And the internet is…

by on May 13, 2014 at 8:45 pm in Law, Web/Tech | Permalink

Mario Costeja González, the Spanish national who brought the complaint, said it was “not going to be a big problem for Google” because the ruling only required it to remove irrelevant information.

That is from the FT story, note that the scope and applicability of this new ruling does still remain up for grabs.

Phill May 13, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Obviously that statement is silly and ignorant but ultimately I have faith in the cream of the innovation crop’s capacity for figuring this one out.

I’ll take a little less profitable tech sector over being preyed for my demographic information.

dan1111 May 14, 2014 at 2:41 am

One way Google et. al. can “figure this out” is by closing down their European presence.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 3:41 am

You know, it is interesting listening to German and Swiss editorial opinions about this decision. The Handelsblatt (Germany’s not quite equivalent to the WSJ or Financial Times), for example, fully supports this decision.

In other words, if google cannot meet the needs of its users in such countries as Germany or Switzerland, then google going away is a completely acceptable result. One showing that the rule of law works for the citizens of those democracies, by the way – a point made by the non-EU Swiss editorial position. And that a right to be forgotten is a necessary component of ensuring privacy, even if in the opinion of the Handelsblatt, this decision is merely a good first step, with considerably more work still required.

Much the same way that if a food company is unable to supply food that complies with the laws regarding purity or labelling, it too is more than welcome to stop breaking the law. No one will care that it is unable to sell its food, nor will anyone cry in that the poor company’s CEO will have a harder time getting a bonus.

And such a company leaving the market? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out – Tschüssss

(This completely leaves aside the question of whether Germany or Switzerland want willing participants in NSA programs making money inside their borders.)

dan1111 May 14, 2014 at 8:04 am

I didn’t mean Google leaving the market, just Google not having any corporate presence in the EU. They would remain the dominant search engine in Europe.

The only way the magnificent 27 would be able to stop this would be to implement the European equivalent of China’s Great Firewall. They don’t have the stomach for that. They aren’t that committed to covering up the truth about some Spaniard’s house foreclosure.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 9:10 am

‘just Google not having any corporate presence in the EU’

Threy ould lose their Irish tax benefits –

‘The double Irish arrangement is a tax avoidance strategy that multinational corporations use to lower their corporate tax liability. The strategy uses payments between related entities in a corporate structure to shift income from a higher-tax country to a lower-tax country. It relies on the fact that Irish tax law does not include US transfer pricing rules.[1] Specifically, Ireland uses territorial taxation, and hence does not levy taxes on income booked at subsidiaries of Irish companies that are outside of the state. In the late 1980s, Apple Inc. was among the pioneers in creating this tax structure’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Irish_arrangement

Google loves being in EU member Ireland (where the court decision is also binding) – otherwise, it would have to pay much more in U.S. taxes.

And how is google responding to recent American attempts to close this style of loophole? By doing this – ‘Companies such as Google, Oracle and FedEx are declaring fewer of their ongoing offshore subsidiaries in their public financial filings, which has the effect of reducing visibility of entities declared in known tax havens.’

That’s right – what is good for google in terms of hiding information from a broader public and government agencies is exactly what google decries as ‘censorship’ when talking about personal data.

dan1111 May 14, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Equating the way Google does its financial reporting with government censorship is beyond silly. The two have nothing in common.

Google is legitimately open to criticism on a number of fronts. But none of the points you raise have anything to do with the current issue, which is the stupid, idiotic, indefensible, boneheaded European court ruling that it might be illegal in some cases to publish a link to a publicly available news article. That makes no sense, it damages speech rights, and it is unworkable from a technical point of view.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm

‘Equating the way Google does its financial reporting with government censorship is beyond silly.’

I didn’t. I equated what google does hiding its financial information to what it does with the information from citizens.

‘That makes no sense, it damages speech rights, and it is unworkable from a technical point of view.’

Oddly, google seems to do pretty well when it comes to filtering child pornography. Which is a case of speech that very few people defend, even if the EU is considerably more liberal in this area than the U.S.

In Germany, pictures of naked children are not considered child pornography per se, for example. One is welcome to disagree, of course, but considering the number of Germans that have pictures of their kids running around naked at the age of 3 or 4 or 5, even the justice minister of the current German government had to reassure voters that any German attempt to criminalize naked pictures of children would in no way lead to German parents being arrested. Unlike what happened in Fairfax County, where I grew up, in a case concerning a photographer whose taken away due to her work on “Water Babies” – a case google seems to provide no information on (unsurprising, considering that it likely occurred in the later 1980s).

andrew' May 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm

NSA will be sad face

Mark Thorson May 13, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Google left China because of governmental restrictions on what they could show in search results. Now they’ll have to leave the EU. Either they’ll spin off a separate company that is compliant with local governments, or Baidu will soon be the search engine of choice in the EU.

Brad May 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm

The ruling is insane, the newspaper that actually reported the bankruptcy can keep it, but Google has to remove all links to the newspaper article.

Anon. May 14, 2014 at 6:29 am

Seriously, what the fuck were they thinking?

Michael Stack May 13, 2014 at 9:35 pm

FYI here is the cached version of the FT article from Google:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F3324b122-da79-11e3-a448-00144feabdc0.html&oq=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F3324b122-da79-11e3-a448-00144feabdc0.html&gs_l=hp.3..0j0i20j0l2.838.2581.0.3559.8.8.0.0.0.0.215.932.0j5j1.6.0.ccolh…2…1.1.43.psy-ab..3.5.786.0.MPQXhuKYibw&pbx=1#axzz31eKSBdBl

Michael Stack May 13, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Hopefully MR supports markup (use this in case the previous link is broken):

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F3324b122-da79-11e3-a448-00144feabdc0.html&oq=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F3324b122-da79-11e3-a448-00144feabdc0.html&gs_l=hp.3..0j0i20j0l2.838.2581.0.3559.8.8.0.0.0.0.215.932.0j5j1.6.0.ccolh…2…1.1.43.psy-ab..3.5.786.0.MPQXhuKYibw&pbx=1#axzz31eKSBdBl

prior_approval May 13, 2014 at 11:46 pm

This web site is clearly in compliance with somebody’s laws to prevent you from posting a link against the will of its owner.

prior_approval May 13, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Having to comply with data protection laws is the end of google in the EU? Strangely enough, google was already stangled to death by German laws forbidding it from posting links to Nazi/neo-nazi material – no safe harbor provisions for google in German law. Google must not only do its best to filter such material on its own, it must also essentially instantly comply with any government request to remove illegal material. There is no slippery slope argument in Germany when it comes to freedom of expression in American terms in this area – followers of Nazi ideology have already demonstrated what such beliefs mean in practice.

Obviously, google left Germany (and other European countries with similar laws) around a decade ago, due to the terrible burden of being forced to comply with a nation’s laws, instead of having the laws rewritten or just ignoring them.

Cahokia May 14, 2014 at 12:27 am

“Strangely enough, google was already stangled to death by German laws forbidding it from posting links to Nazi/neo-nazi material – no safe harbor provisions for google in German law. Google must not only do its best to filter such material on its own, it must also essentially instantly comply with any government request to remove illegal material. There is no slippery slope argument in Germany when it comes to freedom of expression in American terms in this area – followers of Nazi ideology have already demonstrated what such beliefs mean in practice.”

Do you favor similar restrictions on Marxist-Leninist and radical leftist material?

My answer is – I hope not. Germany’s laws – and those of other Western nations proscribing radical right-wing groups and so-called hate speech – are anti-liberal and should be abolished.

The only thing shielding the U.S. from restrictive hate speech laws drafted by Cass Sunstein is the Bill of Rights.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 1:36 am

I’m American – I believe completely in what the First Amendment represents in terms of human progress. The only reason that I don’t extend my normal absolutism in this area to Germany is more pragmatic than anything else. That pragmatism being based on two things –

One, we already know what happens when Nazi ideology is put into practice in Germany. No reason to create ‘what-if’ scenarios when followers of Nazi ideology gain power – it is a part of the historical record

Two, nobody has any interest in seeing Nazis return to power, leading to another total war (at least on the part of the Nazis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_War_speech), against a genocidal opponent.

‘Do you favor similar restrictions on Marxist-Leninist and radical leftist material?’

As an American, of course not. However, you are missing how this is viewed in a German framework, between ‘Menschenwürde’ and ‘Menschenverachtung’ – call it between human dignity, a concept worthy of defending, and a word almost impossible to translate, though the examples of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are all exemplars of leaders that demonstrate what ‘Menschenverachtung’ means in practice.

In Germany, any material advocating violent overthrow of the current democratic order is illegal, for example – and yes, German law bans those parties that have no concern at all for human dignity (the KPD – German Communist Party – was banned in 1956 in West Germany)

‘Germany’s laws – and those of other Western nations proscribing radical right-wing groups and so-called hate speech – are anti-liberal and should be abolished.’

See point two above in terms of Germany. It is not a theoretical discusssion in Germany, after all – the results of the last time the Nazis were still in power are not exactly hidden or unknown. And though one may quibble about those other European countries, the ones that were subjected to Nazi rule also are basing their laws on fairly recent experience, and not some theoretical framework.

BC May 14, 2014 at 6:54 am

Under the logic of the ECJ ruling, there is a “right to be forgotten”. So, not only can’t we consider the Nazis’ past, google should be required to censor any links to descriptions of it, like the wikipedia link that you provided.

Finch May 14, 2014 at 8:10 am

At the risk of feeding the troll, I am perfectly happy with moderately illiberal measures being used to suppress yet another return to aggressive tyranny in Germany.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 9:21 am

‘there is a “right to be forgotten”’

Sure – in terms of public links on an Internet search engire. Books, newspapers, court records, police files – all still perfectly fine, just like they were before the invention of the Internet.

In other words, the ‘right to be forgotten’ is seen as an equivalent Internet right which already exists. Namely, the right to be left alone unless someone has a purpose/need for information. For example, mere curiousity is insufficient grounds to go to the local Rathaus in Germany, and ask for property records. You may disagree with this, but since it is extremely unlikely you are a German citizen, no one here cares.

Much like no one here much cares what google thinks when invading their privacy. And yes, an objection to Streetview by my wife has been received and acted on by google – not that I am naive enough to believe that google actually deleted the data, or it won’t be provided to the proper (likely American) authorities when presented with a secret warrant that includes a gag order.

dan1111 May 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

@p_a, no–the link in question was a link to a news article. The same kind of content that exists in print, and that one could go and look up in historical records on Microfilm. What has always been legal is now banned on the internet.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm

‘the link in question was a link to a news article’

What part of my comment ‘Books, newspapers, court records, police files’ wasn’t clear?

‘The same kind of content that exists in print, and that one could go and look up in historical records on Microfilm. What has always been legal is now banned on the internet.’

Sure – the same way that the Ordnungsamt where I live is still – intentionally – not computerized. If I am arrested at 3am, a Beamte will have to go to the office after being specially called in, pull my paper file, and then inform the police about my status as a foreigner. This is intentional, by the way – Germans already have experience with government (s, when one includes East Germany) without any barriers to what that government considers maximum efficiency.

Tracy W May 14, 2014 at 9:14 am

One, we already know what happens when Nazi ideology is put into practice in Germany. No reason to create ‘what-if’ scenarios when followers of Nazi ideology gain power – it is a part of the historical record

Yes, and despite this, the Germans are still trying censorship, a favourite tool of the Nazis. A German holocaust denier has reported that when the German government tried to censor his documents that “…our visitor count has jumped 50%, and our document count has nearly tripled.”
http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/german/der-spiegel-online/interview-961018.html

And Austria has seen a far-right party get elected to power.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 9:28 am

One that is extremely careful – at least in public – to distance itself from actual Nazi ideology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_Freedom_Party

Such as a book I saw in Salzburg in the winter of 1993/94 or so, saying that Jörg Haider was the only thing keeping Austria from being overrun by real Nazis – or some such equally spurious claim. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jörg_Haider

Tracy W May 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

Note how you qualify this as “at least in public”.

Now, let’s imagine ourselves in the place of a reasonably-politically astute Austrian who thinks that the Nazis got a lot of things right. Given that it’s illegal to express such views in Austria, do you think that this politically-astute hypothetical person will openly state their objective when setting up a political party? Or would they distance themselves publicly, and, on obtaining power, only move cautiously towards setting up their final objective?
The Wikipedia link you cite provides this story: “The incident started when Haider proposed in parliament to require able-bodied welfare recipients to accept public service work assignments. Following this proposal, an SPÖ delegate shouted that the proposal was akin to the forced labour of the Third Reich, which led Haider to retort; “at least in the Third Reich there was a decent employment policy, which is more than can be said for what your government in Vienna can manage.” Haider later apologized and distanced himself from his remark.”
That’s behaviour consistent with someone whose private thoughts are at odds with what they generally let themselves say.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 11:04 am

‘Given that it’s illegal to express such views in Austria, do you think that this politically-astute hypothetical person will openly state their objective when setting up a political party?’

You mean a democratic government in nations that have already experienced the full range of Nazi ideology have learned to defend themselves, compared to their previous failure? Congratulations are in order, considering how the first failure turned out. I grew up next to a D-Day veteran, who was later buried at Arlington Cemetary, and one grandfather was an engineer on tankers for Mobil Oil, who crossed the Atlantic numerous times durting WWII.

‘Or would they distance themselves publicly, and, on obtaining power, only move cautiously towards setting up their final objective?’

The FPÖ has had problems – it seems as if a charismatic leader is also important. Including the fact that the BZO (being founded by Haider associates) seems to actually be more ‘moderate.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_for_the_Future_of_Austria

Austrian politics are not really an interest of mine – but then, it was Germany that suffered much more than the Austrians under the Nazis, and it is Germans who unreservedly acknowledge their crimes, unlike the poor, hapless ‘conquered’ Austrians.

We may be talking past each other a bit – as an American, I think everyone should be allowed to fully express their opinions in public, so as to recognize what others believe.

Germans, who already know what Nazis believe and do, feel no need to listen to them again. I respect their position, based as it is on historical experience – including the firebombing of multiple cities by the Allies. And I have no doubt that such firebombings resulted from the actions of the Nazis (while also believing that what was done to Dresden was a war crime by Bomber Harris and his various associates- though not in a manner David Irving would agree with – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Irving ) Germans tend to share my framework – war crimes are the inevitable result of waging war, and anyone starting a war is responsible for what happens, even when it is the opponent committing the war crimes. (In other words, want to avoid the effects of war? Don’t start one.)

The difference in this discussion is that as an American, my belief that something like the KKK has every right to present itself in public in the U.S., being a political force that was never able to implement its various beliefs beyond individual (though arguably systemic) actions means they still have a right to participate in public debate without legal censure. Though with all the public scorn which they have earned, which is the strength of the First Amendment, to demonstrate what a pathetic minority those racist fanatics are. Though it must be noted, bombing a church and killing four girls revealed more about the KKK than any of its opponents could ever adequately express in public debate to that point.

Whereas the Nazis were able to kill multiple millions, intentionally, and caused the deaths of tens of millions more, again as part of its intentional policy to expand the Reich. It isn’t as if Germans aren’t deeply concerned about any reappearance of this ideology, considering its costs the last time it held power.

Tracy W May 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm

You mean a democratic government in nations that have already experienced the full range of Nazi ideology have learned to defend themselves, compared to their previous failure? –

Electing a guy who makes positive comparisons to the Nazis doesn’t exactly strike me as a good example of defending yourself, given all the democratic countries which don’t do this without resorting to extensive government censorship.
Not to mention there are numerous other ways of defending a system of government, particularly setting up the structure so as to require a government to have support across a majority of the population, unlike the Weimar Republic, where Hitler got elected with only a large minority of support, then appointed Chancellor and then was able to, despite his limited democratic support, to legally overturn the rest of the government.

Germans, who already know what Nazis believe and do, feel no need to listen to them again.

The German government appears to disagree with you, given how vigorously it tries to stop Germans from listening to such things. And, despite their efforts, there are indeed neo-Nazis in Germany.

You talk about the motivation of the Germans at length, but I am not disputing their motivations, or the strength of their desires, I am disputing the effectiveness of censorship at achieving their stated aims. This is quite a different thing. Censorship is a bad in and of itself, if you’re saying it should be used to prevent a greater evil you should be providing some pretty good evidence that it actually is doing that job. You haven’t even attempted that.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm

‘I am disputing the effectiveness of censorship at achieving their stated aims. This is quite a different thing. Censorship is a bad in and of itself, if you’re saying it should be used to prevent a greater evil you should be providing some pretty good evidence that it actually is doing that job. You haven’t even attempted that.’

The Germans have managed to overcome two totalitarian systems within their own nation – to argue that Germany has not achieved the stated aim of remaining a democratic society seems to be a bit ‘daneben,’ to use a German expression.

We simply disagree when it comes to recent German history, and the effectiveness of not allowing Nazis to participate in politics since 1945 (or communists in West Germany since 1956).

Results should speak for themselves.

Tracy W May 15, 2014 at 5:52 am

PriorApproval:

I am surprised to tell me that we disagree when it comes to recent German history. What factual statement have I made that you have disagreed with? You yourself provided the link to Austria’s Haider making a positive comparison with the Nazis.

I do agree with you that results should speak for themselves, and that’s *exactly* why I’m saying that you’re wrong to defend current German censorship.

Computer Scientist May 14, 2014 at 5:31 am

The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 6:44 am

Sure it does – but then, if I were to try to post any link here to a famous torrent site, the comment will get disappeared (try it yourself – see how far a pirate gets).

Of course, a comment section is not the Internet. And neither is google.

But why do you think that this web site does not allow linking the 3d printing physibles section of that famous torrent site?

And do you honestly think (voluntary compliance with robots.txt restrictions aside) that google is not filtering information? Though as little as possible, of course, as noted in the conclusion from an article in The Register –

‘Google has long argued that such erasure of data amounted to censorship. But cynics may note it could also hit the company’s bottom line.’ http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/13/google_can_be_told_to_delete_sensitive_data_from_its_search_results_rules_top_eu_court/

dan1111 May 14, 2014 at 8:13 am

A privately owned website voluntarily chooses not to post links to certain material.

The government forbids Google to post links to certain material.

You really do not see the difference? Any web publisher, including Google, can filter content in any way it wants. Google search, of course, is just a big fancy filter. The coercion is the problem.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 9:42 am

‘You really do not see the difference?’

Of course – private censorship is much more effective. This web site also blocked New Yorker links, until recently. I have no interest in discovering what other web sites are silently blocked here, though I know several that earn prompt removal after posting.

The New Yorker blocking was a very coincidental discovery, and one rectified fairly quickly after it was pointed out that this web site was blocking links to the New Yorker. Blocking for reasons that cannot conceivably apply to that torrent site, one should note. But considering the most likely reason why the New Yorker links were not allowed here, for anyone interested, start searching for sources of factual information concerning notable and decades long patrons of the GMU Foundation.

A discussion here, including information how long it took for disappearing New Yorker links to again be allowed here (about 14 hours, by the timing of the comments) – http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/02/the-life-of-a-western-economist-in-china.html

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

‘can filter content in any way it wants’

See above concerning how google et al are reacting to having their double Irish arrangement being made public.

Why yes, by filtering public information. Which apparently is only possible when it benefits google, but not when other people insist they have the same rights as google when it comes to having information made public.

Tracy W May 14, 2014 at 8:34 am

There is no slippery slope argument in Germany when it comes to freedom of expression in American terms in this area – followers of Nazi ideology have already demonstrated what such beliefs mean in practice.

Yes, the Nazis are a sad but effective example supporting the importance of protecting freedom of expression, and the deadly dangers of infringing upon it.

I see "great" reviews May 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Just 4 posts to get to the nazis…

A B May 14, 2014 at 6:01 am

I think this should go much *much* further: Reduce the instant availability of all sorts of information about people.

Throughout all of human history, people have been able to escape embarrassing details of their past that didn’t involve especially criminal or notorious activity. They’d either fade away with time or you could move to a different village and start over. Do we really have the right to take that away from everyone? Quantitative changes have effected *qualitative* changes which should be reversed.

brad May 14, 2014 at 8:51 am

Changing your name is a lot less traumatic than changing villages was 300 years ago, and it will shield you from being trivially “googled”. There’s your least restrictive means, but since mainland Europeans don’t care at all about free speech they have no such doctrine.

Axa May 14, 2014 at 7:51 am

Sadly the FT article provides no background on how Google indexes websites. This is how it works:

http://answers.stanford.edu/solution/i-do-not-want-my-web-page-indexed-google

So, a little line of HTML code makes the difference for the data to remain private or crawled, indexed and shared with the rest of the world by Google. I’m sure my bank’s internet website blocks Googlebot. Perhaps other servers containing personal information should also block Googlebot.

Problem is that search engine companies never declare to the public/webmasters that unless you block the indexing bots manually, the website will be indexed and shown in search results. One of the biggest disclaimers in any site that you use as a customer or where your data is stored should be “This site allows indexing bots to work that will make your info public to anyone that uses any search engine”.

The Court’s press release: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-05/cp140070en.pdf

What I don’t understand is why the newspaper La Vanguardia got away with no problems while Google was affected since both were responsible of making the private data available. Mr. Costeja requested to La Vanguardia to “use certain tools made available by search engines in order to protect the data.” —-> blocking indexing bots. The court said La Vanguardia was OK keeping the data public, while Google should erase the link from the index.

Axa May 14, 2014 at 8:01 am

People at “La Vanguardia” are such a bunch of cynics. They are “forgetting” that Mr. Costeja also presented a complaint against them for the very same privacy issue. The story is told as Spanish citizen defeats Google. http://www.lavanguardia.com/tecnologia/internet/20140514/54407896513/mario-costeja-google.html

Finch May 14, 2014 at 8:06 am

I think you’re last paragraph gets at the technical side of the problem. Other companies are allowed to put this information on the web, but not Google.

Your suggestion requires the original host company (in this case a newspaper) cooperate with Google, but the courts don’t seem to be asking for that.

I sort of understand the desire to have some things forgotten, but it’s one thing when you’re talking about youthful indiscretion, and quite another when you’re talking about a bankruptcy that was reported in a newspaper. That seems like the sort of thing we don’t want forgotten.

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 9:34 am

I dunno about the bankruptcy; we [1] have deliberately enacted laws that wipe them out after 7 years.

I can kinda-sorta see how/why you would apply it to Google and other search engines, since they are the master index builders. As a comparison, it doesn’t really matter if the physical/microfiche copy of the newspaper talks about my now-expunged criminal record if it can’t be found in any indexed archive. No one is going to read every newspaper wherever I’ve lived to find out these things. (Taking this to its conclusion, the newspaper should have to remove the article from its own search engine, even if it lets the article remain for people who have other ways to navigate to it.)

I can also draw a distinction between the newspaper and Google: the newspaper published the information lawfully *at the time*, but Google came by later. NB: I’m not sure this distinction makes a difference, and who knows what other pressure it will come under later. For example, if Google publishes this news story now on its own servers, would it have to remove it later?

[1] “we” meaning the US; I realize the case is in Europe. Does Europe wipe out bankruptcy records like the US does? The US is supposedly one of the easiest places in the world for a citizen to declare bankruptcy.

Finch May 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

It raises the question of where exactly you should draw the line. College drinking? Nudity or sex? Bankruptcy? Arrest? Conviction? Is there some level of charge that you don’t want to forget? Did the court lay that out?

The major argument I see for implementing the law through Google and not through the actual producers and owners of the information is efficiency. Choking off Google is easier and works better than trying to enforce some policy on a million little web sites.

Also, as I mention below, it would not be the first time a European court acted in a biased manner to favor a domestic firm.

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

Line-drawing happens all the time. We don’t want to fall into Loki’s Wager there.

If Google isn’t allowed to index it but Italian search engines are (does Italy have such a thing?), then we simply have naked protectionism going on.

The question of bankruptcy set my mind thinking about credit reporting agencies. There are all sorts of true facts that they are required to “forget.” They are in a better place to do that forgetting since they have those facts segmented in a certain way and have for a long time.

I’ll agree that the ruling would be much easier to understand if the newspaper was required to take down its story, and then other people would gradually forget them. (Some people say “the Internet never forgets” but the Internet forgets a lot of things if no one thinks they are important.)

But don’t forget Google and Wayback already have ways of dealing with information that they are not supposed to be sharing with others (copyrighted works, child porn, &c &c) that they have cached. If there is a government agency in charge of issuing these orders, and they issue demands for individual pages to be removed from indexes, that’s something quite technically possible.

Although it can be putting a burden on the search engines if they need to maintain, indefinitely, an ever-growing large list of URLs that they can never index. That brings me back to thinking that the only fair way to apply this law would be to say that no one can index it, including the primary source, who would have to put it into its robots.txt as long as it maintains the article.

Two more questions I have from that last paragraph:

1. What if the newspaper changes its URL, and the story moves somewhere new? Who is responsible?

2. Putting a bunch of things in the robots.txt that sites aren’t allowed to index is getting into territory of putting a giant sign next to a secret hideout saying “DO NOT LOOK HERE.” In practice I bet it would work just fine, since the whole point is to get off of indexes, but in theory the irony is palpable.

Axa May 14, 2014 at 10:19 am

The court’s press release is not clear enough to know if the problem was created by “Autocomplete”. An example, for Google is great business if you put “vacation” and Google fills in “caribbean cruise” and you end clicking a “Royal Caribbean” on the paid/suggested links section. They make money out of that. I wonder if when someone put Mario Costeja in the search window, Autocomplete filled in desahucio, quiebra/bankrupticy. Someone needs to make Autocomplete behave in a better way, either by manual corrections like the one they did for Mario Costeja or put more code lines that avoid these problems when indexing.

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 10:29 am

Not sure if that’s the issue, but FWIW search engines do manually tinker with autocomplete. When not at work try some auto-complete on racial epithets, for example.

(Porn search engines say the number 1 term searched for is “rape” and many of them deliberately provide no results for this. I hope you will pardon me for not verifying this at the moment.)

Finch May 14, 2014 at 10:33 am

> Loki’s Wager

Will all the Avengers show up, or will it just be Thor? And why is Spider-Man never around?

Finch May 14, 2014 at 10:36 am

Is there a mechanism in HTML for putting in an expiry date? I.e., index before May 14 2017, but not after? I know you have some ability to offer different directives to different search engines…

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

I don’t think robots.txt has any reference to times or dates. HTTP headers certainly do, with a variety of ways of saying when things expire.[1] This is usually done for performance reasons, not compliance reasons. It would be a big change if search engines had to forget about things after they expire, because right now webmasters sometimes have things expire just because they want you to check out any updates.

[1] https://devcenter.heroku.com/articles/increasing-application-performance-with-http-cache-headers#http-cache-headers

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

In the standard universe (Earth-616), Spider-Man being an Avenger is an abomination. He doesn’t follow orders well and it never should have happened.

As far as the movie universe (Earth-199999) is concerned, Spider-Man doesn’t exist because Sony owns the movie rights.

Finch May 14, 2014 at 11:06 am

Google must be doing something about the pagerank of aging html, if only because I’m not overwhelmed by dead links. That was a common problem in earlier search engines. They might not be completely dropping it. But it might be reasonable to drop a page if no new, legitimate link to it had been created in several years.

Regarding Spider-Man, some things are better left unsaid.

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Google handles dead links directly: they hit every page in their index regularly, at a minimum weekly IIRC. If the page is gone it will disappear from Google soon (but not immediately; they do have a grace period before they hide the result, and even later before they decide to permanently forget about it).

. . .

‘Nuff said.

Bill Harshaw May 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

How about the NYTimes story today, which includes facts from the original story. Will Google have to exclude the story from its index as well?

Finch May 14, 2014 at 8:51 am

If you view this as a tariff and not a matter of rights and information, you might find it more coherent.

andy May 14, 2014 at 10:40 am

In a sense I think we are going to have to live with this. The people would have just to live with the fact, that most things will not be forgotten. People will have to start forgiving instead of forgetting. In a sense this is a libertarian thing – are your rights infringed upon by somebody having bad opinion on you..

Dan Weber May 14, 2014 at 11:05 am

There is something to the fact that if everyone has something bad out there, then we are all on even footing. (I have heard some security advocates say that best thing the government could do about Social Security Number fraud is to just publish a list of everyone’s SSN. It makes the problem go away because absolutely no one will treat is a secret number only you could know.)

I don’t think it would actually work, though. Some bad things are worse than others.

Giving your kids really distinctive names might turn out to be the bad idea. There are a few Dan Weber’s out there, some of them doing web development work, so their results always slosh into mine. Gives me good plausible deniability.

Bill Harshaw May 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Email addresses are mostly public, and an address uniquely identifies a person (or a group of people) amongst the 7 billion people in the world.

Dean May 14, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Ironically, Mario Costeja González is now world-famous for having had his house foreclosed on.

prior_approval May 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm

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