Google to face-off with data watchdogs over 'right to be forgotten' stance

Google to face-off with data watchdogs over 'right to be forgotten' stance

Summary: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are meeting data protection officials in Brussels to discuss how best to handle right to be forgotten requests.

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Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo will meet European data protection officials today to discuss implementing the recent 'right to be forgotten' ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

National data regulators that are part of the European Union's Article 29 Data Protection Working Party will be meeting with the three companies in Brussels and plan to raise concerns over how Google has tackled the issue so far. 

The meeting, chaired by the French data watchdog CNIL, follows an ECJ ruling in April stipulating that European citizens have the right to ask search engines to stop returning links to information about them that is outdated, irrelevant, or excessive, when searches are performed on their names. Only searches in the European Union are affected, and all original source material will remain online and accessible.

Google began taking requests for de-linking under the ruling in May, and is thought to have received 70,000 requests since then. Last month it removed the first batch of links from search results, and then subsequently restored a number of them.

The move generated much debate, and had the effect that many of the stories that were supposed to be forgotten received more public attention than previously.

This phenomenon, known as the Streisand effect, has drawn criticism from watchdogs. "The more they do so, it means the media organisation republishes the information and so much for the right to be forgotten. There is an issue there," Billy Hawkes, the Irish data protection commissioner, told Bloomberg.

The UK's top data protection official has also said Google must do more to make sure the links it provides are pertinent.

"The polluter pays, the polluter should clear up," Christopher Graham, the UK information commissioner, told the BBC. "Google is a massive commercial organisation making millions, millions and millions out of processing people's personal information. They're going to have to do some tidying up.

"They won't do all the tidying up that some people might like, because if you embarrass yourself, there's not much you can do about it… all this talk about rewriting history and airbrushing embarrassing bits from your past, that's not going to happen." 

Compared to Google, Microsoft took a lower-profile approach on the matter, opening its own right to be forgotten request form earlier this month.

While Microsoft has not publicly given its opinion on the 'right to be forgotten' ruling, Google has repeatedly denounced the ECJ decision. Google chairman Eric Schmidt called the case "a collision between the right to be forgotten and the right to know".

He said: "From Google's perspective that's a balance... You have to find a balance. Google believes, having looked at the decision, which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong."

European officials have not yet published the official guidelines on how companies should address people's requests, and it's thought the meeting will allow the companies to put forward their opinions on the subject.

"The data protection authorities have invited search engines to discuss with them, on July 24th, the practical implementation of the key principles in this [ECJ] case in order to finalise the [Article 29 Working Party's] guidelines foreseen for autumn 2014," CNIL said.

Microsoft declined to comment on the matter, while Google and Yahoo did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more on the right to be forgotten

Topics: Privacy, Google, Government, Legal, EU

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8 comments
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  • polluters?

    If they want a news article to dissapear from a search engine, they should ask the publisher to delete it. But that would be censorship right? EU is so f$#ked up. Their economies are collapsing and all they are about is porn filters and censorship.
    Jean-Pierre-
  • I don't get the outrage

    What we are talking about here is not censorship. At most its closer to a right of correction combined with a statute of limitations.

    All this outrage over a court decision that has not yet been transposed into regulation and has been over-implemented (and publicised) by Google in a way guaranteed to generate the most outrage simply because they disagree with the verdict.

    Wait for the regulations. My guess is they will be based on two core principles:

    1) The ability to purge search results (note - search results only) where the results are provably incorrect/false information/libel.
    2) The ability to purge search results where the results are correct information but where the information is deemed to be irrelevant based on similar principles as those underlying statutes of limitations and juvenile/other sealed records rules.

    In other words, well established social and legal rules that exist in most developed societies that allow people to move on with their lives and put their past behind them after a certain appropriate period.

    I just don't get why this would be controversial?
    Neville Bagnall
    • If it is "provably incorrect/false information/libel"

      Then the original source should be edited/retracted.

      Thus the "indexing" would also find the edit/retraction, and thus nothing to do.

      "The ability to purge search results where the results are correct information but where the information is deemed to be irrelevant based on similar principles as those underlying statutes of limitations and juvenile/other sealed records rules."

      This is called "editing history", in other words, "censorship". As such it is also wrong.

      So what is controversial about that?
      jessepollard
    • delete the article , not the link

      It's disguised censorship, they know they can't ask the BBC or CNN to delete an article because the BBC or CNN would scream censorship(rightfully so). So instead they are asking search providers to censor their search results. The article is still there so it's harder for the BBC or CNN to scream censorship since the article is still there.

      1) if there is libel then you should sue the site hosting the page and have the page really removed from the web (removing the link from a search result is just a placebo, you feel gone because it's gone but it's still there)

      2) If a page has information violation the satute of limitation or juvenile sealed records then the article should have never been put there in the first place. Get it removed. If you want a new law saying that you can have your crimes purged from public record then again delete the article, not the link.

      worst think is, once the link is removed anyone can still find the article by going to a search engine located outside of EU. or by searching the BBC/CNN webpage. It's just that stupid.

      Your final point is just dumb, instead of having the society forget (which will never really happen unless you brainwash/lobotomize everyone) why not build a society where we FORGIVE what has been done 20 years ago. What you want is a society where everyone has a perfect public image, but guess what? We are not perfect, we're all humans, we all make mistakes and "forgetting the past" won't make us more perfect.
      Jean-Pierre-
  • Total BS

    The original data must be destroyed not the link.
    Altotus
  • Not Censorship when you are correcting information about yourself

    FYI:
    1) In the US there it is legal to pay companies remove information from other company's servers.

    2) When a site is updated but the link in Google search is not Google provides procedure to update the search results.

    Regarding deletion of personal history: The public has a chance to forget if it is not constantly being put out there to see. Also no newly introduced person will have a chance to see what another person did or experienced once it is deleted from search results.
    Auna
    • Yes, it is. There does have to be a short delay though.

      And a link to non-existing data comes back as a 404 error...
      jessepollard
      • No. You have the wrong senario.

        404 are for server connection failures for which the link is not found. I never referred to such an example in my post.

        I did mention situations in which there is a connection to the server but ---the link is improperly routed and link description is meant for archived information on a page and not the updated page. For that GOOGLE has a ***PROCEDURE to update the link to match updated page.

        Once Google is notified to clean up the link it could take hours to weeks depending upon their bots schedule.

        Here is an example:
        Let say you let your name be used to promote SafeCloud Service and your name testimony is placed on their home page. One day you find out executives at SafeCloud are being investigated for insider trading. You decide you no longer want to lend your name to promote the company's services and you ask them to delete your name. They do so.

        However searching on your name, you still find link to SafeCloud, your name, and a bit of your testimony too. Clicking on the link however brings you to SafeCloud updated page which does not include your name and testimony.

        In this instance the company did their job but Google has not updated the link.

        I find it annoying when you are looking for something. Click on a link and taken somewhere else on the company site or find the product is not longer listed on the page.

        Repeating the following:
        2) When a site is updated but the link in Google search is not Google provides procedure to update the search results.
        Auna