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Thousands of Europeans Petition For Their 'Right To Be Forgotten' 224

The EU's new rule (the result of a court case published May 13) requiring that online businesses remove on request information that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" has struck a chord with more than 12,000 individuals, a number that's rising fast. Other search engines, ISPs, and firms are sure to follow, but the most prominent reaction to the decision thus far, and one that will probably influence all the ones to come, is Google's implementation of an online form that users can submit to request that information related to them be deleted. The Daily Mail reports that the EU ruling "has already been criticised after early indications that around 12 per cent of applications were related to paedophilia. A further 30 per cent concern fraud and 20 per cent were about people's arrests or convictions"; we mentioned earlier this month one pedophile's request for anonymity. As the First Post story linked above puts it, the requirement that sites scrub their data on request puts nternet companies in the position of having to interpret the court’s broad criteria for information meeting the mandate's definition of "forgettable," "as well as developing criteria for distinguishing public figures from private individuals." Do you favor opt-out permissions for reporting facts linked to individuals? What data or opinions about themselves should people not be able to suppress? (Note: Google's form has this disclaimer: "We're working to finalize our implementation of removal requests under European data protection law as soon as possible. In the meantime, please fill out the form below and we will notify you when we start processing your request." That finalization may take some time, since there are 28 data-protection agencies across the EU to harmonize.)
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Thousands of Europeans Petition For Their 'Right To Be Forgotten'

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  • Re:Every... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2014 @10:55AM (#47135675)

    Some years after a criminal finishes jail time, he has the right to be forgiven and reintegrated a s a normal citizen, just like he had done nothing at all. It has been like that in many European countries for decades if not centuries, it helps one-time criminals to get back to the life of an abiding citizen. This new regulation is applying this to the new situation that appeared with the Internet.

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @10:57AM (#47135683)

    What is with this obsession for using pedophiles to justify the erosion of rights and privacy? No, don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question.

    Pedophiles are no worse than rapists, murderers and other criminals that cause physical harm to others. In fact I would rate them as a lower threat than murderers. How come we consider pedophiles so reprehensible that we go out of our way to ruin their lives forever yet we don't think twice about doing the same for a murderers or serially violent criminals? Should I have the right to know if my neighbor was in jail for killing someone? Shouldn't I be aware that someone in my neighborhood was jailed for beating a man to within an inch of his life? They don't respect life any more than a pedophile.

    And the most idiotic aspect of registering sex offenders is we just lump everyone together. Sex offences can be everything from getting caught pissing on the bushes (your willy is hanging out), mooning someone (yes it is indecent exposure), a 16 y/o having consensual sex with an 18 y/o (statutory rape), right up to full blown violent 1978 "I spit on your grave" rape. So registry maps are full of useless noise.

    Lets take it a step further and also make public a list of people who have: been arrested for drug possession, burglary, prostitution, and assault. This way we can all live in fear of our neighbors. Sounds great right?

    I realize the EU is probably different than the US but every time this crap rolls around idiots start yammering about pedophiles and children.

  • Re:All I'll say... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @11:29AM (#47135821)

    That's all very well, but you're talking about someone whose life is being destroyed right now. Starting a slow process so no-one else will suffer a similar fate in a decade or two is great, but woefully inadequate for the problem at hand (to which some degree of solution should already be available in most western democracies, via some version of wrongful arrest law and some version of defamation law, both of which should be designed for exactly these kinds of circumstances).

    Perhaps the single most important argument for why defamation laws should exist at all is that once someone's reputation has been tainted, often no apology or correction can ever truly undo all the damage. This is also, IMHO, a strong argument for not allowing anyone to be named as a suspect or defendant in a criminal case prior to at least having them charged with something, or preferably having them properly convicted by a competent court.

    If the situation with the GP's friend really was as described, then neither the police nor the media were behaving in a neutral, acceptable way, and both should be dealt with accordingly. And then the individual's public record should quite rightly be cleansed and the unproven allegations "forgotten", which is the whole point of the European legal position we're talking about.

  • Re:All I'll say... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @11:31AM (#47135837) Homepage

    There should be a balancing test between the public interest in a (true) fact and the privacy interests involved in its disclosure. There is negative public interest in having lists of credit card or Social Security numbers being published like that: the only real purpose is for fraud. On the contrary, there is clear and strong public interest in having someone's past run-ins with the law being available -- so that others can make an informed evaluation whether they want to deal with the person in question. Europe seems to think that its citizenry is too stupid to make that kind of decision, and thus does not consider that there is public interest in making those facts available.

  • Re:All I'll say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @11:37AM (#47135861)

    And would that be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

    Because "Three years ago, Fred was charged with child sex offences" might be a true statement, but it's a very different statement to "Three years ago, Fred was charged with child sex offences, but was unanimously found not guilty by a jury after the person pressing the charges turned out to be his ex-wife's best friend, who was subsequently convicted of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice after evidence emerged that she had paid all three of the prosecution's other witnesses to make co-ordinated false accusations against Fred."

    I'm not sure anyone deserves to have long-past transgressions haunt them forever, even if they are reported factually. There are enough unwarranted prejudices in society, without someone struggling to get a job at 40 because the Internet never forgets that they were once cautioned for stealing a chocolate bar at the age of 14.

    Either way, merely "This is the truth, so I may speak it without taking any responsibility for the consequences" has always been a horribly dangerous principle to support. Context is everything when it comes to reputations, and never more so than in the Internet age where reputations can last forever and reach all around the world.

  • Re:All I'll say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @12:39PM (#47136181)

    On the contrary, there is clear and strong public interest in having someone's past run-ins with the law being available -- so that others can make an informed evaluation whether they want to deal with the person in question.

    Please define "run-in with the law."

    Here's the problem with your statement: loads of people are arrested every single day for stupid reasons and often without any real evidence of wrong-doing. Only some percentage of them are ultimately charged with a crime. And only an even smaller percentage are ever convincted.

    Supposedly, in the United States, there is a right against "double jeopardy" or being tried again for the same crime once exonerated. A legal corollary to that is that you can't be punished more than once for the same offense. That right exists precisely to prevent malicious prosecution that could keep coming back and harassing someone or even ruining their character through repeated abuse of the legal system... even without sufficient evidence for conviction. It is designed to require the State to present its case, have a speedy trial, and then let the person alone again if it can't prove wrong-doing, so they can get on with their lives. And yet what you're advocating is effectively a private version of this sort of harassment: regardless of the legal outcome, we should be suspicious of those who have had "run-ins with the law."

    We have media reports every day of people who are arrested and people who go to trial. Those initial bursts of media activity are usually the strongest. Unless it's a particularly gruesome or unusual trial, usually the media attention tapers off... and often we NEVER even hear about when the charges are dropped or the trial is stopped or the person is acquitted. If it does appear, it might be buried in a small short paragraph story, instead of the big headline that followed the arrest.

    Media coverage thus gives an inaccurate and often even completely false portrayal of people who have had "run-ins with the law." In years past, the media coverage would have been lost except in some archive, requiring someone to dig through old stacks of papers or microfilm. Nowadays, it is often available instantly with the typing of a few characters on a computer.

    There's a reason why we require people to swear an oath to tell "the whole truth" and not just "the truth." Even facts -- like person X was arrested or person Y went on trial -- can often be incredibly misleading without context of what happened later. So, even if you want to advocate that we should continue to be suspicious and punish those who have been CONVICTED of serious crimes after they have served their time (itself a questionable idea), there still is a legitimate interest in protecting the rights of those who were NOT convicted (or perhaps never even tried or even charged, for lack of evidence).

    "Run-ins with the law" are not themselves a crime, and people should not be punished or have their reputation ruined for them.

  • Re:All I'll say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marsu_k ( 701360 ) on Saturday May 31, 2014 @01:42PM (#47136691)

    I'm European and do think that privacy is very valuable. I also think the decision was utterly retarded, ripe for abuse and obviously made by people who have no idea about technology.

    So, what is Google supposed to erase from the web? An example is here [] - in Finnish, I'm sorry, but I'll try to paraphrase a bit (you can run it through the translation service of your choice, if you wish). A person approached Helsingin Sanomat, a major Finnish newspaper, offering to be interviewed about why he wants his info removed from the web. He had committed some felonies a decade ago. He felt that he had already served his punishment (given how lenient our sentencing is, he most certainly has) and wanted a fresh start.

    But the reporters dug a bit deeper into his life - turns out that there are ongoing court cases against him for both attempted fraud and fraud. After this was pointed out to him, he refused to be interviewed or his name associated with the article.

    In this case, it was the reporters who found out about this. But they had only a single person to process. Should Google themselves figure out individually which claims have merit? Or should Google just automatically censor everything on request (let's face it, that's what this really is)? And most importantly, Google does not host the content. If there is an issue with the content, shouldn't one contact the content provider?

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan