"Maybe you've been at a party, up until four in the morning and you or someone you know posts photos of you .
Well, it's a harmless bit of fun, but being unable to erase this can threaten your job or access to future employment."
The European Union is to enshrine a right to be forgotten online to ensure that, among other things, prospective employers cannot find old Facebook party photos of someone wearing nothing but a lampshade.
In a speech to the European parliament, the EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, warned companies such as Facebook that: A US-based social network company that has millions of active users in Europe needs to comply with EU rules.
In a package of proposals to be unveiled before the summer, the commissioner intends to force Facebook and other social networking sites to make high standards of data privacy the default setting and give control over data back to the user.
The package will also include the right to opt out of advertising and personalisation data being collected via website cookies.
I want to explicitly clarify that people shall have the right -- and not only the possibility -- to withdraw their consent to data processing, Reding said. The burden of proof should be on data controllers -- those who process your personal
data. They must prove that they need to keep the data, rather than individuals having to prove that collecting their data is not necessary.
Reding's spokesman, Matthew Newman, said that the laws would make the EU the first jurisdiction to deliver a right to be forgotten .
Maybe you've been at a party, up until four in the morning and you or someone you know posts photos of you . Well, it's a harmless bit of fun, but being unable to erase this can threaten your job or access to future employment.
The rules would give consumers a specific right to withdraw their consent to sharing their data: And after you have withdrawn your consent, there shouldn't even be a ghost of your data left in some server somewhere. It's your data and it should be
gone for good.
The Spanish government has ordered Google to delete information about 90 individuals from its search engine indexes. Spain said it believes that the individuals have a right to be forgotten. The 90 are thoie that lodged complaints with the Spanish data
But Google said preventing some data being accessed through search engines would have a profound chilling effect on free expression without protecting people's privacy
A court will determine whether the individuals' details should be deleted.
The issue rose when Spain published an official database online. The database contained personal information about Spanish citizens that is maybe best not published on the internet. And indeed the Google search engine indexed the site and made the
information available in the usual search engine results.
Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Justice Commissioner seems sympathetic with the right to be forgotten. She said:
I do not approach this subject of the 'right to be forgotten' lightly. I know that there is a balance to be struck with freedom of expression. It may also call for some flexibility in the way this balance is struck, but I cannot
accept that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace.
European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed a sweeping reform of the EU's data protection rules, claiming
that the proposed rules will both cost less for governments and corporations to administer and simultaneously strengthen online privacy rights.
The 1995 Data Protection Directive already gives EU citizens certain rights over their data. Organizations can process data only with consent, and only to the extent that they need to fulfil some legitimate purpose. They are also
obliged to keep data up-to-date, and retain personally identifiable data for no longer than is necessary to perform the task that necessitated collection of the data in the first place. They must ensure that data is kept secure, and whenever processing
of personal data is about to occur, they must notify the relevant national data protection agency.
The new proposals go further than the 1995 directive, especially in regard to the control they give citizens over their personal information. Chief among the new proposals is a right to be forgotten that will allow people
to demand that organizations that hold their data delete that data, as long as there is no legitimate grounds to hold it.
This is the so-called right to be forgotten . The proposal does not create a right to be thrown down the memory hole or rewrite the past; news reports and similar material would be a legitimate reason to retain personal
information, and this would override a demand to have data deleted. But sites like Facebook---which has had difficulties with the concept of deletion---and Google would likely be required to purge any such personal data should someone demand that they
the proposed regulation. She said Reding's so-calledright to be forgotten on the internet plans have, in part, been welcomed by Google.
But she noted that the current text submitted by the European Commission is incredibly complex and thereby open to any number of interpretations by data protection authorities and companies that could be expected to comply with the rules, if passed
by the European Parliament in their current form.
Here's what Reding's proposed regulation currently states on the right to be forgotten :
Article 17 provides the data subject's right to be forgotten and to erasure. It further elaborates and specifies the right of erasure provided for in Article 12(b) of Directive 95/46/EC and provides the conditions of the right
to be forgotten, including the obligation of the controller which has made the personal data public to inform third parties on the data subject's request to erase any links to, or copy or replication of that personal data. It also integrates the right
to have the processing restricted in certain cases, avoiding the ambiguous terminologyblocking .
A leading British lawyer has condemned new European regulations that force websites to delete data on users' request,
saying such rules could transform search engines like Google into a censor-in-chief for the European Union, rather than a neutral platform .
According to the current European proposal from Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, various websites will be forced to delete information shortly after consumers request it be removed.
Prof Jeffrey Rosen, writing in the Stanford Law Review, argued that the fear of fines will have a chilling effect, and that it will be hard to enforce across the Internet when information is widely disseminated:
Although Reding depicted the new right as a modest expansion of existing data privacy rights, in fact it represents the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet in the coming decade.
Unless the right is defined more precisely when it is promulgated over the next year or so, it could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open
Prof Rosen warns that if the regulations are implemented as currently proposed, it's hard to imagine that the Internet results will be as free and open as it is now.
Spain's highest court wants the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to decide if requests by Spanish citizens to have data deleted from
Google's search engine are lawful.
The Spanish court said it had asked the ECJ to clarify whether Google should remove data from its search engine's index and news aggregator.
Madrid's data protection authority has received over 100 requests from Spanish citizens to have their data removed from Google's search results. An example case is a plastic surgeon who wants to get rid of archived references to a botched operation.
The Spanish judges also asked the ECJ whether the complainants must take their grievances to California, where Google is based, or whether they can be addressed by Google Spain.
Google has maintained that it cannot lawfully remove any content for which it is merely the host and not the producer, a principle enshrined in EU law on eCommerce since 2000. Google told the Spanish prosecutor it needed more legal justification for
removing references to events in an individual's history.
In a test case that could have significant implications for Google throughout Europe the company faced off against the Spanish data protection authority in the European Court of Justice.
From the Spanish government's point of view its data protection authority is pushing for the recently articulated right (of individuals) to be forgotten by having content or data about them removed from the search index upon request. From Google's
perspective, if the court agrees with Spain, the outcome would be tantamount to granting individuals the right to censor Google.
The Spanish citizen, Mario Costeja, filed a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) against Google and the newspaper La Vanguardia after discovering that a Google search for his name produced results referring to the auction of real
estate property seized from him for non-payment of social security contributions.
The AEPD rejected Costeja's complaint against the newspaper on the grounds that the publication of the information was legal and was protected by the right to information but, with extraordinary inconsistency, upheld his complaint his complaint
against Google, ordering the search engine to eliminate about 100 links from all future searches for Costeja's name.
Google refused to accept the ruling and filed an appeal which has now reached court.
Big business isn't standing by though. They are flooding the normal democratic process with lobbying to get the plans watered down and strip us of our right to privacy. It wants to keep on profiting from our most intimate data.
Phone companies like EE have been pushing particularly hard against the new data protection plans. It's not hard to see why. They wouldn't be able sell their customers' data without their consent.
As they stand, the new regulations would help make sure we control what happens to our data, not the big corporations making money from data about our personal lives. Here's what the new laws would mean for you.
You'd be able to decide who gets access to your data, what they can do with it and who they can give it to. You could delete your data or move it wherever you like, whenever you like.
Your data would be protected whenever you could be identified. This includes so-called pseudonymous data that could still single you out despite being stripped of personal identifiers such as names and addresses.
Services that want to use your data would have to get your explicit consent beforehand so there'd be no more vague or easy-to-misunderstand 'agreements.'
There would be severe penalties when the rules were broken to help deter companies from misusing your data and infringing your privacy.
But all this is under threat. If the big corporations and their armies of lobbyists get their way, the new law won't have any teeth and companies will just keep on invading your privacy.
Google should not have to delete information from its search results when old information is pulled up that is damaging to individuals who claim
to be harmed by the content.
That's the early opinion of a special advisor to the European Union's highest court, who has apparently sided with Google in a case involving a man in Spain who argued that Google searches about him provide information about an arrest years before that
should be cleaned up to protect him.
An expert opinion requested by the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg, recommended that Google not be forced to expunge all links to a 15-year-old legal notice published in a Spanish newspaper documenting a failure to pay back taxes.
Instead, the European Union's highest court was advised to strike down a Spanish regulator's demand that the search engine grant citizens a broad digital 'right to be forgotten,' including the ability to delete previous arrests and other negative
publicity from Google's online search results.
A final decision in the case is expected before the end of this year.
Tuesday's ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that internet search engine operators must remove links to articles found to be outdated or 'irrelevant' at the request of individuals.
Search engines are data controllers within the meaning of the Data Protection Directive, and responsible for complying with the data protection principles in respect of the processing they do of personal data, says Europe's highest court, the Court of
Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The CJEU upheld the right of a user to suppress search results on his name that pointed to newspaper articles about him. CJEU found that Google, as a search engine, processed personal data, by determining which links would appear in response to a search
on an individual's name, and is the data controller for that processing. This applies even when the data attached to the individual's name exclusively concerns data that has already been published, and regardless of the fact that the processing
was performed without distinction to the data, other than the personal data.
By finding Google to be a data controller in its own right, the CJEU was able to apply the full scope of the Data Protection Directive to Google, and arrive at a decision that users can, in some circumstances, have a right to be forgotten , even
in respect of data that was originally published lawfully.
Finally, in response to the question whether the directive enables the data subject to request that links to web pages be removed from such a list of results on the grounds that he wishes the information appearing on those pages relating to him
personally to be forgotten after a certain time, the Court holds that, if it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is, at this point in time, incompatible with the directive, the links and
information in the list of results must be erased.
Index on Censorship writes:
The Court's decision is a retrograde move that misunderstands the role and responsibility of search engines and the wider internet. It should send chills down the spine of everyone in the European Union who believes in the crucial importance of free
expression and freedom of information.
Google has begun removing search links to content in Europe under the right to be forgotten ruling, which obliges it exclude web pages with supposedly outdated or irrelevant information about individuals from web searches.
Searches made on Google's services in Europe using peoples' names includes a section at the bottom with the phrase Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe , and a link to a page explaining the ruling by the European
court of justice (ECJ) in May 2014.
However searches made on Google.com, the US-based service, do not include the same warning, because the ECJ ruling only applies within Europe.
Google would not say how many peoples' search histories have been censored, nor how many web pages have been affected.
28th June 2014. From Alan
Not mentioned in the Guardian report is the difficulty for UK surfers of finding uncensored searches on the American site. If I'm in Italy, I can either search in Italian at google.it or, if I want to search in English and enter google.com, I get the
American site. But in this country, typing the URL for google.com redirects to google.co.uk. Looks like we Brits are particular disadvantaged by the absurd decision of twattish Euro-judges.
The Society of Editors, which has the backing of senior figures at the BBC, Sky News and ITN as well as major newspaper groups, as joined with Index on Censorship and the Media Lawyers Association to call on David Cameron and key EU data protection
chiefs to resist censorship in the guise of the right to be forgotten. The Society of Editors has wriiten to David Cameron:
Dear Prime Minister,
The issues about the so-called right to be forgotten raised by the recent European Court judgement involving Google, with its implications for other search engines and accessibility to other journalistic information give us serious cause for
We appreciate that no general right to be forgotten exists, as Ministers and the Information Commissioner have confirmed. The Court ruling is only about restricting access to links generated by search engines in response to name searches. But
there is a vital principle at stake which we trust that the Information Commissioner - responsible for adjudicating both data protection and freedom of information in the UK - and the government will defend with vigour.
The judgement makes clear that Europeans now have the right to demand that certain online material is obscured in search results and its dissemination via search engines is stopped. For media organisations and journalists, this is akin to being asked -
on the basis of the subjective opinions of individuals, rather than any specific Court order - to remove items from an index in newspaper archives. This is something we would only do after careful consideration based on a sound legal and factual basis
and hope never to be asked to do more.
We feel sure that neither the Information Commissioner nor the government would wish to see this happen but we seek assurances that any such moves will be firmly resisted and will not be applied in any new data protection legislation coming out of Europe
in the future.
We are concerned that the European Court's judgment goes against Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and certainly the intentions of the UK Parliament when it introduced the Human Rights Act.
With regard to data protection legislation, journalistic work has always received special consideration. We are glad to see that the Court's ruling continues this, and does not require news publishers to remove articles when asked to do so by
individuals. This principle must be strongly defended or even enhanced. But the Court's ruling is deeply problematic for journalism in general, as it has the effect of limiting the accessibility and dissemination of journalistic work via search engines,
where the media company wishes this to be done. This reduces the visibility of the vital work done by journalists to ensure accountability throughout society, which in itself is contrary to the spirit behind Article 10.
For this reason, we believe that there should be greater transparency about the actions of search engines to comply with the European Court's ruling. Specifically, we believe there should be no restrictions on the ability of Google or other operators to
inform the originator of material when links to that material are removed. Any restrictions would prevent publishers having the opportunity to make their case on freedom of expression grounds thus making the process one-sided.
The Society of Editors has more than 400 members in national, regional and local newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and digital media, journalism education and media law. It campaigns for media freedom, self regulation, the public's right to know and
the maintenance of standards in journalism. This letter has the full support of the Society's board of directors which includes senior editors from Sky News and the BBC and and key regional newspapers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It
also has the support of editors of major UK newspapers, including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, The Guardian, The Independent, the Financial Times, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, The Daily Telegraph, and Associated
Newspapers as well as ITN.
We would be grateful for your comments about this and your assurances that these principles will be defended.
The EU's Article 29 Censorship Working Party has criticised Google for telling publishers about removed right to be forgotten links, and it wants links removed worldwide, not just on European variants of Google.
Representatives of Google, Yahoo and Bing were called back to address issues about the way that Google was handling right to be forgotten censorship requests. It turned into a sort of public dressing down of Google for not censoring links 'properly' .
Google was criticised for the fact that it was only removing links from the EU sites, and links could still be found on the US and other Google search pages. The EU censors feel that any EU citizen who doesn't like a particular post has the right to have
all links to that story censored worldwide.
Google was also called out because they were informing the sources of the stories that they were pulling the links (causing websites to republish new articles, which added more new links, and so on). Irish data protection censor Billy Hawkes expressed
concerns regarding Google warning sites about their links being removed.
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.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said it was dangerous to have companies decide what should be allowed to appear on the internet.
Internet search engines such as Google should not be left in charge of censoring history , the Wikipedia founder has said, after the US firm revealed it had approved half of more than 90,000 right to be forgotten requests.
Jimmy Wales said it was dangerous to have companies decide what should and should not be allowed to appear on the internet.
The right to be forgotten , the arbitrary removal of online material according to who shouts loudest, is wrong in principle and unworkable in practice, a parliamentary committee has said.
The House of Lords home affairs, health and education EU sub-committee has condemned regulations being drawn up by the European commission and a recent landmark judgment by the European court of justice (ECJ).
The committee points out that the EU's 1995 data protection directive on which the ECJ judgment relied was drafted three years before Google was founded. The committee's chair, Lady Prashar, said:
It is crystal clear that the neither the 1995 directive nor the [ECJ's] interpretation of it reflects the incredible advancement in technology that we see today, over 20 years since the directive was drafted.
We believe that the judgment of the court is unworkable for two main reasons. Firstly, it does not take into account the effect the ruling will have on smaller search engines which, unlike Google, are unlikely to have the resources to process the
thousands of removal requests they are likely to receive.
Secondly, we also believe that it is wrong in principle to leave search engines themselves the task of deciding whether to delete information or not, based on vague, ambiguous and unhelpful criteria, and we heard from witnesses how uncomfortable they are
with the idea of a commercial company sitting in judgement on issues like that.
We think there is a very strong argument that, in the new regulation, search engines should not be classed as data controllers, and therefore not liable as 'owners' of the information they are linking to. We also do not believe that individuals should
have a right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said.
The foundation which operates Wikipedia has criticised of the right to be forgotten ruling, describing it as unforgivable censorship .
Speaking at the announcement of the Wikimedia Foundation's first-ever transparency report in London, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the public had the right to remember :
Wikipedia is founded on the belief that everyone, everywhere should be able to have access to the sum of all knowledge. However, this is only possible if people can contribute and participant in those projects without reservation.
This means the right to create content, including controversial content, should be protected. People should feel secure that their curiosity and contributions are not subject to unreasonable Government requests for their account histories. They should
feel confident that the knowledge they are receiving is complete, truthful and uncensored.
The Foundation's chief executive Lila Tretikov called the ruling from the European Court of Justice a direct threat to our mission :
Our Transparency Report explains how we fight and defend against that. We oppose censorship. Recently, however, a new threat has emerged - the removal of links from search results following the recent judgment from the European Court of Justice regarding
the right to be forgotten .
This right to be forgotten is the idea that people may demand to have truthful information about themselves selectively removed from the published public record or at least make it more difficult to find. This ruling, unfortunately, has compromised the
public's right to information and freedom of expression.
Links, including those to Wikipedia itself may now be quietly, silently deleted with no transparency, no notice, no judicial review and no appeals process. Some search engines are giving proper notice and some are not. We find this type of compelled
censorship unacceptable. But we find the lack of disclosure unforgivable.
As part of the Foundation's bid for greater transparency, it has issued its first transparency report, detailing the number of requests it has received from governments, individuals and organisations to disclose information about users or to change
content on web pages. According to the report, the Foundation received 56 requests for user data in the last two years. In 14% of those cases, information was produced. The report also revealed that 304 requests were made for content to be either altered
or removed, with the Foundation confirming that none of those requests were granted.
Geoff Brigham, general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, said:
The decision is going to have direct and critical repercussions for Wikipedia. Without safeguards, this decision hurts free information, and let me tell you why: the decisions are made without any real proof, there's no judicial review, no public
explanation, there's no appeals process.
Yet the decision allows censorship of truthful information when one would expect such judicial safeguards. If I may so say, in allowing this to happen, the European Court of Justice has basically abandoned its responsibility to protect the right to
freedom of expression and access to truthful information. Two extremely important rights for democratic society.
In our opinion, we are on a path to secret, online sanitation of truthful information. No matter how well it may be intended, it is compromising human rights, the freedom of expression and access to information, and we cannot forget that. So we have to
expose it and we have to reject this kind of censorship.
Google is to fight back against the European Union's inane right to be forgotten ruling. Following a ruling from the European Union Court of Justice under which, Google must remove personal information from search results upon requests without
being in the position to ascertain that the request is justified.
In order to oppose against the ruling, Google is planning public hearings in seven different European cities starting in Madrid on September 9.
Google is looking for a robust debate over the ruling and its implementation criteria, as said by a top lawyer, David Drummond. Google is not the only company to criticize the ruling and Wikipedia Founder , Jimmy Wales, has called the ruling to be
deeply immoral and even said that ruling will lead to an internet riddled with memory holes.
Drummond and Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman, will highlight the implications of this ruling. Furthermore, the company will outline ideas for handling requests related to criminal convictions.
According to Reuters, European internet censors say they've agreed on a uniform set of EU-wide rules and criteria that will be used to evaluate appeals under the disgraceful Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) law announced earlier this year by the
Luxembourg-based European Union Court of 'Justice'.
Google has received in excess of 120,00 censorship requests since May. Many have been granted but many have not. Google is hardly in a position to research the merits of the case, so the decisions are essentially arbitrary.
Those whose censorship requests are turned down will be able to appeal the decision and that's where these censorship criteria will be applied.
The specifics of the rules won't be finalized until November. However Reuters suggests they will primarily take into account factors such as the public role of the person, whether the information relates to a crime and how old it is. There's still
considerable ambiguity in some of these areas.
Google has adopted a practice of notifying publishers when RTBF links are removed. Apparently EU censors don't like this practice (probably because it puts political pressure on them amid cries of censorship or objections from the publishers).
Google currently only removes the subject links and material from the individual country Google site where the request was made (e.g., Google.fr, Google.de) but not from Google.com. Johannes Caspar, Germany's internet censor, reportedly believes that
these RTBF removals should be expunged globally. He spewed:
The effect of removing search results should be global. This is in the spirit of the court ruling and the only meaningful way to act in a global environment like the Internet..
Hopefully this won't occur as the US is a bit more keen on freedom than the PC extremists of the EU.
One in 10 requests for web links to be censored from search results under European right to be forgotten laws have come from the UK, Google has said.
Google said it had removed 498,737 links from search results since May this year - including 63,616 pages following requests from the UK. It said 18,304 requests were made in the UK, the third highest in the EU.
According to a transparency report released on its website, Google removed 35% - or 18,459 - of censorship requests.
Google also provided examples of the sorts of requests it had received, along with the search engine's decision.
The BBC is to publish a continually updated list of its articles censored from Google search under the disgraceful right to be forgotten rule.
Editorial policy head David Jordan told a public meeting, hosted by Google, that the BBC felt some of its articles had been wrongly hidden. He said greater care should be given to the public's right to remember .
The BBC will begin - in the next few weeks - publishing the list of removed URLs it has been notified about by Google. Jordan said the BBC had so far been notified of 46 links to articles that had been removed.
The list will not republish the story, or any identifying information. It will instead be a resource for those interested in the debate .
Jordan criticised the lack of a formal appeal process after links have been taken down, noting one case where news of the trial involving members of the Real IRA was removed from search results.
Dejan Lazic, a concert pianist from Croatia, has demanded that a bad review of a 2010 concert he gave be removed from internet search results under the European right to be forgotten law.
Lazic wrote to the Washington Post, which published the review by classical music writer Anne Midgette, to have the article removed from search results. He claimed that the review was: Defamatory, mean-spirited, opinionated, one-sided, offensive [and]
simply irrelevant for the arts , despite the fact that the original piece is in many places complimentary.
In the original article, Midgette said that his performance was lackluster given his huge talents, and prone to grandiloquence .
Lazic also claimed that his request was nothing to do with censorship ...BUT... a response to the fact that newspaper reviews are too far from the truth .
Terrorists and criminals are being airbrushed from history as right-to-be-forgotten laws bring in censorship by the back door , the culture secretary has warned.
Sajid Javid said convictions are being removed from the internet even by those who have gone on to commit further crime, with terrorists ordering Google to remove stories about their trials. He warned that thousands of requests were being received each
day by those who prefer to keep their past a secret , thanks to unelected judges in Europe.
He told an audience the European court had introduced censorship through the back door by ordering internet search engines such as Google to offer a right to be forgotten to individuals who want links to information about them to be
removed. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, he said, was being used as:
Little more than an excuse for well-paid lawyers to hide the shady pasts of wealthy businessmen and the sexual indiscretions of sporting celebrities.
The 'right to be forgotten' is censorship through the back door.
The case of a UK businessman who wants Google to stop malicious web postings about him appearing in its search results is set to begin.
Daniel Hegglin says he has been wrongly called a murderer, a paedophile and a Ku Klux Klan sympathiser during a malicious online campaign against him. He wants Google to block the anonymous posts from its search engine results.
Google asked him to provide a list of web links to be removed, but High Court judges will rule if it should do more. He claims there are more than 3,600 websites containing abusive and untrue material about him, and says listing all the posts for Google
to remove would be expensive, time consuming, and ineffective.
He says that although Google is not the originator of the abusive campaign, its search engines have allowed the abuse to become more widespread.
He is seeking a legal order to force Google to take steps to prevent the abusive posts being processed in searches in England and Wales.
The settlement includes significant efforts on Google's part to remove the abusive material from Google-hosted websites and from its search results. Mr Hegglin will now concentrate his energies on bringing the persons responsible for this campaign of
harassment to justice .
And a statement for Google:
Google provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content. It will, however, continue to apply its procedures that have been developed to assist with the removal of content which breaches local
applicable laws .
Google is under fresh pressure to expand censorship under the right to be forgotten to its international .com search engine.
A panel of EU censors claimed the move was necessary to prevent the law from being circumvented.
Google currently de-lists results that appear in the European versions of its search engines, but not the international one. At present, visitors are diverted to localised editions of the US company's search tool - such as Google.co.uk and Google.fr -
when they initially try to visit the Google.com site. However, a link is provided at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen offering an option to switch to the international .com version. This link does not appear if the users attempted to go to a
regional version in the first place. Even so, it means it is possible for people in Europe to easily opt out of the censored lists.
The EU has issued formal censorship rules surrounding the so-called Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF).
The formal considerations that the EU data censors want considered in evaluating any RTBF request are:
Does the search result relate to a natural person -- i.e. an individual? And does the search result come up against a search on the data subject's name?
Does the data subject play a role in public life?
Is the data subject a public figure?
Is the data subject a minor?
Is the data accurate?
Is the data relevant and not excessive?
Is the information sensitive within the meaning of Article 8 of the Directive 95/46/EC?
Is the data up to date? Is the data being made available for longer than is necessary for the purpose of the processing?
Is the data processing causing prejudice to the data subject?
Does the data have a disproportionately negative privacy impact on the data subject?
Does the search result link to information that puts the data subject at risk?
In what context was the information published?
Was the original content published in the context of journalistic purposes?
Does the publisher of the data have a legal power, or a legal obligation, to make the personal data publicly available?
Does the data relate to a criminal offence?
In most cases, it appears that more than one criterion will need to be taken into account in order to reach a decision to censor. In other words, no single criterion is, in itself, determinative.
The document asserts that successful RTBF requests should be applied globally and not just to specific country domain search results, as Google has been doing:
[D]e-listing decisions must be implemented in a way that guarantees the effective and complete protection of these rights and that EU law cannot be easily circumvented. In that sense, limiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds
that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the judgment. In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also
be effective on all relevant domains, including .com
But any such global de-listing sets up a conflict of laws between nations that recognize RTBF and those that do not. Google had been notifying publishers that their links were being removed, causing some to republish those links for re-indexing. This has
frustrated some European censors who see this practice as undermining the RTBF. Accordingly, the EU says that publishers should not be notified of the removal of links:
Search engine managers should not as a general practice inform the webmasters of the pages affected by de-listing of the fact that some webpages cannot be acceded from the search engine in response to specific queries. Such a communication has no legal
basis under EU data protection law.
The EU also doesn't want Google to publish notices to users that links have been removed for similar reasons:
It appears that some search engines have developed the practice of systematically informing the users of search engines of the fact that some results to their queries have been de-listed in response to requests of an individual. If such information would
only be visible in search results where hyperlinks were actually de-listed, this would strongly undermine the purpose of the ruling. Such a practice can only be acceptable if the information is offered in such a way that users cannot in any case come to
the conclusion that a specific individual has asked for the de-listing of results concerning him or her.
The guidelines state that beyond external search engines (e.g., Google) they may be extended to undefined intermediaries. However they immediately go on to apparently contradict that notion:
The right to de-listing should not apply to search engines with a restricted field of action, particularly in the case of search tools of websites of newspapers.
Finally the guidelines suggest that only EU citizens may be eligible in practice to make RTBF requests.
Ambulance-chasing law firms are exploiting the European Court's ruling on the right to be forgotten to drum up business, leading to a rise in the number of
newspaper articles being deleted from Google search results.
The companies, some of which have no legal background but say they specialise in reputation management , have sensed an easy opportunity to make money by offering to cleanse the internet of embarrassing references to their clients on a no-win
no-fee basis, media lawyers said.
The service can amount to little more than filling in Google's one-page form requesting that a particular link is removed from search results -- which can easily be completed for free by the client themselves.
Last month alone The Independent was informed by Google that links to 13 news articles had been removed from its search results, marking a sudden rise on previous figures when only a handful had been hidden each month. Mark Stephens, a media law
specialist at London firm Howard Kennedy said:
You've got ambulance-chasing lawyers who are, I think, trying to attract custom for cases which you don't need a lawyer for. People are being asked to pay for something when there's no good reasons to do so -- you can do this online, for free, for
He added that the problem was not restricted to the UK, with media organisations across Europe feeling the chilling effects of the ruling as unscrupulous companies realised that citing the ruling could be an easy way to make money.
Google has 15 days to comply with a demand from France's internet censor to extend the right to be forgotten to all its search engines.
Google has responded to European censorship under the right to be forgotten by only removing the required information for the copy of the search engine specific to the censoring country. And in particular leaves the links live in the global google.com
French censor CNIL said Google could face sanctions if it did not comply within the time limit.
In response, Google said in a statement:
We've been working hard to strike the right balance in implementing the European Court's ruling, co-operating closely with data protection authorities.
The ruling focused on services directed to European users, and that's the approach we are taking in complying with it.
The BBC explains its commendable policy in a blog post:
Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals.
Following the ruling, Google removed a large number of links from its search results , including some to BBC web pages, and continues to delist pages from BBC Online.
The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top.
We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the right to be forgotten can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to the
debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC's online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.
The pages affected by delinking may disappear from Google searches, but they do still exist on BBC Online. David Jordan, the BBC's Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, has written a blog post which explains how we view that archive as a matter
of historic public record and, thus, something we alter only in exceptional circumstances. The BBC's rules on deleting content from BBC Online are strict; in general, unless content is specifically made available only for a limited time, the
assumption is that what we publish on BBC Online will become part of a permanently accessible archive. To do anything else risks reducing transparency and damaging trust.
One caveat: when looking through this list it is worth noting that we are not told who has requested the delisting, and we should not leap to conclusions as to who is responsible. The request may not have come from the obvious subject of a story.
Freedom of expression is more in danger today than in 2008 because of the right to be forgotten , the United Nation's former free expression rapporteur
Frank La Rue told an internet conference. At the event La Rue told Index on Censorship:
The emphasis on the 'right to be forgotten' in a way is a reduction of freedom of expression, which I think is a mistake. People get excited because they can correct the record on many things but the trend is towards limiting people's access to
information which I think is a bad trend in general.
La Rue, who was the UN's rapporteur between 2008 and 2014, addressed lawyers, academics and researchers at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London, in particular covering the May 2014 right to be forgotten ruling from the Court of
Justice of the European Union, and its impact on free speech. On the ruling, La Rue said:
I would want to know the past. It is very relevant information. Everyone should be on the record and we have to question who is making these decisions anyway?
The state is accountable to the people of a nation so should be accountable here. Not private companies and especially not those with commercial interests.
The French internet censor has responded to a Google statement which explains why European internet censorship cannot be applied across the world.
This summer, France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) sent Google an order to not merely delist links from European Google searches but search results around the world, too. Google responded:
This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web.
CNIL's president did not find this persuasive, rejecting Google's appeal of the order. In a statement released today, CNIL claimed that:
Once delisting is accepted by the search engine, it must be implemented on all extensions, because if this right was limited to some extensions, it could be easily circumvented: in order to find the delisted result, it would be sufficient to search on
another extension and this would equate stripping away the efficiency of this right.
CNIL pointed out that delisted info remains directly accessible on the source website or through a search using other terms than an individual's name and:
In addition, this right is not absolute: it has to be reconciled with the public's right to information, in particular when the data subject is a public person, under the double supervision of the CNIL and of the court.
Google must now comply with the formal notice or face CNIL's sanctions committee.
There's no further opportunity to appeal the decision at this stage under French law. But if Google refuses to comply, it could later appeal any sanctions levied by CNIL. Fines would likely start at around € 300,000 but could
increase to between 2-5% of Google's global operating costs. The search engine could then go to the Conseil d'Etat, the supreme court for administrative justice, to appeal the decision and fine.
Europe is very close to the finishing line of an extraordinary project: the adoption of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a single, comprehensive
replacement for the 28 different laws that implement Europe's existing 1995 Data Protection Directive
. More than any other instrument, the original Directive has created a high global standard for personal data protection, and led many other countries to follow Europe's approach. Over the years, Europe has grown ever more committed to the idea of data
protection as a core value. In the Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding on all the EU states since 2009, lists the "right to the protection of personal data" as a separate and equal right to privacy. The GDPR is intended to
update and maintain that high standard of protection, while modernising and streamlining its enforcement.
The battle over the details of the GDPR has so far mostly been a debate between advocates pushing to better defend data protection, against companies and other interests that find consumer privacy laws a hindrance to their business models. Most of the
compromises between these two groups have now already been struck.
The result is a ticking time-bomb that will be bad for online speech, and bad for the future reputation of the GDPR and data protection in general.
The current draft of the GDPR doubles down on Google Spain, and raises new problems. (The draft currently under negotiation is not publicly available, but July 2015 versions of the provisions that we refer to can be found in this
of proposals and counter-proposals by the European institutions. Article numbers referenced here, which will likely change in the final text, are to the proposal from the Council of the EU unless otherwise stated.)
First, it requires an Internet intermediary (which is not limited to a search engine, though the exact scope of the obligation remains vague) to respond to a request by a person for the removal of their personal information by immediately restricting the
content, without notice to the user who uploaded that content (Articles 4(3a), 17, 17a, and 19a.). Compare this with the DMCA takedown notices, which include a notification requirement, or even the current Right to Be Forgotten process, which give search
engines some time to consider the legitimacy of the request. In the new GDPR regime, the default is to block.
Then, after reviewing the (also vague) criteria that balance the privacy claim with other legitimate interests and public interest considerations such as freedom of expression (Articles 6.1(f), 17a(3) and 17.3(a)), and possibly consulting with the user
who uploaded the content if doubt remains, the intermediary either permanently erases the content (which, for search engines, means removing their link to it), or reinstates it (Articles 17.1 and 17a(3)). If it does erase the information, it is not
required to notify the uploading user of having done so, but is required to notify any downstream publishers or recipients of the same content (Articles 13 and 17.2), and must apparently also disclose any information that it has about the uploading user
to the person who requested its removal (Articles 14a(g) and 15(1)(g)).
Think about that for a moment. You place a comment on a website which mentions a few (truthful) facts about another person. Under the GDPR, that person can now demand the instant removal of your comment from the host of the website, while that host
determines whether it might be okay to still publish it. If the host's decision goes against you (and you won't always be notified, so good luck spotting the pre-emptive deletion in time to plead your case to Google or Facebook or your ISP), your comment
will be erased. If that comment was syndicated, by RSS or some other mechanism, your deleting host is now obliged to let anyone else know that they should also remove the content.
Finally, according to the existing language, while the host is dissuaded from telling you about any of this procedure, they are compelled to hand over personal information about you to the original complainant. So this part of EU's data protection law
would actually release personal information!
What are the incentives for the intermediary to stand by the author and keep the material online? If the host fails to remove content that a data protection authority later determines it should have removed, it may become liable to astronomical penalties
of ?100 million or up to 5% of its global turnover, whichever is higher (European Parliament proposal for Article 79).
That means there is enormous pressure on the intermediary to take information down if there is even a remote possibility that the information has indeed become "irrelevant", and that countervailing public interest considerations do not apply.
It is not too late yet: proposed amendments to the GDPR are still being considered. We have written a joint letter
with ARTICLE 19
to European policymakers, drawing their attention to the problem and explaining what needs to be done. We contend that the problems identified can be overcome by relatively simple amendments to the GDPR, which will help to secure European users' freedom
of expression, without detracting from the strong protection that the regime affords to their personal data.
Without fixing the problem, the current draft risks sullying the entire GDPR project. Just like the DMCA takedown process, these GDPR removals won't just be used for the limited purpose they were intended for. Instead, it will be abused to censor authors
and invade the privacy of speakers. A GDPR without fixes will damage the reputation of data protection law as effectively as the DMCA permanently tarnished the intent and purpose of copyright law.
The "right to be forgotten" applies to any search engine accessible in the UK,
the Information Commissioner's Office has claimed. In a blog post earlier this month, ICO demanded:
In August we issued our first enforcement notice in this area
, ordering Google to remove nine search results brought up by entering an individual's name. Google has so far responded constructively, and the links are no longer visible on the European versions of their search engine. However we consider that they
should go a step further, and make the links no longer visible to anyone directly accessing any Google search services from within the UK (this would include someone sat a desk in Newcastle, but using google.com). This is a proper and proportionate
reflection of what the EU Court of Justice ruling means in practice, and so we've clarified the original enforcement notice
, with the original text remaining the same but with a new section added spelling out exactly what we expect of Google.
Google says it will remove links, censored under the right to be forgotten, from all versions of the search engine when viewed from countries where
the censorship was invoked.
Now, removed results will not appear on any version of Google, including google.com. Until now, search results removed under the right to be forgotten were only omitted from European versions of Google - such as google.co.uk or google.fr.
EU internet censors previously asked the firm to do this. The French data protection authority had threatened the company with a fine if it did not remove the data from global sites, such as google.com, as well as European ones.
This censorship will be applied whenever a European IP address is detected but all users outside Europe, will still see a set of unedited results. Hopefully European VPN users operating via non European countries will also be unaffected by Google's
The BBC understands that the change will be in effect from mid-February.
If you use Google in Europe, your search results will be censored under the EU's's disgraceful 'right-to-be-forgotten'.
Until now if you used Google.com rather than, say, Google.de, you could still find results that have been arbitrarily removed based on how loud people shout.
The censorship has been implemented as follows. Assume that someone in Germany files a Right To Be Forgotten request to have some listing censored for their name. If granted, the censorship will work like this for searches on that person's name:
Listing censored for those in Germany, using ANY version of Google.
Listing censored for those in the EU, using a European version of Google.
Listing NOT censored for those outside Germany but within the EU, using non-European versions of Google.
Listing NOT censored for those outside the EU, using ANY version of Google.
Google's Peter Fleischer explained the reasons for the censorship:
We're changing our approach as a result of specific discussions that we've had with EU data protection regulators in recent months.
We believe that this additional layer of delisting enables us to provide the enhanced protections that European regulators ask us for, while also upholding the rights of people in other countries to access lawfully published information.
Europe's right to be forgotten is a nasty and arbitrary censorship power used to hide internet content such as past criminal history. Many think it tramples on the public's right to know, as quite a few examples have born out.
It seems that France and the EU thinks that such content should be censored worldwide, and have fined Google 100,000 euro for allowing non EU internet viewers to see information censored in the EU.
Since EU laws don't apply elsewhere, Google at first just deleted right to be forgotten requested results from its French domain. However, France pointed out that it would be easy to find the info on a different site and ordered the company to
scrub results everywhere. In an attempted compromise, Google started omitting results worldwide as long as it determined, by geolocation, that the search was conducted from within France.
But now EU internet censors have rejected that idea (as it would be easy to get around with a VPN) and fined Google effectively for allowing Americans to see content censored in the EU. Google commented:
We disagree with the [regulator's] assertion that it has the authority to control the content that people can access outside France.
In its ruling, France's CNIL censor says that geolocalizing search results does not give people effective, full protection of their right to be delisted ... accordingly, the CNIL restricted committee pronounced a 100,000 euro fine against Google.