back to article Anon biz bloke wins milestone Google Right To Be Forgotten lawsuit

A businessman has won the first ever “right to be forgotten” lawsuit against Google in London’s High Court – but a second man’s attempt to have embarrassing search results about him deleted has failed. The two pseudonymised men were referred to as NT1 and NT2 during the trial and in today’s judgment, delivered by High Court …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    I predict an appeal

    In 3, 2, 1...

    1. monty75

      Re: I predict an appeal

      BBC are saying that Google accepts the ruling.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: I predict an appeal

        I would say that I was referring to the co-claimant that lost, but that would be fibbing. The BBC article was a stub when I read it, must've been filled out more recently. My bad.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin & Herman Goebbels called

      They all want to invoke their EU "Right to be Forgotten" and be removed from all Google databases.

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

  2. John70

    What's to stop Google from crawling the web sites and reasserting the links?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      the prospect of being prosecuted for contempt of court?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        So does that only apply to google.co.uk not google.com

        Or does google have to block it for everyone in Britain?

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          IANAL, but I believe it applies to the EU as a whole, regardless of which search engine they use.

    2. Velv Silver badge
      Boffin

      The crawling’s already done. The implementation is to remove the results from each search, essentially a list of “forget” results must be consulated after the initial search.

  3. Symon Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I think that this judgement is pretty fair.

    From the BBC.

    "The businessman who won his case was convicted 10 years ago of conspiring to intercept communications. He spent six months in jail. The other businessman, who lost his case, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiring to account falsely. He spent four years in jail."

    So, the guy who got four years was just barely able to qualify to be rehabilitated so that his conviction was spent. If you get four years and a day, your conviction is never spent.

    "Explaining the decisions made on Friday, the judge said one of the men had continued to "mislead the public" while the other had "shown remorse"." Sums it all up really.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43752344

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: I think that this judgement is pretty fair.

      If the second guy actually spent four years in jail, doesn't that imply that he was sentenced to much longer? At least eight years going by current practices.

      Isn't the right to be forgotten based on the sentencing rather than time served?

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: I think that this judgement is pretty fair.

        The "right to be forgotten" is based on what someone at Google had for breakfast.

        You're thinking of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which is based on duration of sentence. An offense that results in a sentence of more than 4 years is never "spent". But that doesn't necessarily intersect with the "right to be forgotten", which is a whole separate thing.

        1. Symon Silver badge

          Re: I think that this judgement is pretty fair.

          Sure, but if you had been following the case, you would know that a large part of NT1 and NT2's argument in court was that, because their sentences were legally spent, the information shouldn't be indexed by Google.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: I think that this judgement is pretty fair.

      The irony is that it's impossible to tell whether the judgement is fair, because its very nature makes it impossible to find out what it was actually about.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

    This legislation really is very impressive. I haven't been able to find any reference to NT1 or NT2 for years. The earliest I can find anything about is NT3.1.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

      And followed soon by NT4....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

        There should definitely be a right to be forgotten for NT4.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

          NT8 and NT10 are the ones to REALLY be forgotten. Or perhaps just left out back someplace to rot.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

            This is El Reg. The custom here is for things to be taken behind the shed and shot.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

          There should definitely be a right to be forgotten for NT4.

          I don't know. It paid for plenty overtime every 30 days with OOH reboots..... via a Shiva RAS system at 33.3k.....or a site visit to reboot not only the NT4 boxes, but the RAS devices.

          1. theblackhand

            Re: regressive evolutionary step towards goldfish

            "I don't know. It paid for plenty overtime every 30 days with OOH reboots..... via a Shiva RAS system at 33.3k.....or a site visit to reboot not only the NT4 boxes, but the RAS devices."

            Rebooting the Shiva RAS system at the places I was involved in was never actually required based on the health stats, connection speeds and session drops.

            However, there was certainly a LOT of optimism that a reboot might make the connection slightly more stable or a little faster.

  5. Stuart Burns

    I think it's a sad day. Now the internet will be a shiny polished ad for "look, this is the true me" whilst anything else is washed away under threat of being taken to court. It's Facebook all over again in terms of "Look, this is my real life" where in reality it is anything but.

    1. Grikath Silver badge

      When it comes to "Look me being purty" *everybody* takes a little license when it comes to public-facing communication. Or have you never written a resumé .. ? The internet in general is the same. It's mostly facing to the outside world, so some care and consideration must be taken towards presenting yourself, especially the stuff your Boss or [insert here] might see.

      I very much doubt this particular court result will have any significant impact on that.

      The verdict doesn't even interfere with journalistic Due Diligence. The case records are still on file, and can be dug up if you *really* want to dig into either claimant's past. With the proper credentials, and not by scanning a search database for all of 5 seconds in the case of NT2.

      NT1 is less lucky, but then again, the verdict states that NT1 extended his "Naughty Person" status with regards to his case. Not a good career move....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I didn't think this was in doubt, you have to have spent convictions and the rehabilitation of offenders of the criminal justice system falls down because then you don't have any incentive to not commit further offences. The only other option is to lock all criminals up for life.

    Having said that if one of the links that gets removed is in relation to land that needs soil remediation then this is dodgy as hell.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "I didn't think this was in doubt, you have to have spent convictions and the rehabilitation of offenders of the criminal justice system falls down because then you don't have any incentive to not commit further offences. The only other option is to lock all criminals up for life."

      Well, the problem is, some people actually deserve this, and betrayals of trust are very difficult things to mend, which is why many places take a very dim view of convicted felons for that very reason. Then there's the whole recidivism thing, which I admit is very complicated because they interrelate.

  7. hellwig Silver badge

    The Government has Decided what is Relevant to You

    Mr Justice Warby ruled that one of the results, a national newspaper story, was “out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability

    That's what I got from this whole thing. Let Big Brother decide what you need to know.

    Good luck with that.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: The Government has Decided what is Relevant to You

      Good luck with that.

      Why? It happens every day. Everywhere. Everyone and their dog has embraced the idea of post-truth and has a history editing department. Sometimes you cannot find material that is only a day or two old any more.

      1. WatAWorld

        Re: The Government has Decided what is Relevant to You

        Why? It happens every day. Everywhere. Everyone and their dog has embraced the

        You say that about the government deciding what the truth is, but that assertion is only partly correct.

        Historically the population was less, people seldom every traveled more than walking distance or riding distance from home, and we did business within a circle of a few hundred people.

        The government did not have anything to do with it.

        Further, we should not close the door on the world improving.

        "Slavery. It happens every day. Everywhere. Everyone and their dog has embraced the idea".

        Slavery is as bad an idea as letting judges or government bureaucrats tell us what relevant truths are. After all, it was judges and governments that once defined it as legal.

        Trusting government to decide if slavery should be legal was a mistake the general population eventually overruled.

        Judges and government bureaucrats decisions tend to be based on social class, occupation, gender, and sex.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "was a mistake the general population eventually overruled."

          It looks to me it was governments who changed their minds, sure, following some feelings among the population - and outlawed slavery. But not few among the population was perfectly fine to have people forced to work for them - and many were against the government when things changed.

          Even today, there are people who work in slavery-like situations, and not in some remote continent, but even in progressive Europe. Because someone makes money from it. Never trust someone like Google whose main aim is only to make money - we see how many "digital" companies are working hard to turn the clock of workers' - and sometimes even human - rights back. And I still prefer there are courts to fight that, instead of just some forced arbitration with a huge company.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "Let Big Brother decide what you need to know."

      Because you believe Google is a nice totally neutral company, while a judge of a democratic government is the spawn of Satan?

      Frankly, I fear Google more to become the Big Brother, if it isn't already.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

    Googles problem here was that they aren't a dumb search engine (like an index in a book). They already actively piss around with the way they return results anyway.

    That whipped the "common carrier" element of any case they were trying to put.

    This case AFAICS effectively makes Google a news provider, rather than a conduit. Which could have all sorts of ramifications down the line. If nothing else, what are they being taxed as ????????

    1. Graham 32

      Re: Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

      > makes Google a news provider

      I get the impression the story is still available on the actual news site, the ruling is just saying Google must not return it in search results. Other search engines probably still link to it.

      Seems all topsy-turvy. If the right to be forgotten is being carried out then 1. remove the original news story, 2. tell search engines to remove old links to it from their index and cache.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

        Trouble is, #1 may be impossible to do if copies are stored in countries that do no business with the EU and thus aren't subject to nor afraid of the GDPR.

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

          With globalisation NOONE is alone any more. No country can operate in a way that the Western Establishment do not like.

          Otherwise the embargos, and cruise missiles are only a short step away....

    2. tim 13

      Re: Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

      I've been wondering this too. Google was in court, do Bing, Duckduckgo, Baidu etc have to comply?

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

        News flash: DuckDuckGo := Bing

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Does this cover all search engines - or just Google ?

      "They already actively piss around with the way they return results anyway."

      And, THIS case with NT1 and NT2 justify them doing it even MORE...

      "But, but, but we HAVE to tweek our search engine results, because, because, EU laws, that's why!"

  9. standardraise

    Solid decision - it seems from the ruling that the second guy who did not succeed was clearly continuing on in his illicit practices.

    Glad the judge has realized the importance of the right to be forgotten and that Google has accepted the ruling. Perhaps we can have society move forward and we can stop the incessant stalking of people online and produce more meaningful contributors to society.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And he tried to mislead the court. Given that his original conviction was for accounting fraud 20+ years ago. Compulsive liars deserve no sympathy.

      I've had the opportunity to see a few in court. Excuse after excuse, sob stories, crying, and wasting the time of dozens of other people in court... judges hate that.

      1. The Nazz Silver badge

        re troland

        and that's just the lawyers.

        What about the defendants?

  10. heliax68

    Criminal convictions may be spent at some stage, but a criminal record stays with you for life.

    As for out of date or inaccurate reporting, the web is full of that, perhaps Fox News should be delisted.

  11. Alistair Silver badge
    Coat

    I predict a Streisand effect in about 3 weeks......

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Actually, I looked for a while, and it's really not easy to know exactly who they are. There's candidates, of course; but there's so many it's difficult to know which.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well another news outlet which shall remain nameless published information that allowed me to find it within seconds using date range and that is all I will say on that.

        Whether it was intentional is unclear.

  12. Velv Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Ironic, but without knowing the details of who NT1 and NT2 are along with their previous actions it’s impossible to know and comment if the decision in either case is a good or a bad thing.

    It does however demonstrate perfectly that massive decisions are made that affect our lives without us ever knowing about it or having any real chance to challenge.

  13. TheSickManofEurope

    Google UK vs Google.com

    Once again this shows how IT illiterate most of these Judges are.

    Google.com (the US search version) does not have to follow any of these silly European dictats.

    So to get REAL results (and bypass this "Right to be forgotten" nonsense) just use Google.com....You may have to use a US proxy server or use TOR to hide your UK/European IP address.

    1. soulrideruk Bronze badge

      Re: Google UK vs Google.com

      "Once again this shows how IT illiterate most of these Judges are.

      Google.com (the US search version) does not have to follow any of these silly European dictats.

      So to get REAL results (and bypass this "Right to be forgotten" nonsense) just use Google.com....You may have to use a US proxy server or use TOR to hide your UK/European IP address."

      You just contradicted yourself.

      You say Google.com doesn't follow these rules, yet in the next line you say you will have to use a proxy to get the actual results from Google.com.

      Why do you need to use a proxy if Google.com is not 'forgetting' the results in Europe?

      1. Grikath Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Google UK vs Google.com

        "Why do you need to use a proxy if Google.com is not 'forgetting' the results in Europe?"

        Because your "natural" IP will still tell Google ( or any other outfit, like say ..Netflix.. Youtube...) you're located in the EU. And thus subject to the court-mandated filter. Or any other filter, like the soon-to-be Great British Think-of-the-Children Firewall.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Google UK vs Google.com

          Re-read the bit you quoted....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Right to be forgotten.....

    ....by Google.

    What about the astonishing Wayback Machine?

    1. ratfox Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Right to be forgotten.....

      Ok, for the people who still didn't get it, there's no need to use the Wayback Machine. Everything is still on the web for the world to see. The articles just won't show up in Google when you search for the man's name, but might still show up in other search results.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These are wealthy people (they can afford the high court) who have no need to hide anything in the circles they live because those people already know so therefore it may be so unsuspecting people (potential victims) are unaware if their past indiscretions.

  16. The Nazz Silver badge

    What about the deterrence factor?

    I thought that one aspect of a criminal conviction is to act as a deterrent to others?

    Like this :

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2229767/Former-dinner-lady-Margaret-Bailey-stole-90-000-primary-school-fund-global-property-empire-homes-US-Bulgaria.html

    Surely it's in the public interest of the population at large, and parents of school age children in particular, to trust that the dinner money they send to school, together with coach trip charges, sundry tickets et al to be used properly and not stolen?

    And if the person involved wanted it to be reported "accurately" then surely they should come clean as to just how much they stole? IIRC the conviction was at the lower end £65k rather than the suspected £115k.

    Tbf a two and a half year sentence is not to be sniffed at, especially for the value. Bankers and several MP's should think themselves rather lucky.

    And indeed a Barrister sentenced for Perverting the course of justice ( a most serious offence striking at the heart of justice - the CPS).

    Many a businessman (though nowhere near enough) are barred from being a Director for 5 or 10 years so one would think a barrister convicted of such illegality to never practice law again, wouldn't you?

    Think again.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: What about the deterrence factor?

      Deterrence is questionable at best. For most criminals, they either don't know about the past acts (ignorance) or don't care because they figure it won't happen to them (indifference). Basically, most criminals act on the assumption they'll get away with it, so deterrence doesn't apply to them.

    2. Stork Bronze badge

      Re: What about the deterrence factor?

      As stated earlier, it seems the judge got it right. The guy who did (seem to) mend his way won, the one who did not lost.

      If we do not want to punish people forever for every crime, I do not see an alternative.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll Never Forget Him

    Unless I have to.

  18. WatAWorld

    The correct ruling, in the sense of natural justice and rehabilitation, would have been for the judge to direct the plaintiffs to go after the newspaper with the incorrect/outdated information.

    Google was just an easy target. These guys got a judge to go along with them and given them relief from Google's search results.

    Do this a few thousand times and Google will go the way of Hotbot, Alta Vista, Yahoo, and all the other formerly essential seemingly preeminent now obsolete search providers.

    Do this enough and we'll be looking up potential business partners and suppliers using other search engines, since Google will no longer be reliable.

    If the newspaper article on the web was reporting inaccurate libel, then the newspaper article should be corrected.

    1. WatAWorld

      What is damming to a person's reputation is not that Google says something, but that Google has a link to a respected national newspaper saying something.

      Google echos everything on the web, including pub-talk, junk in tabloids, comments, speculation, and blogs. No sensible person makes decisions based on Google's preview of an article, instead they click through to read the source of the news article and judge based on the reliability of that source.

      Google is/has been an authoritative search engine -- it has never an authoritative source of facts.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "go after the newspaper with the incorrect/outdated information."

      That would be actually MiniTrue. Unlike Google, newspaper archives don't rank news by "popularity" or other stupid - in this context - ways.

      Newspaper report news as they happen, so they can't have "historical hindsight". Information are usually "correct" at that time. Removing or changing those information would be rewriting history, and would hinder proper historical researches.

      But only a fool would use pieces of information collected in bulk and use them to give a "picture" of someone. and unluckily that exactly what Google does.

      Its ranking algorithms were designed to rank commercial websites, not to create proper biographies or historical records of people.

      Google is a target because it's what people today use to look for data, despite its shortcomings in many contexts. Other search engines will have to follow - what is valid for Google is valid for others as well, if Google lost in court, other would too.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: "go after the newspaper with the incorrect/outdated information."

        Newspapers do make mistakes in stories, may be not careful with details, and sometimes (the British Sunday contingent) utter barefaced lies. News of a cure for AIDS was basically when I gave up on trying to read those; it was to extract the patient's blood and heat it to 42 Celsius to kill the virus, not all their blood at once presumably.

        Sometimes newspapers are told to correct misstatements and they do, including online. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes the story is forgotten. Upon a conviction there's a rush to print juicy details of the sordid scandal, and inaccuracy may seem unimportant at the time - when you're sent to actual jail, an allegation in print that (to make up something) you tried to sell your story to Harvey Weinstein - but it becomes significantly embarrassing later.

        A "right" for the truth to be forgotten is one thing, but should untruth be defended? Or be defended against?

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "go after the newspaper with the incorrect/outdated information."

          Unlike Google, newspaper are responsible for what they publish.

          I guess nobody thinks the Sun, Daily Mail, etc. are authoritative sources of information. IMHO it's questionable to call them newspaper, but because a lot of money is made behind them, and the "celebrity" system needs them, they are still there.

          Unluckily, probably people put in Google more trust and authority than it deserves - and would you like it to keep well afloat and visible stupid and inaccurate stories about you which would be otherwise be long forgotten but to someone with a special interest to dig them up?

          Still, the same stupid stories could be interesting for an historian, one day, to study how the society of that time could think those newspapers and the system behind them were a good idea. And forcing newspaper to remove news is far more dangerous than removing *specific* (not every - which is a big difference) search results about them.

          And sure, when someone is arrested there may be many articles, maybe with inaccurate details, because even for the best journalist is sometimes difficult to have a fully clear picture, before he or she is found guilty. Would you like Google return in the first page lots of links to your arrest because it was more "popular", while your acquittal is beyond page 10, because it was less "clicked" and "referred", without any context?

          I had a colleague whom, when searched for, a link to a crime was reported, just because he worked for an ISP and he was in the whois record as the admin-c of a domain involved in it, but with no other relation with the company involved - and in fact he had no legal issues.

          Do you think he would have a right for such search result to be removed, without any need to touch not a newspaper record, but a court one in which the whois records were listed?

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "a right not to be remembered inaccurately"

    Ouch.

    I think that is going to bite hard in the coming years, because it means that, in fine, the only stuff that is supposed to remain searchable is the "truth".

    Cue endless kerfluffle about what "the truth" is.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm no barrister but a thought has occurred to me, could the one that lost not go back to court referencing the case of the one that won as a legal precedent or does this situation mean that it's not a given that google have to remove the links?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why?

    "out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability,"

    So why the law case? If it's irrelevant the public won't search for it in the first place.

  22. GIRZiM

    Journalism

    Google might just have got lucky with their plea for journalistic integrity being dismissed - otherwise, if they're vehicle for journalistic reportage, they're a publisher and I might not simply insist that they forget me but sue them for libel for every link to material that defames me (and sooner or later, I'll get lucky with at last one of them).

  23. steviebuk Silver badge

    What's the point?

    There are other search enginees and I don't think, although its not perfect, the way back machine site has to comply.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    a Newspaper articless right to be forgotten and die.

    "a national newspaper story, was “out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability"

    That judgement would just about put Google out of business, as there is very little old information that demands much proportionate interest.

    Yes people search old information, but not in great numbers, much science and history turns out to be inaccurate. Recent stuff only attracts an interest for short while.

    One National archive like Trove run by National Library of Australia would do each nation.

    Libraries condemn books to the book stacks, and then years later have a clearance drive put them on sale. so why should other information be any different and linger on beyond it's years?

    1. GIRZiM

      Re: a Newspaper articless right to be forgotten and die.

      why should other information be any different and linger on beyond it's years?

      Historians have a need for old documents if they are to be able to cite things - it's an inconvenient fly in the ointment, know, but what can you do?

      However, just as I was intrigued by whichever (I forget now) service's exploration of letting people sell their 'second hand' mp3s, I'm quite fascinated by the prospect of Google having a data fire-sale.

      I wonder how it would work. Would buyers have to self host it? How would they get it included by the search engines? Or could they simply pay Google to keep it for them? If the nation maintains its own archive who determines the value for money of it? What if the taxpayer doesn't feel that an old post about Mrs Miggins' recipe for something or other is worth it but it contains valuable information that won' become apparent for another fifty years or so, when some bright spark realises they can use her technique for making calves foot jelly to create a new industrial adhesive?

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