone who got sent to jail. Without it there's nothing to be gained for the ex criminal as society (informed by Google) will quite possibly piss on them forevermore, and then you'll have a greater rate of recidivism in your law and order system. That costs money.

        If Google want to do what they are currently doing, the law will likely get changed to make Google pay the monetary cost to society of that. Government is already mulling passing the monetary cost to the NHS in increasing rates of mental illness amongst youngsters bullied on line on to Facebook, etc.

        1. joeldillon

          Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

          'Convictions are also a matter of public record here too, but the idea is that only those who absolutely need to know about it should have access.' - I think the OP's point is that that is not PUBLIC record. Public record means anyone can look at the information, any time, without having to give a reason.

      6. Charlie Boy

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        "So if I am understanding this correctly: If I was looking for an accountant, I wouldn't or shouldn't be able to see that one of the interviewees had 5 convictions for embezzlement, since the terms had been served?"

        Certain convictions even when spent are always searchable with good reason at your local police station., and checking before employing an accountant who has embezelled is one such conviction that they will show you. This is in addition to the provisions of what is shown when an enhanced criminal records check is required.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

      "Add discriminating based on spent convictions to the discrimination legislation and be done with it."

      Great, that'll help. That's why, since that legislation, all sexism and racism has ended.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        Actually, it has. There was never much to begin with. But there are now a huge number of people CLAIMING discrimination on spurious grounds - strongly supported by activists.

        You should check your privilege....

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

      No. Spent convictions are precisely relevant bases on which to discriminate. I am not willing to employ a financial controller with a history of fraud and I should be entitled so not to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I am not willing to employ a financial controller with a history of fraud"

        You can do background checking, just Google or any other generic search engine should not be the tool to perform it, because it can be woefully inaccurate - and it has no mandate to be.

        Frankly, I wouldn't like to work for such a company, because would be evidently run by morons.

      2. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        To my downvoters: I guess you don't believe punishment/rehabilitation works or that people can change. Or maybe it was because of my naive comments about Google, but I'll never know as you didn't respond.

        @AC re: "I am not willing to employ a financial controller with a history of fraud and I should be entitled so not to do."

        You can use any excuse not to employ them apart from a spent conviction. That may not be wise - Someone who committed a crime and paid a severe penalty is generally less likely to risk that penalty again, unless they're forced into it by hardship. They may even accept a lower salary and work harder. But people who never admit to mistakes are usually a nightmare to work with.

    5. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

      Add discriminating based on spent convictions to the discrimination legislation and be done with it.

      Assuming there is widespread discrimination against criminals, attempting to ban it is unlikely to work. The only way to actually address it is to find out why people consider criminals below typical employees.

      Do they feel the criminal hasn't been punished appropriately? - should punishments be more significant?

      Do they feel the criminal is unlikely to be reformed? - does a conviction without prison actually reform anyone or is it just a line in a file and they continue as before?

      Do they feel that there is no 'right' to a second chance and diminished employment prospects for life are part and parcel of any conviction? - do people consider that there is no right to a second chance and that they have the right not to offer one?

      There are so many ways for employers to discover 'spent' convictions that circumvent the ROA, that tinkering with googles search results is unlikely to make a meaningful difference.

      Identifying the wider publics apparent concern around criminals and making sure their concerns get addressed at source is more likely to produce the desired outcome than any attempts to couple seperate legislation. Peoples concerns must be based on something, if enough employers are avoiding convicts that it is an actual problem, so that should be the primary focus rather than hiding the conviction.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Add spent convictions to the discrimination legislation

        ...Do they feel the criminal is unlikely to be reformed? - does a conviction without prison actually reform anyone or is it just a line in a file and they continue as before?...

        Well... if you were considering people for a handyman job and you found that one candidate had murdered his employer's family one day when they asked him to change a light bulb -- but 'he's quite all right now'.....would you like to 'give him a second chance'...?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe Google didn't remove links about him because they'd forgotten about him? ;-)

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Er...*

      How long before they forget that they forgot him?

      *to quote the words of the Klatchian Foreign Legion marching and drinking song

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's burn all the newspaper archives while were at it shall we ?

    It's a very bad road we tread when we attempt to delete or modify history, those who control the past control the future.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      RE : Let's burn all the newspaper archives...

      But I'm not sure that that is the point that is being argued here. Nobody (as far as I can tell) either prosecuting or defending this case is suggesting that the underlying archive or editorial material be deleted. Simply that Google, as an uber-powerful, but nonetheless parasitic aggregator of news that "proper" journalists produce - do not link to them.

      If I wanted to investigate NT2's past - I could still do it by searching those underlying archives or the editorial mass for the information. I think the point is that most people won't, hence, he and his past crimes have a chance of being "forgotten" to the wider populace. Google on the other hand wants to have a permanent link and leech off of everything from every media publication; so with that reach, the chances are that anyone searching for "John Smith" will bring back something related to him and his past crimes, thereby preventing his spent convictions from ever being forgotten.

      I think that's how I read the case, and I hope I have explained it so it makes sense?

      Cheers.

      1. John Savard Silver badge

        Re: RE : Let's burn all the newspaper archives...

        The thing is, though, that Google is an extremely useful tool for finding all sorts of information that is in the mass of past news items, books, and so on and so forth. Making information hard to find, like it was in the old days, has an impact on people who would find that information useful.

        And given the damage one dishonest or untrustworthy person in the wrong place can do - if he were to re-offend because someone hired him in ignorance due to this law... well, if the government wants to pass such a law, it should accept 100% strict liability when this happens. He steals $10 million - the government writes you a cheque, and then tries to recover the money from him. Otherwise, it shouldn't be passing such daft laws, putting risk on the shoulders of the public.

        If it's a problem that criminals won't rehabilitate if it's hard for them to find jobs beyond ditch-digging if everyone knows their past... then change the laws so that you just shoot them instead of having to let them out of jail so you need to worry about that. Problem solved.

      2. Old Used Programmer

        Re: RE : Let's burn all the newspaper archives...

        So...while you don't want to burn the archive, you DO want to burn the index to that archive?

      3. Chris Fox

        Re: RE : Let's burn all the newspaper archives...

        "Nobody (as far as I can tell) either prosecuting or defending this case is suggesting that the underlying archive or editorial material be deleted."

        Not in this case. But there is another case where this is exactly what is being asked for, under the Data Protection Act. Max Mosley is seeking to have published articles erased or amended, including it would seem ones that merely report factual matters about the financing of Impress, as well as those relating to a certain party he attended. According to Private Eye he is also seeking damages for distress about publication of the fact that he funds Impress. And then there are other cases where complainants are claiming that they need to give consent for articles to be published about them in the first place, including, according to the Eye, a certain Prince Charles.

    2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      @at anon

      As far as I can see, that is not even remotely being considered.

      It would appear that the actual document(s) found by a search are not about to be deleted or changed in any way either, just that they will not appear in the results of any search that includes the name of FORGET_ME as an explicit search term.

      But even so it will be tricky to implement since, while a search like "FRAUD FORGET_ME" must clearly exclude any stories about frauds in which Mr FORGET_ME was involved, searches for "CRICKET+FORGET_ME" should not be affected by the right to be forgotten and might (possibly) include stories in which fraud was mentioned in passing because the person making the enquiry presumably wanted everything he could find about the gentleman's cricketing history.

      1. Cederic

        Re: "CRICKET+FORGET_ME"

        I'm not sure the law would prevent Google from doing one of two things:

        1 - delisting 'cricket + forget_me' as well, so that forget_me is permanently unfindable on the 'net. Have fun explaining that one

        2 - delisting 'fraud + forget_me' but adding a note saying, "Search results relating to the crime of fraud have been omitted at the request of forget_me'

        Me, I'd do 2 until a court told me otherwise, then I'd list the court injunction instead.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Let's burn all the newspaper archives while were at it shall we ?"

      If you really want to find out about someone's past, can you? Yes. Should anyone who knows you be able to find out all about stuff from decades ago at the click of a button? I don't see that one myself.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        If you really want to go from London to Birmingham, you can.

        Should you be able to go on a fast train or a fast car? I don't see that one myself...

    4. LDS Silver badge

      "Let's burn all the newspaper archives while were at it shall we ?"

      The lack of understanding about this case is appalling. And The Register made a good work explaining what it is about and what not - but people no longer read, they just take sides.

      In no way the actual legislation asks to delete historical data. The issue is another.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Let's burn all the newspaper archives while were at it shall we ?"

        >In no way the actual legislation asks to delete historical data. The issue is another.

        Erm well it is actually, it's asking to have index records deleted from a database which is just as good as deleting it as the information becomes near impossible to find. This website would be quite useless if you did that:

        https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

        Censorship, it's the first step to totalitarianism.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "Erm well it is actually, it's asking to have index records deleted"

          Indexed records delete from only generic search engines - other indexes won't be touched, and data can still be retrieved with a little more effort.

          It's not censorship, this is not a matter of freedom of expression.

          Should Google be allowed to apply a scarlet letter to people for their whole life?

          Especially since Google algorithms are woefully inadequate at ranking info about people - but even if they were, who give them permission? And if there are laws endowing people with the right to be forgotten, why Google should be allowed to break them?

          Hope you're not from a country where many of your ancestors are people who migrated - or were deported - to start a new life, often after a conviction.

          If there was Google, probably they would have been hanged on arrival.

      2. local_man

        Re: "Let's burn all the newspaper archives while were at it shall we ?"

        This is not about deleting the historical (of the record) facts of the story.

        This is about allowing an individual who has a conviction (that was reported about at the time) which is now spent the ability to get on with his/her life without a prospective employer being able to easily search for past stories on them.

        No index tag on the story upon request is all it would take.

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: "Let's burn all the newspaper archives while were at it shall we ?"

          ...No index tag on the story upon request is all it would take....

          So...this is about refusing to use modern technology when it embarrasses someone, is it?

  4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    What about people

    Who visited Barnsley and paid for a crop top?

    Surely they have a right to be forgotten ?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: What about people

      Who visited Barnsley and / or paid for a crop top?

      Surely they have a right to be forgotten ?

      FTFY..

      And, yes.

    2. PNGuinn Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: What about people

      Barnsley?

      Fergotton?

      When I were a lad, Our dad ....

    3. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: What about people

      A bit academic i would have thought.

      It's gonna be a certain type of person who visits Barnsley and then goes on to even speak about it, nevermind give public interviews.

      My regular train stops at Barnsley but i've never had the inclination to get off and have a look around.

  5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    FAIL

    Orwellian

    "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.” - George Orwell (From "1984") The European Union

    1. User McUser

      Re: Orwellian

      IMHO, it's less 1984 and more Hitchhiker's Guide.

      They don't want to expunge the information from the record to pretend it never existed in the first place as much as they just want to make it so that the only place you can find it is in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "beware of the leopard."

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Orwellian

      Actually, it's Google aiming to be Orwellian, a system able to know everything about everybody, and use it to control lives. Google is actually the Big Brother.

      And, whenever it finds it advantageous for itself, Google does rewrite history - I'm quite sure whatever Page, Brin and Schmidt don't like disappears from Google.

      You can't leave a corporation above the law.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Orwellian

        "You can't leave a corporation above the law."

        It was legal to kill Jews in WWII Germany. Does not make it right.

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