Google told to "forget" old Internet content (lest someone be embarrassed)

The European Court of Justice has ruled that people have “the right to be forgotten”. So, for example, if some years ago you did something you’d rather no one know about it, Google would be obliged to wipe it off the ‘Internet map’.

This is electronic revisionism. Stalin would be proud and Orwell would say, “See, I told you so”.

I think it’s pretty obvious how I feel - it’s a stupid, patronizing ruling (and probably unenforceable to boot). What say yea?

That sounds both unworkable and abusable. Probably more likely to be used to shield the misdeeds of the rich & powerful than anything else.

A memory hole in real life. This is one of the worst ideas I have heard.

I’m in two minds about it - on the one hand, yes, it does seem a bit MiniTrue.
On the other hand, this is no different than happens with hard media, so it’s not exactly a complete novelty. And Google, despite appearances, is not the sum of the Internet - in fact, this would be a business opportunity for people to run general archives in restriction-free states.

But mostly, I’m on the “Hell, no!” side

I suppose the big worrying difference is that with Internet presence and the sophisticated search algorithms Google came up with, it becomes (relatively) trivial to dig up your record. Old records of us used to continue to exist in the universe but become unreachable to anyone but professional investigators at best. Only if the stakes were high would someone be motivated enough to put in the effort. An old incriminating physical photograph/newsclipping/letter would be hard to find at the bottom of an old shoebox, and the memory of witnesses could be challenged as unreliable hearsay. But you can’t force that to be the order of things forever and we have to deal with the change. The likelihood of abuse is worrying. It is interesting, though, the notion of a right to let the past be past.

What about newspapers? Should we not be able to go back in time and read old news? Old books? Old movies? Surely Sean Connery would have loved to purge League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from his past, right?

So, what about places like Facebook that store something around ten plus years of some people’s lives, including thoughts, pictures, or similar? What about LiveJournal that has, potentially, 20 years of someone’s life?

I mean, Google’s statement in the article is true. They only index the information. Why isn’t that Spanish man going after the person/service that holds the data that’s so embarassing?

While the potential for abuse, as stated, is high, I can definitely see an increasing need for legally enforced self-scrubbing. We live in a very public time, and much of the data is not ephemeral. Getting drunk and being stupid at a party when you’re 18 can have effects if the wrong person has a camera, and you don’t even have to be a celebrity anymore.

Yes, people have a certain responsibility to use correct privacy settings, flag pictures on Facebook and so on, but expecting a stupid teenager or 20-something to have laser-focused PR-minded control over their online image is a bit of a tall order, IMO, and providing a way to disappear old stupid things you did from the archives is a decent solution to such a problem, especially when employers (sadly) can and will vet you with a Google search, making this pictures from that party 3 years ago even more dangerous.

There are a lot of questions, though. For instance, at what level is it right to allow this? Certainly a lot of people who became embroiled in memes likely wished to be forgotten the moment it happened, but when it only takes a day to integrate such a thing into internet culture, is it ethical to stop it in its tracks when it’s probably already a cultural phenomenon whether you try to purge it or not? To a degree, this almost seems like an attempt to legislate away the Streisand Effect, which seems a bit impossible.

Likewise, what if people try to purge unsavory associations they have just for image crafting, and not because it was a “young and stupid” thing? E.G a politician stomping links to old Neo Nazi blog posts they made, even though they still agree with the sentiment.

Overall, I think it’s an attempt at a solution to a very real problem. When things like internet archives exist and we’re in a world where doing something moderately stupid in public can make you increasingly more difficult to employ just because some jerk with a camera phone was there, providing a way to just make it go away is, IMO, very helpful. I do agree there’s a huge potential for abuse, though, and I’m not sure whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

I can agree, but there is a very easy and definite line: Anything made for public consumption and public records of all types should be exempt from revision. Pictures at a party, even if you don’t use the proper restrictive security rules when posting to a social media site, are not public consumption. Thus, you can require that Facebook/Google+ remove all references to you in the posted images.

Additionally, you have to take up the privacy issue with the originating data holder. Google, since it’s just a linking service, would simply update it’s information in the next spider crawl and refresh it’s caches at that time.

As for the case in the article, property/building history is a public record and thus exempt.

But… it is ? You can’t tell a newspaper that ran a story on you or quoted you saying something monumentally stupid to obliterate the issue. If somebody snapped a picture of you doing something dumb at a party, you don’t get to tell them to burn the negatives. In real life, what happens stays happened.

And on the 'net, too. I have no idea how the ECJ figures Google has any power to erase anything from the net. At best they can deliberately drop a link… which would be noticed, which would cause copies of that link to pop up everywhere. Ask Barbra Streisand.
For that matter, it’s not like Google is the only crawler out there…

:rolleyes: Do read the bloody judgement not rely on the opinions of two journalists in a video.

From the judgement

An internet search engine if and only if it is a controller of information may be requested to remove materials if the balance between privacy and freedom of information come down in favour of privacy rights. Whether it in fact does is a factual determination.

That’s all the case has decided. Frankly, I cannot see many case where the balance comes down in favour of privacy. Court reporting restriction and privileged communications are about the only examples I can think off hand.

Yup. And you used to be able to deny paternity.

O RLY? George Lucas might wish that every copy of Star Wars Holiday Special would spontaneously combust after X amount of time, but reality doesn’t work that way.

Obviously, the ECJ is profoundly ignorant of the basic elements of both Internet functionality and social dynamics.

What I do not understand is why Mr. Mario Costeja González apparently did not succeed in making the newspaper make the original pages (one of them) not spiderably by search engines (say, by including the line

Deny: /preview/19

in their robots.txt), but did get a court to order Google to not to link to the page.

At least Mr. Costeja González has now succeeded in that nobody now is aware of his past social security debts :smack:

I certainly agree with you that journalists often provide very poor interpretations of court decisions, just as I’ve personally seen them provide absolutely lunatic interpretations of scientific papers that they clearly didn’t understand. However the link you posted appears to be the preliminary opinion of the Advocate General and does not contain any of the text you quoted. As a matter of fact, in its “conclusions”, it contains this text (emphasis mine):

That said, a poster in this thread mentioned the practice of employers now using Google to vet applications, and quite likely other institutions may be doing so for their own purposes, too. This does raise a concern that we live in an unprecedented information era where no end of obscure or possibly irrelevant, out-of-context, or perhaps entirely untrue information about an individual can be accessed with incredible ease. There have been stories in the media about individuals being denied entry at border crossings on the basis of the results of Google searches, often for what seemed like superficial rationales – stories which, in an involuntary variant of the Streisand Effect, themselves become part of the individual’s vast public Internet dossier.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is, or if there is a workable answer at all, but the presumption that the ECJ are just a bunch of idiots seems a bit too glib.

Mea culpa. I posted the wrong link, the AG opinion as you point out. My fault for having so many browsers open.has. They have simply stated that as of law, the it might be possible to order removal in certain circumstance, which will be determined as a factual matter in each individual case.
judgement of the court.

The relevant part is paragraph 81

The court order did not require the actual data to be disappeared, just made hard to find. Wonder how well that will work.

What about search engines that have no presence in the offended country? They will have to be blocked by the government, since they have no other jurisdiction.

Shades of 1984.

I don’t really know anything about the EU courts. Can this ruling be appealed? How high up in the legal food chain is this court?

I wonder then if that is why Google’s [del]Ministry of information[/del] spiders saw this thread and marked us up as an attack site. :wink:

It’s the highest court for EU law.