Google Fined by France Over Right to be Forgotten

Google have been handed a fine by the French data protection authorities as a result of them failing to conform to the ‘right to be forgotten’ as ordered.

In a decision made last year by the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL), Google would have to agree to requests made for the delisting of personal information, not just on its products under European domains, but across all Google properties. Previous to this, Google had been removing requested personal results from the European versions of its search engine, including google.co.uk and google.fr, excluding other instances of the site, such as google.com, which is still accessible from within Europe.

This breach of the ruling could have allowed CNIL to charge Google as much as €300,000, however, the French organization, in the end, settled on only a €100,000 fine.

The right to be forgotten has existed since 2014 when a European court ruling allowed Spaniard Mario Costeja González to erase online evidence of a court-ordered auction of his real estate to recover debts. Those hosting the information were allowed to keep it online, but Google was ordered to remove all reference to the articles from searches of Costeja González’ name. The spirit of the decision being that minor misdemeanors or embarrassments could be covered up, but not completely removed.

Google still refuse to conform with the ruling as closely as CNIL would like, with information hidden on worldwide services, but only for users in the same nation as the one who requested the removal. For example, a Spanish user would no longer be able to find references to the auction on any Google product, including google.com, but a user from another European nation would be able to get the results through any non-European Google domain.

With over 400,000 people having already invoked their right to be delisted in Europe, they would hope that their past acts could be forgotten by all, not just those of their nation. It is unclear as to whether CNIL will make any efforts for Google to more broadly delist people, but with a fine already levied against them, they may be more compliant should the cost get steeper.

Google Expands Right to be Forgotten to All Domains

Ever since it’s introduction, the EU’s right to be forgotten has been controversial and misguided to say the least. Under the law, Google and other search providers are forced to delist links to new stories that are no longer considered relevant or in the public interest. As if censoring information in just the EU domains is not enough, it looks like pressure is on Google to expand the delisting. According to Google, European regulators have compelled Google to delist links on all Google search domains, not just the EU ones.

According to Google’s blog post, the new strategy is to delist links when a user exposes geolocation data from an EU location. This means EU users will no longer have the option of using Google.com for instance, to easily bypass the delisting. In order to gain access to an uncensored version of Google, users will have to use a non-EU VPN though that may not be safe if regulators have their way.

From Google’s perspective, this isn’t much different from what they do now as geo-location data is already collected when a user goes to Google. Instead of triggering the delisting based on which Google search domain is used, the delisting is triggered by geo-location data. The one benefit from this is that instead of deleting from all EU Google domains, the deleting only occurs if the searcher geolocation data is from the same country as the requestee of the delisting.

The Internet Could Become as Regulated as TV

“It’s not the level playing field that we once thought it would be,” Jennifer Granick lamented. She was talking about the internet, and how it is slowly shifting away from being the bastion of free speech, invention, and information, at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas. She fears that the web will become regulated into oblivion, much the same way as US network television.

“It’s going to be this slick, stiff, controlled, closed thing,” Granick, a lawyer and director of civil liberties at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University, said during her keynote speech in front of 10,000 security researchers in Vegas yesterday. She fears that laws such as Europe’s Right to be Forgotten could cripple the internet’s transparency, especially if the legislation becomes extraterritorial, as France is advocating.

“We’re losing the freedom to tinker,” she complained. “The message is clear—you need permission to operate in their world. If you step over the line, we’ll come for you.” To combat the creeping problem, Granick encouraged hackers and coders to keep jabbing at the establishment, and building decentralised internet systems, to keep ultimate control of the web out of the hands of “The Man”. Failing that, “we need to smash it apart and make something new and better,” she postured.

Thank you USA Today for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of LiveScience.

BBC Disrespects EU’s Right to Be Forgotten – Publishes List of Pages Removed

The BBC, in flagrant disregard of the European Union’s ‘right to be forgotten’ law, has published a list of its own webpages that have been removed from search engine listings via the ruling, promising to update the list frequently.

The EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation is designed to protect individuals from being persecuted or discriminated against due to past indiscretions, achieved by removing potentially stigmatising materials from search engine results. By publishing a list of pages and articles that have been hidden due to this ruling, the BBC is effectively neutering its intent.

The BBC blog reads:

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.

This seems scant justification, since the listings have only been removed from search engines, not from the BBC site itself; they have not been deleted, and still show up through internal searches on the BBC website, so to draw attention to pieces that have been hidden from external searches opens them up to speculation. Since the source of the ‘right to be forgotten’ request is entitled to anonymity, persons unrelated to the removal could be persecuted over it, amplifying the very behaviour the EU sought to nullify.

While he BBC does add the 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,” the statement seems designed to shield itself from any blowback, rather than protect unrelated parties from accusation. I’m sure the EU will be having a disgruntled word in the BBC’s ear quite soon.

Image courtesy of LogoDatabases.

Inventor of the World Wide Web Thinks ‘Right to be Forgotten’ is “Dangerous”

Europe’s new ‘right to be forgotten’ law is designed to protect people’s privacy, allowing them, through a court ruling, to have information about them excised from the internet. Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the worldwide web, however, believes that ‘right to be forgotten’ is a bad thing, one that erodes free speech and history.

“This right to be forgotten — at the moment, it seems to be dangerous,” said Berners-Lee at the LeWeb conference on Wednesday. “The right to access history is important.”

The EU ruling obliges search engines – such as Bing, Yahoo, and Google – to scrub from its search results specific entries covered by a ‘right to be forgotten’ verdict, to protect people from stigmatisation. The ‘right to be forgotten’ law has been used, for example, to impede access to so-called ‘revenge porn’ sites. Berners-Lee continued, “It’s our society. We build it. We can define the rules about how to use data. That’s much better than trying to pretend a thing never happened.” Luckily, the European Parliament disagrees, considering potential  access to damaging or distressing information online to be the true “danger”.

Source: CNET

EU Pushes for “Right to Be Forgotten” Online to be Applied Wordwide

The European Union is wants internet search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Bing, to commit to a global scrub of search results when a person invokes their “right to be forgotten”. At present, if an EU court rules in favour of “right to be forgotten”, only search results from Europe are excised.

At a news conference, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of France’s privacy watchdog and the Article 29 Working Party of EU national data protection authorities, said, “From the legal and technical analysis we are doing, they should include the ‘.com’.”

A new set of guidelines were agreed by EU watchdogs on Wednesday. The guidelines will be published on Thursday or Friday, according to Falgue-Pierrotin.

Source: Reuters

Wikipedia Link Hidden from Google under New “Right to Be Forgotten” Law

Under the new controversial “right to be forgotten” law, Google has now removed a Wikipedia article from their search results. this is the first time that a link to Wikipedia has been hidden and the Wiki founder Jimmy Wales has expressed his opposition to it.

Jimmy wales said,

“I would say the biggest problem we have is that the law seems to indicate Google needs to censor links to information that is clearly public – links to articles in legally published, truthful news stories.

“That is a very dangerous path to go down, and certainly if we want to go down a path where we are going to be censoring history, there is no way we should leave a private company like Google in charge of making those decisions.”

The Lords Home Affairs EU Sub-Committee agrees that it is wrong to give search engines such as Google the job of deciding what should be removed and have called the law unreasonable.

Since the law has been imposed Google has had over 90,000 removal requests and now other search engines, such as Bing, have also started to add features to accept public requests for the removal of searches. Many groups have said it contravenes the right to free speech and some actually saying its censorship.

Thanks to BBC for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Spectrum IEEE.