back to article When PR backfires: Google 'forgets' BBC TV man's banker blog post

On Wednesday, Google emailed the BBC to say it had removed from its search results a blog post written by TV journalist Robert Peston about Merrill Lynch boss Stan O'Neal. Was this a PR stunt to highlight the "unfairness" of the EU ruling on the right to be forgotten? We don't know – but whether it was or not, it has backfired …

  1. John Bailey

    Before this degenerates into the usual EU phobic nonsense, can we remember this little bit of the article..

    "The Court of Justice of the European Union said in its original ruling that courts will ultimately arbitrate on each request - and their decision must balance freedom of expression rights, as well as privacy rights."

    Which basically means it is NOT GOOGLE who gets to decide. And any deletions they make are 100% their call, not forced compliance with any rules.

    Google is basically pulling a work to rule ploy. Not complying with a law. So if you want to rant at someone, rant at Google.

    1. FredDerf
      FAIL

      What?

      So are you saying that every time someone wants to be un-linked that a court must decide if it is to be so?Talk about gridlocked court systems.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: What?

        Would you prefer that an intern at Google decides?

        Or perhaps the giant brain-in-a-jar that controls the internet?

      2. jnffarrell1

        Re: What?

        Yes! a national court must decide each and every case that is not taken down upon request of an unnamed 'unforgotten'. It turns out that that anyone wishing to pick an old wound can publicly embarrass whomever they are feuding with. Unintended consequences? Good thing the EU shifted the court costs to nations that need more Lawyer National Product.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Ultimately arbitrate" does not mean they are doing it for every case, but that they are the ultimate authority in case Google refuses. I doubt very much the courts want to arbitrate on the thousands of daily requests that are sent to Google. They absolutely want Google to take the decision from their hands as much as possible.

      That said, an interesting point comes up: If Google refuses a request, then people should complain to the courts. This makes sure that Google removes enough. But what is the constraint that stops Google from removing too much? Do the authors like Peston have a right to go to the courts to ask for the link to be reinstated?

    3. David 164 Bronze badge

      Except no one going to question Google getting it wrong, sure the BBC reporter or the Guardian might question the first one or two times but they will get bored and move on to other things. An as long as the person filing the request get their way they are unlikely to question it either. An Google isn't required by the law to forward the request onto anyone either. They aren't even sure, an it isn't spelled out in the ruling whether Google can share any details of the complaint with the website.

      If Google is applying this to comments made on a website, I could see most sites removing their commenting system altogether. Which is a shame because the commenting and debating stories on sites is one of the best parts of the internet, especially when it comes to questioning one sided reporting that happens on some subjects.

    4. SoaG

      And how much would it cost Google for lawyers and administration to individually dispute each and every one of those 50,000 (and counting) requests?

      That's why they're letting the authors/publishers know. So they can choose to fight their individual cases if they want. There's no way even Google could afford to do so for all of them without going bankrupt.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        "And how much would it cost Google for lawyers and administration to individually dispute each and every one of those 50,000 (and counting) requests?"

        Given that it's free, not very much. 40 per cent have come from Germany. The UK ICO deals with thousands already, and most are not appealed; the appeals procedure is free in the UK up to the highest level.

        A month ago Google fanbois argued it would be too expensive for Google to de-link on request, Google couldn't possibly do it. It would go broke trying. Now Google will go broke appealing a couple of dozen decisions a year. Funny, that.

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        How does a giant remove a man's name from a search engine

        A huge concern like Google can't jst tell its servers to obliterate the man's name. It would block everyone with that name.

        It is a stupid law to try and enforce and not only enforce it once but to exclude any subsequent iterations. Such a thing wouldn't just tie up the courts it would tie up the internet.

        As soon as the last trace of the man has been got rid of some clown will mention it on Twitter and then.....

        Come to think of it, it could be a fun diversion for the rest of us on a rainy afternoon. Feeling bored?

        Why not tie up the search engines of every server in Europe?

        Can't wait.

        But then I aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects ...and that cap fits.

    5. Eric Anderson

      That makes no sense

      I'm pro-EU, but that doesn't make any sense. Are you arguing that it *is* up to Google, or that it's *not*? Because you seem to have made both claims.

      The EC's fact sheet ( http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/files/factsheets/factsheet_data_protection_en.pdf ) FAQ on the ruling suggests that the company to whom the request was made (Google) is responsible for making a determination about each request, and then acting on it. That kind of suggests that -- whether or not Google made the correct decision on this case -- they're doing exactly what they're supposed to. I'm not sure what you're even suggesting -- that they should *always* deny requests and pass the buck up to the court system? I don't know what the penalties are, but I'm pretty sure that would not be accepted as complying with the law.

      1. David 164 Bronze badge

        Re: That makes no sense

        The what the British ICO suggests Google did forward all complaints automatically on to the ICO.

    6. Curly4

      "The Court of Justice of the European Union said in its original ruling that courts will ultimately arbitrate on each request . . .

      Google is between a rock and a hard spot. If the EU wants to correct this then all request should be made to the court then when a ruling is made on that request it would be sent to Google to enact. But as it is now Google should eliminate ALL search results for any person that request a removal of a search result. Then the court can tell Google to restore the search results except the ones that should be eliminated.

      In other words Google should not be able to receive a request from an individual to drop search results. All request should come form the court. If Google now blocks search results now it should not be responsible nor to determine which search results to include and which to exclude nor liable for missing the mark.

    7. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      See: http://vanishedbygoogle.tumblr.com/

      Judging by the requirement to register (and give email address?) it may just an opportunistic information gathering ploy. There is nothing showing on the landing page (yet) that is remotely like a deleted link.

    8. tom dial Silver badge

      No. "Work to rule" would be to deny every request and force the requester to go through the courts. Given that many of these requests would involve competing legal and other interests, that would be correct.

  2. Ashton Black

    To what end?

    I cannot get my brain around the fact that this measure, as implimented by Google, is about much use to prevent "forgetting" about a person. Google isn't the ONLY game in town

    How about going after the person/people who are hosting the duff (allegedly) info? No? Because thats expensive and hard. Easier to make Google do it and do a 1/2 assed job and reap some PR.

    Did anyone tell the ECJ how the internet works before this ruling?

    1. David 164 Bronze badge

      Re: To what end?

      Yes their own legal advisors and internal experts, who wrote a legal opinion that the judges should throw out the complaint and refuse to grant the right to be forgotten. They were ignored by the judges.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: To what end?

        Ah, so the law must conform to Google's interpretation of what is wise, and the Courts must accept Google as the ultimate technical authority of what is feasible.

        You wouldn't say Google is an interested party in all this, would you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To what end?

          > Ah, so the law must conform to Google's interpretation of what is wise

          No. The law itself should conform to reality.

          Removing Googles search results does not get rid of the article - it is still there. It can still be found by searching Google for other keywords (try '"Merrill's mess" ghost christmas' and its about the second result). It can be found by going to the BBC site, using their search function and searching for Stan O'Neal. You can probably find it using Bing, Yahoo or some other search engine.

          If the blog post is inaccurate or irrelevant then force the site hosting the post to correct or remove it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: To what end?

            > If the blog post is inaccurate or irrelevant then force the site hosting the post to correct or remove it.

            Which is something that you have been granted a right to do, under the legal framework of Directive 95/46/EC.

            Have you bothered to do *any* research on the subject, or does talking out of your arse just makes you feel better?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: To what end?

              > Have you bothered to do *any* research on the subject, or does talking out of your arse just makes you feel better?

              Please point out the inaccuracies in my comment.

              1. The First Dave

                Re: To what end?

                @Condiment:

                "Please point out the inaccuracies in my comment."

                The right to be forgotten is NOT about inaccurate information; it is about out-dated FACTS.

                Compare if you like with criminal records - expired convictions can be "forgotten", but do not ever get expunged from the legal record.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: To what end?

                  > The right to be forgotten is NOT about inaccurate information; it is about out-dated FACTS.

                  Removing search results from google still leaves the original page with the original information findable by many different means.

                  FACT - a thing that is indisputably the case.

                  Facts are never out-dated since time never changes them.

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Google may be involved...

          But what is it guilty of?

          Have they fleeced the public or the company or customers of the company or what?

          Why should they be blamed for showing anyone where details of a criminal can be found?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To what end?

      I think this process is more supposed to ensure that whatever is in question is merely *not easily found*, rather than to be absolutely forgotten and deleted from all records. Since, for most/many people, "can't find it on google" is pretty much the same as "doesn't exist", editing the search results is adequate for most purposes.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: To what end?

      There is a record saying something about my unpaid library fine in a computer on a desk in a library in Ballimorie = effect zero.

      It's the fist thing that comes up on a search of my name in Google = more significant

      1. ratfox Silver badge

        Re: To what end?

        In the first place, this can only work if people are willing to forget. It is enough to have one enemy who writes every month about you, and you will never get rid of your past.

        The right to be forgotten only works for people nobody cares about… Which sounds about right.

    4. Eric Anderson

      Re: To what end?

      The measure isn't specific to Google (or even just search engines). In principle, the requester has every right to ask for the original data to be removed, and having third parties like Google get rid of links and caches is secondary.

      I believe what makes it weird is that the original copy (say, the article or blog post) may have different legal status than those duplicates and links. I've forgotten the exact terminology, but I believe it's pretty possible for an article to have special protection as journalism, for example, but a search engine's data about that article not to. I'm not sure how much of that is about the nature of the data, versus how it's being used, versus the nature of the company holding it.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: To what end?

        "I believe what makes it weird is that the original copy (say, the article or blog post) may have different legal status than those duplicates and links. "

        Yes, Google could apply for protection as a publisher. But it has chosen not to do so.

  3. Eponymous Cowherd
    Facepalm

    Dear Barbara.....

    It would be interesting to see how many hits that 2007 article is getting now, courtesy of the Streisand effect.

    Wonder if this was Peston's intention when he wrote that article?

    It was an old backwater blog page.Its now linked from a front page news article. I imagine its getting more hits per hour, now, than it's got in the whole of the last year.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: Dear Barbara.....

      I believe that was Google's intention when they emailed Preston!

    2. Number6

      Re: Dear Barbara.....

      The Grauniad (is it still called that?) is going to town on a similar theme with Dougie McDonald asking for three links to articles about him to be removed. In the UK if you do the appropriate search the articles have long gone but there's a whole slew of others in their place about his attempt to get the links removed.

  4. Rottenham

    "Do No Harm" has passed. Now it's "The Google Way or the Highway." If anybody could figure out how to abuse this law, it's Google. They've become too big for their britches.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "Do No Harm"

      Google are doctors now?

      Derp.

  5. JulianB
    FAIL

    and so, ad infinitum

    Google for Stan O'Neal. The second hit, after Wikipedia, is Peston's article on how Google won't link to the original article, with a link to the original article. Presumably he'll now get another letter saying that you can't Google this one either, and can publish a new article reporting the fact...

    So O'Neal now still looks bad, to some degree, as the result of the first article, and worse because he can be seen to have tried to hide it.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: and so, ad infinitum

      "He" (Stan O'Neal) didn't actually make the complaint.

      So the complaint should have been rejected at the first hurdle. Only the individual or someone with delegated authority can complain, not some random third party.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: and so, ad infinitum

        > "He" (Stan O'Neal) didn't actually make the complaint.

        So the complaint should have been rejected at the first hurdle. Only the individual or someone with delegated authority can complain, not some random third party.

        Note Preston's comment at the end:

        "The implication is that oblivion was requested not by anyone who appears in the blog itself (O'Neal is the only person I mention in my column) but by someone named in the comments written by readers underneath the blog. "

        The people who commented on the post have this same 'right to be embarrassed about something they once wrote on the internet forgotten' as the subject of the blog post itself - so if one of them, who posted under their own name, manages to get Google to forget their embarrassing comment, then searches for that person's name won't include that particular piece that Preston has written - and it won't (just as it appears not to have done) affect searches for O'Neal.

        And if that's what's happened, it is not a random third party; it's Joe Bloggs asking for this comment by (or mentioning) Joe Bloggs to be removed.

        Just to confirm, searching for Stan O'Neal currently brings up quite a lot of articles about this nonsense, but adding +site:bbc.co.uk shows the 'removed' article half way down the first page.

        And the weather forecast for that teacup is: Stormy.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: and so, ad infinitum

          So Google says it's removed a link, inferring Stan O'Neal complained. Emails Peston expecting him to cry "Censorship!", "The internet is broken!" etc.

          But Stan O'Neal hasn't complained and the link hasn't been removed. Peston doesn't perform the little jig that Google expected. Funnily enough, neither does James Ball.

          The Comments is a red herring. Either way, Google was entitled to reject the complaint, and it was up to Joe Bloggs to then complain take it up with the Information Commissioner.

          A responsible search engine would have been expected to do that - if it takes freedom of expression seriously.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            It's easier for Google to not show some results, than to spend a great length of time (and cost) on trying to figure out which side of the privacy/public balance some of the grey cases lie?

            It's not like they actually have to forget the data. That can still use it to drive their revenue in other jurisdictions

          2. ratfox Silver badge

            Damned if they do…

            I really would like to point out that if Google bounced every request to the ICO, they would automatically get attacked for bogging down the system and trying yet again to worm their way out of obeying the ECJ's ruling. I'm sure the last thing Google wants is to piss off the European regulators some more.

          3. David 164 Bronze badge

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            Google is entitle to reject it, it doesn't have to and indeed why should a company spend it own money rejecting bogus requests and having to defend itself in court, when it cheaper, easier to just grant the request and move on to the next request.

            1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

              Re: Re: and so, ad infinitum

              Perhaps, but that contradicts what Google itself argued - that it would be too expensive to de-link on demand. Google would grind to a halt if it de-linked. The web would break.

              Now it's decided it's politically useful to "break the web" and de-link on demand, intentionally, and hope the blowback doesn't blow its way.

              Before writing that, you did know appealing an ICO decision is free, didn't you?

              1. David 164 Bronze badge

                Re: and so, ad infinitum

                It not free, it my tax money being spent and the ICO would have to expand to deal with this if Google just sent every request to the ICO.

                An I rather the money be spent of the NHS and plug some of that 4 billion pound deficit than the ICO managing a EU judges rulings.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: and so, ad infinitum

                  > An I rather the money be spent of the NHS [sic]

                  Methinks you need to gain some familiarity on how the tax system (or indeed, general accounting) works.

                  1. David 164 Bronze badge

                    Re: and so, ad infinitum

                    May be you should explain it why money that would need to be spent on the ICO to govern this silly EU law couldn't be spent elsewhere within the Government, given that the ICO and NHS come general taxation and not from any special taxes set up to specifically to pay for them.

              2. Vic

                Re: and so, ad infinitum

                > you did know appealing an ICO decision is free, didn't you?

                It isn't.

                There may be no fee to the ICO involved, but that doesn't mean there are no costs.

                Vic.

          4. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            I don't disagree with any of that, per se, but what you appear to be suggesting/criticising in the previous comment is that Joe Bloggs asked for an article about Stan O'Neal to be de-indexed, and Google complied, notifying Preston (well, the Beeb) of this because it's his article.

            I'm merely pointing out that isn't, on the face of it, what happened - which is more likely that Joe Bloggs asked for a web page in which Joe Bloggs is mentioned to be de-indexed.

            Whatever the real story, it does highlight a massive flaw (another one) in this right to be forgotten silliness.

          5. Number6

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            It's a new game - now we have to guess who asked, based on searching for the people in the comments section and seeing if the link appears or not.

        2. David 164 Bronze badge

          Re: and so, ad infinitum

          It interesting that as Preston bought up the article again, does that count the article has being relevant again and so is now allowed to be in Google search index again?

          Another legal point to be argue in court, when does a no longer relevant article become relevant again.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            "It interesting that as Preston bought up the article again, does that count the article has being relevant again and so is now allowed to be in Google search index again?"

            Articles (web pages) affected by the "right to be forgotten" ruling aren't pulled from the index - if an article mentions John Smith and Jane Jones, and Jane asserts her 'right to be forgotten", but John doesn't, then the article can be returned in a search for "John Smith", but it should not be returned in a search for "Jane Jones".

            The key point here is that it's the search terms that get special treatment, not the actual web pages that are returned by the search.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: and so, ad infinitum

          So could someone google every name mentioned in the comments until the "some results have been removed" message comes up... ?

          1. Andrew Jones 2

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            Peter Dragomer - ie the first comment.causes the "Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more" text to appear for me.

          2. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: and so, ad infinitum

            "So could someone google every name mentioned in the comments until the "some results have been removed" message comes up... ?"

            Probably not. As I pointed out in the comments on another article on this subject, that message comes up if I search for myself - even using my full, exact name, which is probably unique - and I haven't asked Google to forget anything about me. I therefore infer that the message doesn't come up to effectively say "This person's asked us to de-index something about him" but instead is (eventually) going to come up more generally when searching for a name.

            What you'd have to do, therefore, is search for every name in the comments, and then go through all the results for all those names trying to see if the article in question is there. When you find a name for whom that article isn't listed, you've found the person.

      2. Tom Wood
        Black Helicopters

        Re: and so, ad infinitum

        Did the email Peston received actually even come from Google?

      3. maffski

        Re: and so, ad infinitum

        There are several other people mentioned in the comments, one of them could have complained about that comment. I presume the rulings don't consider comments to be held to a different standard.

        In fact one of the comments appears to cast aspersion on Mr Peston's journalistic integrity. Perhaps he himself raised the complaint against his own blog, so he could then write an article about it being de-listed? That's what I'd do. But then I don't get out much.

      4. jnffarrell1

        Re: and so, ad infinitum Did the Cretin who said All Cretins are liars" lie?

        Undecidable propositions make bad law.

    2. SoaG

      Re: and so, ad infinitum

      Just to clarify, were you searching from an EU based Google.* ? As the filters are not being applied to Google.com .ca etc

  6. proto-robbie
    Terminator

    I don't suppose...

    ...there's any chance of getting Google to forget about Robert Peston?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: I don't suppose...

      Well I heard Robert Preston on the radio arguing that even he would like to forget Robert Preston.

  7. David 164 Bronze badge

    if I was running google I would be automatically granting each request, not even bothering to notify the BBC or even bothering to read the requests themselves, I'm certain smaller search engine who can't afford to hire an army of paralegals, will do just that.

  8. TheColinous

    But this was never about freedom of expression. I really wish the yank commentators who are up in arms about censorship woul read the bloody ruling.

    1 - There is a law in Spain that says something. It's been on the books for years, if not decades.

    2 Spanish man goes to court to use the said old Spanish law

    3 Google gets upset and fights a legal campaign which says "we're not affected by laws in spain because we're in the US"

    4 ECJ says, "In your dreams, google. If you make money here, you're expected to follow our laws"

    5 Google now uses tricks and feints to make this into a freedom of speech thing, when they never raised this during the court case. They campaigned that they were not subject to European laws.

    1. Eric Anderson

      Yank commentator here. There's always more than one question: This specific case may have turned on jurisdiction (because "we don't like that law" isn't usually a very successful legal argument), and it's pretty reasonable that the court found the way it did. But that doesn't mean there isn't *also* a public policy question of "well, is that a good law?"

    2. David 164 Bronze badge

      I like the way you assume people have to be a yank to comment on this stupid ruling.

  9. Infury8r

    Fewer than 0.0001%

    "Bear in mind that the European Union is home to over half a billion citizens - meaning fewer than 0.0001 per cent of them have complained."

    Maybe fewer than 0.0001 per cent of us have anything to be ashamed of?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fewer than 0.0001%

      > Maybe fewer than 0.0001 per cent of us have anything to be ashamed of?

      Don't be so stupid. Take for example the case of the Spanish man that started all this: it wasn't that he had anything to be ashamed of (at one point his home was threatened with foreclosure, for delays on a debt that he eventually managed to pay, a situation that a very significant number of Spaniards were and are still facing). The problem is that from that article, the wrong inferences could be made as regards this person's integrity.

      Another, more trivial example: lots of government offices and public entities have this habit of publishing people's personal data including sensitive details such as full address, date of birth, ID and tax numbers, on the internet for World + Dog + Identity Theft 'R Us to see. Can you see why people may want those results not to be a simple <search engine of your choice> search away, even if the original publisher are too incompetent or careless (or simply unable: Wayback Machine) to do anything about it?

  10. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  11. ncmoon

    trying to think it through

    Am I right in thinking that google are simply removing all pages that originate from the EU with the words Stan O'Neal in any searches made by people on EU versions of google (e.g. google.co.uk)?

    The article is still returned in a 'Stan O'Neal' search on google.com and the article can be retrieved on google.co.uk using a different search term.

    Strikes me this is going to have quite a lot of impact. Most of the online news is probably scandal/tittle-tattle. So we can assume the subjects of this news will more often than not ask for their 'right to be forgotten'. This won't stop people googling for the dirt - and it won't stop them reading it - on .com sites. it just means all the possible advertising revenue from online news will go to american companies and never to european ones. Don't suppose anyone in google or the US is going to care about that at all.

    Nick.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: trying to think it through

      > So we can assume the subjects of this news will more often than not ask for their 'right to be forgotten'.

      That has been thought of, read the fucking Directive please.

  12. SimonL

    Get a grip!!!

    I just wish the world would get a grip and accept that Google doesn't run the planet or own the internet. They cannot 'break' the internet. If Google vanished overnight the internet would carry on as before....

    Personally I have as little to do with Google as possible and avoid 'Googling' at all costs, I use Yahoo! and am very happy.

    I just see a constant stream of news about Google and it just makes me cringe at how they have managed to brain wash such a HUGE part of the world.

    If there was ever a monopoly......

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Get a grip!!!

      "I use Yahoo! and am very happy."

      I imagine you will be applying to have that comment forgotten, eventually...

  13. randygrenier

    I just can't get over the impression that this entire EU ruling is just plain stupid. Information that's out there is out there. They're trying to make history disappear in the name of privacy. No matter what Google deletes or doesn't delete they will be criticized. People love to attack a big American corporation.

    I think Google aught to just shut down in Europe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I think Google aught to just shut down in Europe.". Why don't you send them a letter.

  14. Arachnoid

    So if all the US three acrontm services

    Want to disappear from all searches on Google this could work in their favour and who or rather whom keeps a list of all the removed items?

  15. DocJD

    Governments

    How long until governments who want news censored start requesting Google to remove links to anything derogatory about them or their practices? What if Russia asks for removal of all search results about sending troops to the Ukraine?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remind me how this is supposed to work...

    Say Joe Bloggs, now a "respectable" consultant in the realms of companies and finance...

    ... back in his student days engaged in drunken activities with the rugby club, including dancing naked on the tables in a public bar in Glasgow. Photos of the high jinx exist, and were published with a story in the Glasgow Herald, now available on-line.

    Joe Bloggs would rather this material did't come to light, as it could be career-limiting. He puts in a right-to-be-forgotten request, which is granted.

    Is the up-shot that:

    A. The newspaper story page disappears entirely from results on Google.co.uk (for any and all search terms applicable to the story)

    B. The page is concealed ONLY for search terms "Joe Bloggs" (but a search for "drunken students" "rugby" "naked" "bar" would still list it highly?

    C. How about "Bloggs" "drunken students" "rugby" "naked" "bar" ?

    D. Or "Joe" "drunken students" "rugby" "naked" "bar" ?

    If (A) then Google results become totally moth-eaten for Europe

    If (B) then there's relatively little consequence ... unless you're looking for the person specifically

    ... however, if you search for a name, and get a "Some results have been removed" warning, you might start to wonder what they have to hide. If the name is not common, then it may cause reputational damage to other people who share their name!

    If (C) or (D) then it's just getting even more arbitrary.

    Can you only block searches based on your legal name under the European legislation? Or can you get pages/searches blocked on the basis of email-addresses and other unique identifiers?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Stupid decision, stupid story, stupid people

    The whole concept behind this ruling was moronic and the idea that it's fine for Google or any other company to have to filter the thousands of "take my selfie" requests it generates is just as bad. An application to a court should be the FIRST stop. What is the point of sending it to Google so that they can send it you your local court system? Waste of time, waste of money. Particularly since this way encourages morons to send off spurious requests; they would think harder about it if they were sending it to a legal office.

    So, the story. A company is being sent requests to squelch free speech - not "correct mistakes", but to remove correct factual information. It's pissed off JUST LIKE YOU ALL SHOULD BE, so it's trying to breath some publicity into the problem. Strangely they didn't try doing that by contacting their local chippy. They went to a journalist. How very fucking strange. Imagine contacting a news outlet about the abuse of power by an idiotic half-wit judge that confused the "right to privacy" with the "right to hide information in the public domain about something I did and don't want people to know about". That's not privacy, that's secrecy. Different thing.

    So we get stories like this, and pages of comments, by people who can't see past the "Google is Evil" slogan - which, haha, I agree with - to the real attack on real rights and freedoms encoded in this ruling which should at the very least be struck down and in an ideal world would lead to the sacking of the judge(s) concerned followed by their trial for professional negligence.

    But judges are above the law to nothing will be done. Unless journalists start putting pressure on those that actually have the power to do something about it - it's a long shot, but Google thinks it's worth a try and I agree.

    God, it's embarrassing how easy it is to distract people from the real story.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Stupid decision, stupid story, stupid people

      "So we get stories like this"

      I think you've misread this article and Peston's.

      C.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stupid decision, stupid story, stupid people

        > I think you've misread this article and Peston's.

        I don't think he's misread them.

        In fact, I don't think he's read them at all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stupid decision, stupid story, stupid people

          I have read both. The Reg article (and previous ones) is all about why Google should suck it up and stop whining about having to follow EC law while ignoring the fact that a company is being forced to act as a free filter for the courts in support of a deeply dangerous and flawed ruling by an unelected panel of unaccountable judges.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid decision, stupid story, stupid people

      Google is not being sent requests to squelch free speech - though it keeps telling people that that's what happened, and some people are stupid enough to believe them.

      The original article is still there - it's just not going to turn up if you search for "Joe Bloggs". The filter applies to the search term, not to the web page!

  18. hahnchen

    It hasn't backfired

    Given the amount of coverage "right to be forgotten" takedowns have received today, it's pretty much a PR win for Google.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting...

    For once, I largely agree and sympathise with Orlowski's point of view. At any rate, it's good that someone in the anglophone media takes a critical view of Google's stance rather than acting as a loudspeaker for their PR department, as most others do.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google arrogant?

    Forget Google, the ones you really want to be afraid of are Wackypedia. "Power Without Accountability" is the motto of a bunch of editors out there.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Google arrogant?

      That's the next shoe to drop.

      But then Wikipedia can claim some privilege as a publisher. Google had this option too, but declined to use it.

      1. solo

        Re: Google arrogant?

        Google is a publisher? I didn't know that. So, you believe that all those news are coming from Google Press.. funny that. And that's why Google has to bear this brunt. They are using information published by others, so use it judiciously. If they become a real publisher (like Wikipedia), they will get concession but other responsibilities that publishers have to bear.

  21. Keep Refrigerated

    Typical and expected...

    If anyone has used Youtube over the years, this is exactly how they handle DMCA requests - err on the side of not getting sued - they put together an algorithm that simply accepts DMCA requests at face value and takes down videos.

    It's infuriating but it's what we the people have voted for when we vote for utter tossers who make these stupid laws without any foresight into how they will be implemented and reacted to.

    So I'm not surprised one bit that Google has probably turned this over to a bot to process and forget about it.

    In fact, evil or not, it's a smart move and I would do the same. Turn it over to a bot and let the residents of the land deal with it. If enough people get pissed off then maybe the law will change and you remove the bot, if not enough people get pissed off - business as usual.

  22. Matthew Flaschen

    How is this Google's fault?

    It's bizarre that the author is trying to blame Google for this. It's the EU's fault.

    You can bet that if Google could get away with waiting for a court order every time, they would. That would mean less work for them, since the legal system would make the judgement calls, not Google (Google wouldn't need to pay an army of paralegals)

    The European Union wanted Google to set up this system. When they did, the EU specifically praised them (http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/data-protection/news/140602_en.htm), stating, "It is a good development that Google has announced that it will finally take the necessary measures to respect European law."

    The court decision is the screw-up here. Google may not be implementing it perfectly, but the EU is the one who made the two biggest mistakes:

    * Having this bogus "right" at all (I don't care if you think my freedom of speech is "irrelevant")

    * Expecting private companies to enforce it

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: How is this Google's fault?

      "It's bizarre that the author is trying to blame Google for this"

      Reread the article - it's about Google's reaction to the ruling.

      "You can bet that if Google could get away with waiting for a court order every time, they would"

      Absolutely, so why isn't Google doing just that? Is it worried if it bats every request away the Euro authorities will get mad and fine it?

      This is multibillion-dollar Google. It's not poor ickle Google in a Stanford garage being picked on by horrible nasty internet people, no matter how many cutesy doodles it comes up with.

      C.

      1. Al Jones

        Re: How is this Google's fault?

        The ECJ ruling says that people in the EU have a "right to be forgotten". Google has a responsibility to respect that right, and EU citizens shouldn't have to go to court to exercise that right, once the right has been established. The Court is there to adjudicate in cases where there is disagreement about the implementation, but bouncing every single request to the court by default would clearly be an abuse.

        For example, newspapers know that people have a right to their good name, and they won't publish information that they recognize would be libelous. Sometimes they get it wrong, sometimes the object of an article thinks that they got it wrong and the courts have to make a decision, but most of the time peoples rights are respected without requiring court intervention.

  23. drunk.smile

    I've googled every name in the article as

    "<Name>" Merrill site:bbc.co.uk every single name comes up linking to the article. So I clearly need to be less specific with my searching.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FFS it's not a PR thing it's what anyone having their content removed from searches is getting!

    If I had a website that said the same things I'd be getting an email too.

    'Bear in mind that the European Union is home to over half a billion citizens - meaning fewer than 0.01 per cent of them have complained.'

    Because most people don't have something to complain about, same reason we're not going to be watched by GCHQ et al, there is nothing interesting about us!

  25. Grubby

    Not backfired

    I don't see it as having backfired on Google, I actually agree with the stance they have taken. It highlights the stupidity of the ruling. Google have said all along that to allow / force the search provider, whether it be Google, Bing etc to determine what it should or shouldn't decide to remove is wrong so they have decided to remove all as the EU have not bothered to stick to their side of the deal in implementing a process to make the decision.

    If the idiots in Europe want to have a rule to "protect the people" they should own and regulate it. All requests should be made to them and they should make a decision, liaise with the 'customer' to inform them of their decision and then if it is deemed right to remove they should contact all search providers (which is going to be very difficult as anyone can set one up, and to only force the big guns to do it is anti-competitive) and tell them what to remove.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Earlier on today, adding the name of each commenter on that article in turn to the search returned the article in all but one case. I suspect that was the person who requested the takedown.

    This only affects European sites apparently - results from google.com are unaffected, I'm told.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You, AC and drunk.smile didn't come to the same conclusion

      So, which name didn't return a link to the article?

  27. NogginTheNog

    Pure search results?

    All this bleating against the EU Court ruling seems to come from some cloud-cuckoo ideal that Google is being forced to change what would otherwise be angel-pure search results. What all search engines return is based on many factors: local laws, adult and illegal meterial filtering, personal settings preferences, before you even start on all the money-making algorithms, and the consequent rank boosting work by third parties, all of which skew results each and every time.

  28. SleepyJohn
    Big Brother

    Why did the ECJ make this ruling?

    As the ECJ was apparently advised by its expert legal team not to do this, one must ask oneself why it did. There may be a clue in the Maastricht Treaty, which instructed the ECJ to 'return verdicts that further the cause of European integration'.

    Whether there is any connection between that and the provision of a legal mechanism to control the people's access to information (albeit with an ostensibly high moral purpose for the benefit of some of said people), I don't know. However, the fact that it is so loosely formulated that it requires the ECJ to interpret it - which seems odd given the expert legal advice it has access to - should be disturbing. Some might think it deliberate rather than incompetent.

    I remember when research that Google freely gives me in .001234 milliseconds would have taken weeks of trailing about major city libraries at vast expense. And Google is vilified for earning money by doing that? By metaphorically wandering round the global village reading public noticeboards and making the information easily available to all?

    This is a very dangerous, far-reaching ruling made by an authority that appears to be absurdly stupid; but clearly is not. It understands perfectly the hugely powerful control over the dissemination of information that it has effectively given itself, being the final arbiter of any disagreement. Google is right to warn us that our searches, and our writings - indeed, our view of, and interaction with the world - may now be censored by the EU's Supreme Court under the guise of the farcical notion of a "right to be forgotten".

    Anyone who thinks Google poses a greater threat to them than the EU should stop taking the soma.

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