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EU Court Backs Users' 'Right to be Forgotten' on Google

 8:37 am on May 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

A top EU court has ruled Google must amend some search results at the request of ordinary people in a test of the so-called "right to be forgotten".

Breaking news at this stage >> More to come



 12:21 pm on May 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Would you be gratified if damaging personal information, valid in the distant past for a citizen but no longer valid today, was made as public as possible today (and as damaging as possible, today) through the immense technical power of a very efficient search engine with global reach?

Mario Costeja González is quoted as saying "I'm happy".

His is not a hypothetical case, and the "damaging personal information" about him is everywhere now.

Do a search on his name if you don't believe me.

"News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising".



 6:09 am on May 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

It is not that Gonzales is known everywhere these days, thus failing in his original intent, it is that G and others (possibly) will be enjoined to honor take downs in the future... That, my opinion, is a bad outcome.


 7:07 am on May 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

As a citizen, would you truly be gratified if they did so, and render it toothless?

YES. My desire to prevent others from hiding their past far outweighs anything I may want to hide.

Do you think it is a good thing that a politician should use this to make it harder for voters to uncover their past, or paedophiles to make their crimes less public or doctors to hide past incompetence from patients? That is what is happening:

[theguardian.com ]

Also, remember that all this is in public records, and no doubt easily accessible through government databases. I am far more concerned about that the government knows about people than what is publicly exposed.


 9:34 am on May 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

all this is in public records


What "personal data" is:
Information about you held by an organisation, generally given by you in confidence, and subject to data protection laws - government records, health records, bank records, credit card details, business references, customer details etc.

What "personal data" is not:
Public knowledge about you.

Once any information about you is published (print, web or other media) it is public knowledge. Short of having the Men in Black come around to erase people's memory, there is no way to make them forget it.

If the published information is inaccurate or untruthful you already have forms of legal redress.

If it is accurate and truthful you have no cause for complaint.

Campaigners on this should be honest - it is not a "right to be forgotten" they want, it is a "right to suppress the truth".

Call it what it is.



 9:55 am on May 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

G and others (possibly) will be enjoined to honor take downs in the future

The ruling applies to Google, Bing, Yahoo and any other search engine that "sets up in a Member State a branch or subsidiary which is intended to promote and sell advertising space offered by that engine and which orientates its activity towards the inhabitants of that Member State".

It does not currently apply to DuckDuckGo, which will probably become the search engine of choice for HR departments.

Is this what Donald Rumsfeld meant by "known unknowns"?



 9:30 pm on May 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

If it is accurate and truthful you have no cause for complaint.

A search on your name finds that you were accused of a crime. The report that somebody else was subsequently convicted doesn't contain your name so isn't returned. Technically accurate but no cause for complaint?


 12:02 am on May 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

A search on your name finds that you were accused of a crime.

There is a major difference between being accused and being convicted.

Cause for sympathy, maybe, but no cause for complaint.

This is from the court judgment:
Furthermore, the processing by the publisher of a web page consisting in the publication of information relating to an individual may, in some circumstances, be carried out ‘solely for journalistic purposes’ and thus benefit, by virtue of Article 9 of Directive 95/46, from derogations from the requirements laid down by the directive, whereas that does not appear to be so in the case of the processing carried out by the operator of a search engine.

So the journalist's reported facts are exempt from the legislation.

The facts stay public, stay online, and can legally be repeated on other websites, commercial or otherwise - the full wording of the law is "solely for journalistic purposes or the purpose of artistic or literary expression".

But you can't use one of them new-fangled search engines to find the original page.

Unless it doesn't have an office in an EU country.

Or, apparently, if it is run by a "media company".



 12:35 am on May 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

The Link That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Senor Gonzalez won the case on the grounds that search engines were using his name for commercial purposes - it didn't matter that SERPs are provided free of charge and are merely an index of existing - quite legal - publications (which are also published free of charge).

Of those who submitted observations to the court, Austria, Greece, Poland and the EU Commission itself thought search engine results, like journalism, should be exempt (agreeing with an earlier opinion by the Advocate General), while Spain and Italy did not, and sided with Senor Gonzalez.

But to be fair to the judges, they were tasked with interpreting existing law as it is written - which was done before search engines became common - and will have taken the not unreasonable view that if the politicians want the wording to mean something else then they can go back and amend it.

So they ruled that while journalistic endeavour is explicitly exempt, commercial search engines are not - and have apparently been doing it wrong for almost 20 years without anyone noticing.

Crucially (according to The Guardian), Google had "explicitly opted out of being described as a "media" company", which would apparently have allowed it the protection of "journalistic purposes".

Commercial search engines doing business in EU countries will now have to deal with any complaints relating to "personality rights". Note that results can still be returned for other search terms that appear on the same indexed page and do not identify the complainant.

But the search engines may decide that it is prudent to refer all complaints to the data protection agency of the originating country for a decision - there are 28 different EU countries with separate legal systems, and no company would want to leave themselves open to being sued for getting it wrong.

"This one will run and run."



 10:59 am on May 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

"This one will run and run."

Like with monopoly, abortion and death penalty, where societies struggle to find an equilibrium as they move forward, dealing with the immense acquired power of search engines (a comparatively recent phenomenon) is a discussion in its infancy.

The current court judgement, while specific to a privacy issue, is far more significant in a symbolic manner: it has started the ball rolling.


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