Google bows to EU law and removes right to search for delisted posts

erase past

Right to be Forgotten? Pic Credit: Index on Censorship.

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

From Monday people in the UK and the rest of the European Union will no longer be able to bypass a ban on searching for information which an individual has asked to be removed from the net by Google.

Until now the removal of information by hundreds of thousands of people can easily be circumvented by searching on Google.com, the US version of the search engine.

However as the Inforrm blog reveals Google will block anyone with an IP address in Europe from seeing delisted posts. The full statement from Google is here. It will also be retrospective.

The decision is a victory for privacy campaigners though Inforrm thinks it may not go far enough for some.

Nearly 50,000 people  in the UK  are among the 400,000 who have requested for information to be removed. As Inforrm reports:

” Large numbers of delisting requests are now being made under the Google Spain ruling. Google’s most recent transparency report indicates that it has received 400,564 removal requests and has removed 42.6% of URLs covered by them.  Google has received 48,979 requests from the United Kingdom and has removed 184,115 URLs (38.6% of those requested).”.

While one can understand that people should have the right to remove false information from search engines what concerns me is  there is little transparency. One does not know who has requested the removal of the information and what information has been removed. Google just issues a statement to say that some posts are no longer available. Of course the post remains but people will have difficulty in finding it unless they subscribe to a particular blog.

Google has attempted with a FAQ to explain the main points behind the decision to delist – and there appears to be a view that there where there it is obviously not in the public interest or the person is a political  or public figure the request will be denied.

Google’s ban will not be foolproof – networks like Tor which is also used by the dark web – could mask the IP address of a person searching for the information. I suspect that investigative journalists will use this more as a new way of bypassing this ban if they want to do thorough searches.

 

 

European Union seeks ” the right to be forgotten” web ruling to apply world wide

An important development over the battle of the ” right to be forgotten ” is highlighted in a report on the influential Inforrm blog.

The row centres round the European Court of Justice’s decision to allow people to get search engines to  remove references to them in their past even if all the facts are true.

The decision arose after a Spanish worker wanted information deleted from searches showing he was connected to a property auction to pay off social security debts in 1997.

The court decided that his privacy was infringed by people being able search out such information and the decision immediately led to 41,000 people, including a paedophile and a former MP, asking search engines to do the same for them.

However as nearly all the major search engines are American, Google, the biggest search engine, decided to only remove it from its EU sites and people could  still search the same information by logging on to an American site.

Now an EU working party wants this banned. It has ruled as Inforrm reports:

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 ruling. In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant domains, including .com”.

In other words, the Working Party has confirmed that …the attempt of Google to exempt its search engine at Google.com from the “delisting procedures”is misconceived.

To add to this the EU working party has said there will no requirement to tell the person who provided the information that this has happened – so bloggers and media groups will just suddenly discover that the article has disappeared in any searches – worse than just going behind a pay wall.

The groups does give data protection controllers much needed guidance on whether such listings should disappear – including information on whether the person is a public figure or a criminal. And it does not appear to extend to companies either.

However I am afraid I have little sympathy with any removal if the facts are true. I still see this as an attempt by people to cover up their past. It might be right if the information is a pack of lies but there are other ways to deal with this. It seems to me another restriction on freedom of information.