back to article Just for EU, just for EU, just for EU: Forget about enforcing Right To Be Forgotten outside member states

European Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF) rulings should not apply globally, but block results across all EU states, the bloc's top court has been told. In an opinion issued today, advocate general Maciej Szpunar advised the Court of Justice of the European Union to limit the scope of delisting requirements on search engines. …

  1. Ragarath

    Right to NOT be forgotten?

    So, if it is not to apply globally. It is not actually a right to be forgotten.

    Just don't let them see it in the EU or store it in the EU and pretend it is not there (in the rest of the world) when asked! Remember we don't like in a big world where people are allowed out of the bounds of their own states, and no one would dream of looking up the information that the courts have decided should be forgotten when they are out side said bloc/state!

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Right to NOT be forgotten?

      The RTBF isn't about refusing access to information or even getting the information taken down. Some information has to remain, because it is public record.

      The RTBF tries to set a balance to the information being their, but not bein too accessible.

      It is the old "chip paper" argument. In the past, information was printed in the newspaper and the "next day" the old newspaper used to wrap up portions of chips. i.e. the information disappeared from the common memory. If you really wanted to find it, you could go to a newspaper archive and manually search it for the information required.

      The RTBF says that if you really want to know, there is nothing stopping you going directly to the source, but searching for information within Europe using a search engine shouldn't bring up this "irrelevant" information in its results.

      So, a prospective employer won't find spent convictions that they are no longer "legally" supposed to see, but a researcher writing a book or a news article can still go directly to the source (newspapers, blogs, public records etc.) and search them directly, just like researchers have always done.

      1. Len Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Right to NOT be forgotten?

        That is quite a good summary of what RTBF is and isn't.

        The rule of thumb is that if you (or something you did) is important enough to be on Wikipedia then the RTBF is not going to help you. It doesn't erase crimes, it doesn't erase reported events. It may work for Joe Bloggs but it won't work for anyone with a modicum of notoriety.

        I was working in the cybersecurity field when the RTBF campaign kicked into gear and met a lot of cyberbullying campaigners (and some victims) who were campaigning for a RTBF to deal with bullying cases. I will never forget the presentation by a victim whose ex-boyfriend had made a bunch of dubious pages with similarly dubious photos of her. This happened when she was 14 and she was now early twenties, graduated from an internationally renowned university but struggled to find work as any search for her name* produced a few Google pages of shit about her. Her only option was to change her name..

        * No, I am not giving her name because if you know how to search many of the pages and dozens of copies of it are still splattered across the web, more than ten years later.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Right to NOT be forgotten?

          That sounds like a good use of this law. But should the bully likewise be able to hide all attempts to find out if they are dangerous in the future? We can have a balanced law, but have to be careful what we wish for.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What it is...

        What it is and what it should be are two different things. Just because in the past, people could run away from facts and the truth, join a wandering band and carry on theft/crime, does it mean they should be able, by defence in law, to do the same today?

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: What it is...

          "

          ... does it mean they should be able, by defence in law, to do the same today?

          "

          I believe that everyone should have the right not to be forever painted in a bad light because of something foolish they did when a lot younger. If not, where does it stop? Should everyone be able to look up the smallest thing you did wrong as a child? Thank goodness that there was no social media when I was in my teens and early 20's.

          People do change.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What it is...

            And? Having the facts and painted in a bad light are two different things. We have a law against hate speech or liable. Why one against facts?

            My example of the bully was a polite one. But much worse exists. A service to checkup on abusive partners is a real world example of something some see as needed and this law may go against.

            This kind of balance seems the most worrying. One where everthing is hidden but nothing is known.

            If I did something wrong as a kid and society cannot forgive or forget that is a fault in society, not law.

      3. SundogUK

        Re: Right to NOT be forgotten?

        The whole point of the internet is that it enables everyone to access the worlds store of information that was previously only accessible to a few.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Right to NOT be forgotten?

      A similar situation occurs with the US and Canadian press at the border. Under Canadian law the press cannot report the identity in many cases of the defendant but in the US the press can name the defendant. There have been cases in the Niagara Falls region where the Canadian press could not name the defendant but the US press did. So if you got the US media (TV or print) you knew the name of the defendant.

      The problem with the EU right to be forgotten is one can use a VPN or TOR browser to possibly get around the block. It just makes getting information more inconvenient.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Right to NOT be forgotten?

        In Germany they can't even show the faces of the accused (or wanted suspects) on TV or in the press, unless it falls under very limited circumstances and has been approved by a judge.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VPN

    So you can break Google's enforcement by pretending NOT to be in the EU.

    Do I understand that correctly? If so, expect Google to be hit with yet another fine when someone does this.

    1. Saruman the White

      Re: VPN

      At which point Google can (and probably will) argue that the person concerned deliberately and actively concealed their location, and that there is no technical mechanism in place for Google to be able to determine their true location given the intrinsic technical characteristics of a VPN.

  3. codejunky Silver badge

    Good

    What right does the EU have to dictate what information is globally available? Do we wish China to have such right too? The middle east?

    If a country (or in this case EU) want to put their fingers in their ears and block content in the EU thats up to them. They are not global dictators.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Good

      Who said anything about China?

      This is about rulings made in France (an EU member state) applying across the whole of the EU, not just in France as Google wanted.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Good

        @The First Dave

        "This is about rulings made in France (an EU member state) applying across the whole of the EU, not just in France as Google wanted."

        Erm- Szpunar said he was not in favour of giving the provisions of EU law such a broad interpretation that they would have effects beyond the 28 member states.

    2. Len Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Good

      The EU does not have that right, that is precisely what the Advocate General (and quite possibly the CJEU soon) is stating. EU law applies in the EU, not outside of it.

      There is a lot of de-facto (and even some de-jure by copying) operation of EU law globally, called the Brussels Effect, but it is called an effect for a reason. It's not necessarily intentional, things just work that way.

      1. Flakk Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Good

        EU law applies in the EU, not outside of it.

        Now you tell me. I spent 14 months overhauling corporate policy to incorporate GDPR for nothing?

        1. Len Silver badge

          Re: Good

          I don't know where you are but the UK government has already said it will stick to the GDPR, regardless of what happens regarding leaving the EU. Not implementing GDPR would kill a lot of the UK tech business, the government is stupid but not that stupid.

          If you are not in the EU then you could always choose not to collect data on EU Citizens or decide not to sell to them. I worked on a project in 2017 where we didn't want to spend six months wrestling with enormous amounts of American red tape, permits and faxing(!) forms. We simply decided to put an IP block on any American traffic and explicitly barred American Citizens from signing up to the service by warning them not to sign up and requiring new users to tick a box that they were not US CItizens. Worked a charm.

          The reason many global companies did implement GDPR compliance, even if they were not in the EU, is because they would still like to sell to about half a billion of the world's richest people.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Good

            Actually the government is that stupid. I'm fairly sure it will take about 30 seconds after the 29th March for some spineless minister to cave to special pleading by some tele-marketing firm that they are 'stifling enterprise with red tape'

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Good

            choose not to collect data on EU Citizens

            GDPR doesn't apply only to EU citizens, it applies to natural people ("data subjects") who are present in the EU. It doesn't even explicitly say "resident". A US citizen working in the EU is included, and indeed even a US citizen on vacation in the EU is likely to be included, although I can see that having to be clarified by the courts at some point.

      2. beast666

        Re: Good

        I think the Brussels Effect is soon to be a thing of the past.

    3. beast666

      Re: Good

      They are wannabe global dictators though. Thank heavens for WTO deal Brexit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Careful what you wish for

    Extra-territorial judicial control may seem all very well when you're making the rules, but not so funny if it's someone else.

    Imagine if say Russia decided that their laws applied globally, and as such they could censor what news stories can be linked by Google in the UK. Would you be happy about that?

    The EU seems to be taking the correct measured approach here, even if there are technical workarounds like VPNs for the keen.

  5. big_D Silver badge

    Delisting domain names?

    said that search engine operators should not be required to carry out delisting on all the domain names of its search engine globally.

    It sounds like a misquote or he didn't understand the concept. Right to be forgotten isn't about delisting domains in search, just individual pages within a domain.

    The rest seems like common sense.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Delisting domain names?

      No, he's talking about delisting on all of Google's domain names... e.g. www.google.co.uk

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Delisting domain names?

        Thanks, I misread the quote. My bad.

  6. John Robson Silver badge

    EU being sensible again...

    Why are we trying to leave?

    I can't recall the UK government ever managing to string this many words together on any mildly technical subject.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: EU being sensible again...

      "Why are we trying to leave?"

      Because of liars and cheats.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: EU being sensible again...

        A wonderfully equivocal answer there Vince.

      2. Saruman the White

        Re: EU being sensible again...

        Don't be so harsh on the Remainers

    2. Len Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: EU being sensible again...

      This is not the EU, the EU is a cooperative of 28 countries. This is the Advocate General of the CJEU.

      If Brenda Hale makes a statement with legal implications it is not the UK speaking, it's the president of the UK Supreme Court speaking on behalf of the court.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: EU being sensible again...

      I can't recall the UK government ever managing to string this many words together on any mildly technical subject.

      Then maybe you haven't read the past UK legislation on data protection, which is both in advance of, and more complete than, the EU minima.

    4. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: EU being sensible again...

      I can't recall the UK government ever managing to string this many words together on any mildly technical subject.

      On the Contrary, The UK government have indeed managed to string an awful lot of words together on technical subjects.

      ...The just haven't yet managed to make any coherent sense, since they can't tell the trendy marketing bollocks from the actually important technical keywords.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    This judgement is the correct way to interpret the right to be forgotten. We already have one country - the USA -who likes to think that their laws apply globally without the EU thinking the same.

    1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Oh, but it would be fun to watch...

  8. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    What's the "M People" connection?

    "Search for the Hero" doesn't seem quite right.

    I think "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" was a solo title by the singer.

    I understand the group also covered "Don't Look Any Further" and "What a Fool Believes", and an original album track was, possibly, "Never Mind, Love".

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "rights to freedom of expression and to information"

    While I applaud the idea in its purest sense, I cringe to think that this "freedom of expression" has been denatured to allow some people to spout outright lies and nonsense without being taken to task for proving their words.

    In other words, I'm fine with the freedom of expression, as long as you do not use it to denature the truth and spread falsehoods. If you're an individual, it's fine - you'll just pass for a cook. But if you're a corporation, I fail to see why you should be able to use your influence to spread lies.

    And yes, I'm sure someone will harp on the question of who defines the truth ? That is only a question if you're interesting in spreading lies. If you are a responsible, intelligent person, you want the truth.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: "rights to freedom of expression and to information"

      Who's falsehoods though? You have a lot of people who write differing opinions of another person/event. For example, Donald Trump and the partial government shutdown going on in the U.S. right now. Frankly, a lot of the opinions don't pass the sniff test, or are just biased in ways that are understandable, but still biased.

      For example, I was reading The Guardian's website yesterday, and they had a story about the effects the shutdown is having on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its employees--95% of which are currently out of work because of the shutdown. You had the usual quotes from union officials who represent EPA employees, environmental NGO leaders/ spokespersons--all of them firmly blaming Trump for the EPA shutdown, and here is the important part, basically attributing this to Trump's cosseting of corporate polluters, pollution in general and not mentioning any part the Democrats had in the shutdown at the EPA.

      Yes, I have no doubt that Donald J. Trump loses less sleep at night over the EPA being shut down than your average Democratic party congressperson. However, it is demonstrably true that those Democratic congresspersons colluded in the current EPA shutdown. The EPA would be open for business right now if Democrats in Congress had approved the spending bill in question. They chose not to over this issue of funding Trump's "border wall" with Mexico. However you feel about spending money on that wall or the EPA or any other discretionary U.S. federal government spending, it is demonstrably true that the Democrats helped facilitate the current shutdown of the EPA, and that therefore the actual fault for the EPA shutdown is shared. And while, yes, Trump is certainly in favor of deregulation that would lead to greater levels of pollution than your average Democratic congressperson would like to see, that doesn't necessarily mean that he is in favor of pollution or polluters in general.

      So here you have an example of The Guardian and the various sources cited in the article using their right to expression and information to say things that are understandable and supportable in large part, but also involve omission of key facts and a certain amount of character assassination/ad hominem.

      So people may feel it is necessary to post on social media about how "Marketing Hack is a terrible racist and a fascist", and that may be absolutely true, or it may be that I said something along the lines of how we need more resolute "law and order" in a neighborhood that happened to be a minority-dominated enclave and therefore my actual interest in racism and fascism is debatable, or it may be a complete fabrication by people who just don't like me for some reason and are intent on bullying me and my own right of expression. And surely this is the kind of post/data that would be included in a right-to-be-forgotten action if I wanted to pursue one.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The DMCA does it

    Shouldn't we be reminded that Google *already* applies the USA's DMCA globally, including to remove results on google.fr? That seems to be a matter of course nowadays. So why are they riled up about applying EU laws everywhere? American exceptionalism?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: The DMCA does it

      It's actually fairly well accepted that copyrights should be respected across borders (though the duration of copyright protection varies a lot). The RTBF is not generally accepted as a right outside of Europe.

    3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Re: The DMCA does it

      Google is not actually the government of the US. Yet.

  11. tiesx150

    The Right to Suppress your population more like...

    How would this even work ? EU retards. This is information control by the EU on

    their own population in its early stages... what, they gonna ban VPN's next ??? They say China blocks most the web from its citizens,, they wanna go down that road too ???

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: The Right to Suppress your population more like...

      How would this even work ? EU retards. This is information control by the EU on

      their own population in its early stages... what, they gonna ban VPN's next ??? They say China blocks most the web from its citizens,, they wanna go down that road too ???

      RTBF is the right of an individual not to have old no longer relevant information that is not in the public interest popping up on Google Search results, and, as I understand it, requires Google to ensure that such information no longer appears on search results.

      It just makes the information harder to reach, it does not remove it.

      There are no governmental Winnie the Poohs here. Save your righteous paranoia for where it matters.

  12. DougS Silver badge

    Information wants to be free

    Trying to censor stuff was a lot easier a couple centuries ago, when most people rarely traveled more than a few dozen miles from where they were born, and only the well to do were literate.

    You want the benefits of a worldwide information network, you have to take the downsides - if indeed you think that losing a "right to be forgotten" is a downside which not everyone will agree with.

    You can make laws that apply to your country, or to the whole EU perhaps if their governments agree, but you can't make it apply worldwide and there's nothing you can do to prevent your citizens from learning those things you want so badly to censor. If you try to make your laws apply worldwide, it is a slippery slope where every country gets to choose what to censor from the worldwide internet. Hope you weren't wanting to learn the latest on the Mueller probe (censored by Russia) or what people think Mohammad looked like (censored by Saudi Arabia) or how to break DRM so you can watch a DVD out of region (censored by the USA)

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Information wants to be free

      Whilst I fully understand the rationale for the ruling, for some reason the Spycatcher case comes to mind. Which would seem to imply the RTBF has either been devalued or shown to be a fig leaf...

    2. tiesx150

      Re: Information wants to be free

      Its totally irrelevant though. In the modern world suppression or hiding of information is becoming more and more difficult. To me it appears to be a futile last ditch effort by global governments to try and withhold certain information that is circulating about on the web from the populations under their remit that they deem inappropriate.

      There are so many information sharing platforms about now and they are constantly growing it is impossible to censor and hide data/information by geo-ringfencing. Take a look at kids and they way they use the web ( i know from my kids), data is shared via game chats, application and media is shared by chat apps such as wechat/instagram/whatsapp/line and most of the younger generation regularly use VPN's for media consumption out of region and for torrenting... if the EU is serious about restriction information to its populace then they will need to block all forms of contact outside of its borders that isnt monitored, ban VPN traffic and prevent failbook contacts messaging anyone outside its borders, Russia Tried it a few years ago, it isn't possible. yes you can make stuff fail to appear in a search engine for the non educated masses but it only takes one person with minimal tech knowledge to see a video of 'footballer a' snorting cocaine off a hookers tits that is deemeed a breach of human rights and blatt it to all his mates on whatsapp failbook or whatever and its gone viral in a matter of hours.,

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Information wants to be free

      "You can make laws that apply to your country, or to the whole EU perhaps if their governments agree, but you can't make it apply worldwide"

      Doesn't the USA already do this WRT it's own citizens? US law applies to them, wherever they are, even if it conflicts with local law.

  13. Mike 137

    The real 'right to be forgotten'

    Contrary to popular impressions, the right to erasure or 'right to be forgotten' (Article 17 of the GDPR) doe not exclusively or even primarily apply to search engines. It applies to data controllers in general. Consequently, should a data subject wish to exercise the right, their first recourse should be to the data controller of the document that the search engine spidered, not to the search engine. If the original document is erased or no longer made publicly accessible, it will become unavailable via the search engine and even that listing should eventually expire as a dead link.

    Indeed the controller of the personal data would be obliged to inform the search engine: "Where the controller has made the personal data public and is obliged pursuant to paragraph 1 to erase the personal data, the controller, taking account of available technology and the cost of implementation, shall take reasonable steps, including technical measures, to inform controllers which are processing the personal data that the data subject has requested the erasure by such controllers of any links to, or copy or replication of, those personal data." (Article 17 paragraph 2), clearly indicates the chain of responsibility.

    The assumption that a search engine provider is responsible for moderating and censoring its results is fortunately impractical, but would be deeply disturbing if it were to become the norm.

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