back to article Force Google to black out searches in new privacy law - MPs

Google should be forced to block content via its search results where a court in Blighty has found that such material breaches an individual's privacy, MPs and peers cautioned in a lengthy report published today. The cross-party bunch of politicos called on the government to consider a new law that would compel Google to stop …


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  1. Jeebus

    What's that I see, is it blatant manipulation of a seemingly bland rule into something the government can use to disguise their own wrongdoings?

    Imagine if this was in [and I have no doubt it would be spread to elsewhere in the press over time, a slow and calculated dissemination] to block their names mentioned in the expenses scandal.

    Self preservation of their own trough at the expense of freedom of information, why don't they just go the whole way and repeal the law they hate with so much venom.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terrible idea

    Not living in the UK, I don't give a rat's ass as to what is and what is not considered a breach of privacy there. Thank you for not forcing your censorship on the rest of the world.

    If you find out that you cannot report censored web sites faster than they pop up, it probably means they should not be censored.

    Also, it would be a terrible idea for Google to step in this direction, because they will be sued for not doing it right every time a web site slips through their filters, as some necessarily will.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Terrible idea

      @AC: "Thank you for not forcing your censorship on the rest of the world"

      I think it would have helped if the article provided more concrete examples of the problems Google et al. are causing. I don't think it's simply a matter of censorship, and I can think of at least one example where this is important. I might be completely wrong, so please just post a correction if I'm on the wrong track. Also, although I think I understand what is sought, I don't feel confident that's it's feasible without potentially harmful changes to the structure of the whole Internet.

      Say, for example, someone is charged with a crime, but the judge agrees to name suppression to ensure the defendant's reputation is not destroyed in the event that they are found innocent. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a concept that falls down if reputations can be destroyed simply by making false accusations. However, name suppression is rendered meaningless if the details of the case are published on the Internet from a site outside the court's jurisdiction. Google is the mechanism by which people discover this information, so ideally Google would not return results pertaining to cases protected within specific jurisdictions.

      I can see many, many problems standing in the way of this. Who decides what is private? How are companies like Google kept abreast of these decisions? How do we determine who is allowed to see what, and is this even a sound idea? Do we also monitor and filter personal communications? While I think the fundamental objectives for this proposal are good, I don't see a solution that doesn't break more than it fixes.

      1. Jess--

        Re: Terrible idea

        "I can see many, many problems standing in the way of this. Who decides what is private? How are companies like Google kept abreast of these decisions? "

        the simplest way would be for google et al to assume that every site that mentions any persons name is possibly infringing and not show them in the results unless the site is in a govt supplied whitelist.

        of course if they go the way of keyword based filtering (blocking sites based on certain names) then it would only be a matter of time before other things made it into the block list, govt reasoning would be if you can block any site that mentions a celebrities sex life you can block any site that mentions other key phrases (Torrent, Magnet, Mp3, Crack, Serial, Key, Iso, expenses, donations etc etc)

  3. johnwerneken

    Politicians out to lose the habit of pretending to respond to the public; the public should stop pretending that any public action could address their concerns; people should forget about privacy and about intellectual property for that matter. My convenience, your technology, their profits: those will win the day; to pretend otherwise is to play at Kanute without even a broom to hand to stop the incomming tides...get over it all those quaint historical notions, like nations and national laws....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Super injunctions

    Is this some back-handed way of getting super-injunctions to be worth paying a lawyer for? Currently the online world tends to ignore them, making them worthless.

    Once Google (and then maybe Twitter) are forced to block search results, a super-injunction may actually have some effect, instead of being a pointless, toothless, democracy-ignoring instrument used by lawyers to try to hide the facts about their guilty clients.

    I hope Google don't give in on this one. Go for each website and block them individually if you must try to censor something - a quick Google search will even help find the popular ones!

  5. Jez Caudle

    VPN's are cheap and easy to setup

    I'll just pop over to Linode or some other US VPS provider, sign-up for the cheapest package, install a VPN server (sudo apt-get install pp2pd). So now I have a US IP address.

    I read stuff that is banned in the UK and then put it out on Twitter or FaceBook again via my US proxy. Who's going to stop me?

    They really don't get it - do they?

    1. Jeebus

      Re: VPN's are cheap and easy to setup

      I like your plan, this comes into force I might just join Twitter to do the same.

    2. g e

      Re: VPN's are cheap and easy to setup


      Perhaps it would be better if people rich enough and self-important enough to try & get super injunctions just kept their trousers on and didn't do The-Stupid-Thing-They-Want-History-To-Forget in the first place.

      Oh hang on, footballists may be involved. They're too stupid to think first, act second.

      I wonder if there's some physical principle the LHC may yet discover which relates the amount of cash, the stupidity of its possessor, the mindless banality of their action and some form of Einstein-Rosen Bridge that can actually erase their moronic behaviour from history when combined with a suitably modulated inverse tacheon pulse?

      The justice system really needs to move back to the 'You shouldn't have been so stupid in the first place, case dismissed' mode of operation from days of yore.

      1. Robert E A Harvey
        Thumb Up

        Oh hang on, footballists may be involved. They're too stupid to think first, act second

        As someone said elswhere,. I'd pay a fiver to be able to upvote this a 1000 times.

  6. Jad

    "Possible" is not the same as "Possible in my lifetime"

    " ... The politicos noted that Google had confirmed it was possible to develop an algorithm that could "proactively" monitor websites for such material in order to prevent it from appearing in search results ..."

    As any Software engineer will tell you, things that are "possible" are not necessarily either easy or practical. If you ask if something is possible, in general you will be told yes, even if it would take a million man-hours to produce, run on systems that will cost billions of pounds to buy and maintain and actually not do the job that you really want it to do in the first place.

    unfortunately the "Politicos" are unused to getting truthful responses, so don't know how to deal with the answers in a sane way.

    1. g e

      Re: "Possible" is not the same as "Possible in my lifetime"

      An old choice I always used to offer a director I worked under some years back...

      "You can have it (the feature, etc) now or you can have it working"

      No prizes for guessing which he always went for.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Re: "Possible" is not the same as "Possible in my lifetime"

        Most succint is:


        On time

        Within Budget

        pick any two.

  7. mittfh
    Big Brother

    For this to work...

    ...they'd have to simultaneously take out injunctions against Bing, Yahoo, Lycos, HotBot, Ask, AltaVista and the rest of the crowd, otherwise there'd be nothing stopping people using a meta crawler (i.e. a search engine that doesn't have a database of its own but searches everyone else and collates those results) to find the same results.

    With Google in particular, the "illegal" sites would only appear above the "legal" sites if there were more links from across the web, particularly from high-ranking sites (i.e. sites that have lots of weblinks pointing to themselves), than the legitimate version. So as well as launching injunctions against the search engines themselves, they'd probably also have to run a search and launch injunctions against everyone else linking to the illegal site as well...

    Yeah, right, sure, as if...

    It wouldn't take a genius lawyer to point out that if they were requesting one search engine block links to site X, then the same criteria should also be used to request all search engines and all UK-hosted sites also block links to site X. Surely it would be easier to ask the host of site X to make the potentially infringing content unavailable?

  8. Jeff 11

    "It's possible to develop an algorithm..."

    ...that will generate a load of false positives and false negatives.

    But it's ABSOLUTELY impossible to do this in such a way as to block every form of privacy-breaching material forever more with 100% accuracy. When we can digitise the complete expertise of a quorum of 100% accurate privacy lawyers and judges, and the privacy laws of the UK into an algorithm, perhaps... but this is the real world.

  9. N2 Silver badge


    Are generally shit at doing their political jobs, what makes them thing they can dick around with the Internet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politiicians

      The same guys that barely know how to use mobile phones or email, never bother to use the paper recyling bins provided in the park to dump confidential papers, but all know how to stick a few extra zeros on the expense claims.

      What makes them think...? that inbred sense of entitlement to dick with everything.

  10. Def Silver badge


    Google aren't headquartered in the UK, and therefore the law doesn't apply to them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Conservative party funding.

    It wont happen. Not while the Chocolate Factory provide so much funding to the Conservative party.

    What I'd like goverment to legislate for is per click billing of CPC advertising so you can match your logs with the clicks you've paid for. Has anybody ever challenged google over click spamming and won?

  12. Daveus


    You can't censor or take down Google for delivering user-generated content; that's like taking away cars because they're used in robberies.

  13. Crisp Silver badge

    Shooting the Messenger Much?

    Search engines and social networks aren't the only way to pass links around. Why only this morning I was sent an email with a link to a humorous picture of a kitten on it.

  14. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    I rather doubt it, unless you allow an infinitely large number of false negatives. However, even if this were possible, it would be pointless unless you could also block connections from the UK to web-sites hosted outside the UK. If I can just hop over to some salacious Euro-gossip site and pick up the details there then there's no point in censoring it here. Ask the Chinese. They know about such things.

    The internet as a whole is currently pretty much immune from *anybody's* legal system. It would be nice if it were different, but simply wishing for it will not make it so. You need to speak to ICANN about how addressing and routing works, and come up with a technical feasible proposal (scalability being the main concern) for suitable firewalling at border routers and thereby putting each country's part of the network at the mercy of that country's legal system. This is how the Real World works and (aside from a few countries with sadistic bastards in charge) it seems to work OK.

  15. Coofer Cat


    This just won't work, especially as lots of people are defecting from Google and going to duckduckgo, bing, yahoo, etc. Are the MPs really going to go and ferret out all of those companies (some of which have no UK office, or indeed business dealings)?

    The likes of Google can be coerced somewhat by the UK government because Google conducts business in the UK, using it's UK company to do so. If that were no longer true (perhaps because we're actually talking about duckduckgo, or because Google decided operating in the UK wasn't worth it's time/money), then that leverage would pretty much fizzle out to nothing. That is, unless the UK used the much fabled "special relationship" to exert pressure on the US. Yeah, never gonna happen - how silly of me.

    In short: use duckduckgo and you're all good. MPs be damned.

  16. Khaptain Silver badge

    Language Barrier

    It would be interesting to see how they would deal with articles written in other languages. There are a lot of people in Britain that speak a lot more than just English.

    Can you imagine trying to develop an algorithm that must block out given keywords, within a given context, that could be written in a multitude of languages, that arrive endlessly from a multitude of dynamically changing websites, blogs, news-feeds, social media chatter etc....... .

    The Internet is a living, breathing, invisible, metamorphic animal that does not want to be caught. It knows about stealth, it knows how to replicate, it speaks all languages, cutting of one its legs does not affect its running speed, it is kept fed on an infinite basis and the list goes on.........Even the governments can't contain that beast.

  17. Mike Richards Silver badge

    The real problem we have is that the governing party is too ignorant of technology to see why this is a bad idea and a Labour Party still deeply in love with controlling everything we see and do. Between them they can see literally nothing wrong with this proposal.

  18. Armando 123

    Well thank goodness!

    Politicans are getting involved, so now all our privacies will be respected, you can bet that!

    BTW, have they had such a vehement reaction to government people leaving personal information on lost laptops and thumb drives? Because I'm sure the civil servants were duly punished.

    Mine's the one with the copy of Road to Serfdom in the pocket

  19. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    So ...

    So instead of sad losers searching " big brother z lister sex tapes" they now have to search " big brother z lister sex tapes"


  20. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    This could be made to work

    My name is David Cameron (no relation) and I would like Google to remove all reference to my name to preserve my privacy.

    Stupid is as stupid does (can I still say "stupid"? it is still PC?).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All I see is the fat cats pushing policy that will enable them to hide their wrongdoings. Only the mega rich can afford these super injunctions and they dont like the fact that they can be easily circumvented.

    I think that in some instances name suppression is valid such as for minors, rape cases etc

    Trying to block things because they damage your reputation is not valid however. IE Max Mosley. He DID have a sex party with lots of whips and chains and women dressed as Nazis. Its a fact so shouldnt be blocked. If someone is in a position that grants them fame, then things that happen around them are in the public interest to know. This should outweigh their privacy concerns.

    HOWEVER, trying to get google to block things is not the way to go with this. We need to look at the law around whether these super injunctions should be allowed or not and THEN focus on how to achieve it.

    1. tomjol

      "If someone is in a position that grants them fame, then things that happen around them are in the public interest to know. This should outweigh their privacy concerns"

      Why? So what if they're famous? I might get on board with power but not fame.

      Having sex parties with whips and chains and women dressed as Nazis isn't illegal. You might not find it a very pleasant concept, but it's his life, much as I detest him, he should be able to live it as he wants.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Common mistake, AC

      "If someone is in a position that grants them fame, then things that happen around them are in the public interest to know." There is a world of difference between "in the public interest" and "in the interest of the public".

      The first involves those things that affect the public as a whole. They might be very boring, (who the PM has dinner with), or really quite interesting (MP's expenses). However, they relate to the way that power is (ab)used, and are therefore important.

      The second tends to involve the witlessness of people who (are told they) want to know everything about a famous person's life, regardless of whether it is relevant (and to be honest, what some actor does at night is not relevant to anyone) to the way that person does their job. Max Mosely's kinks did not affect his job, so it was no-one else's business.

      Let's face it, if the current attitude to fame and lack of privacy were to apply, there would be nude pictures of Maggie Thatcher floating around (and no, I'm not giving you my mind-bleach)

  22. Andrew Barr

    What we need....

    Is a government website setup to display who has a court injunction, why they have a court injunction and links to pages on the web where people have ingnored the injuntions. Else how am I to now if I should report a story on twitter or not ;)

    Mine's the one with a list of names of celebrities in the pocket!!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why not just make it a criminal offence to release the names of or otherwise identify /any/ parties involved in a court case? Or at least in Criminal cases.

    "A Man is in court charged with the 'XYZ Strangler' rapes" would be all that people actually need to know- that the police are doing something and that the rapist may have been caught. I don't need to know that it's a Mr Mitchell living at 24 Albert Square, London.

    A man was recently named- /and his home address given/ in the local paper. Just because he was up in court (it was a kiddiepron thing, so innocent or not he's going to have his house burnt down...). That sort of thing shouldn't be allowed.

    It even helps Celebs- while everyone will know they're in court, the Paparazzi will not be told what they're at court for or know the details of the case, so while they're not off the hook totally they should at least get a bit less of the massive coverage they get these days.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well thank goodness!

    little children should not play with the big boys toys....

    politico's have no clue whatsoever... put that idea down you ignorant fool

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    So Google would be obliged to enforce a court order even though they are not a party to the case. That would effectively make Google an extension of the British legal system.

    I can't help wondering why the MPs are so keen on it. Is it that they see themselves as being potentially the main beneficiaries of such an order?

    Oh well, if they manage to swing it I guess it would provide a handy mechanism to be used in support of ACTAs aims as well.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just woken up

    to find myself in North Korea. The Ministry of Justice has been the keenest at budget cutting. I would think it would be cheaper for them to get google to write some code to do the work of judges, magistrates and all the rubber stampers in the back office of the courts. Then it can all be done in a Northampton shed.

  27. JaitcH

    Just who do these MPs think they are? Americans?

    Google is an American corporation and has to comply with their laws, primarily.

    If the UK wants to introduce new Nanny legislation, they are free to do so but they have to remember their jurisdiction goes only as far as 200 miles beyond the coast.

    Of course, the conflict of interest they have doesn't concern these MPs what with Yeo's Pink Computer (on MP expenses) and all the other fraud these characters got up to. I also understand that the Tories have a lot of strange habits to conceal. For instance, Stephen Milligan, a former MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire, and at the time a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Arms Minister offed himself wearing female underwear. The list includes Profumo (at least he was straight), Hanningfield, Chaylor,etc.

    Mosley doesn't really deserve the 'support' he gets, therefore it follows these 'Honourable' gentlemen are looking out for someone else.

    At least he doesn't have a cavern named in his notoriety such as the Hell-Fire Caves just outside High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (see:

    The taxpayers are entitled to know where their money goes and they are equally entitled to know what the people who they elect do. If they value their privacy, MPs should get their snouts out of the public trough and work for a living.

  28. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    Wrong, JaitcH

    Merely being an MP doesn't mean that person's whole life is up for grabs. In essence, none of the examples you cite (with the possible example of Profumo because of the spying angle) are the business of anyone other than the people concerned. "Wearing female underwear", being gay, having kinky sex do not affect the way they do their jobs, any more than your oddities affect the way you do yours.

    Unless you are advocating *very* intrusive job interviews/reviews for all, then don't advocate them for some.

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