Search firms grapple with "mind-bogglingly impossible" court ruling

Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has reportedly received requests to exclude links from its search results following the landmark European ruling on Tuesday that the company can be asked not to display information that is old or irrelevant.

One of the requests came from a politician who wants to suppress links to news articles about him.

Google and Yahoo (YHOO) are analyzing how they're going to implement the decision amid fears that they're going to be inundated with requests. What doesn't help is that the court ruling doesn't provide too many clear guidelines.

"It's just such a mind-bogglingly impossible decision," says Indiana University's Fred Cate. "Courts aren't responsible for the practical implications of rulings but this really staggers the imagination."

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Comments (17)
  • synchrogeddon
    , contributor
    Comments (392) | Send Message
    Where can I send my request?
    15 May 2014, 05:07 AM Reply Like
  • wil3714
    , contributor
    Comments (2367) | Send Message
    Goog sells peoples profiles shame
    15 May 2014, 05:16 AM Reply Like
  • WaveRider007
    , contributor
    Comments (650) | Send Message
    It really comes down to the fact that you are treated as data not a person anymore. Google will sell you ads to fix your credit, but doesn't even know if the data is valid. They just don't want to spend the money to remove links since there would be no revenue involved. They are too busy giving the information (true or false) to Big Bro which leaves the burden of proof upon the person. In our increasingly automated world, people are just becoming numbers in the cloud, while individual rights like this are ignored, even if a person's social/financial life is affected.
    15 May 2014, 08:37 AM Reply Like
  • Storm Warning
    , contributor
    Comments (175) | Send Message
    "Mind-bogglingly impossible" - What a joke!


    Wait a minute...
    I'll buy a quantum computer, index the entire universe and do all kinds of things no one ever imagined before!...
    No wait, I'll get everyone on the planet to upload all their photos to my web site and then I'll create a massive global facial identification database!


    No, those are not impossible! But searching back through the index, which I do all day, every day, and trimming a little stream out when I find it, that's difficult!?
    15 May 2014, 07:21 AM Reply Like
  • keu4bike
    , contributor
    Comments (459) | Send Message


    The challenge isn't removing the data so much as verifying that the data is about the individual requesting the removal and the individual is within their rights to request removal.


    My wife runs an on-line business. What's to stop me from requesting removal of every competing website from Google's index? Google has to verify that I'm who I say I am and that the information is (or in this case isn't) about me. That's the hard part.


    Facebook is a different story. If you have been tagged in a Facebook photo or post, it's unequivocal the information is about you. It's clear you are within your rights to request removal. At least with respect to cases where somebody is tagged, Facebook has no excuses.


    I'm not defending Google. I simply think Google faces serious implementation challenges.
    15 May 2014, 05:55 PM Reply Like
  • keu4bike
    , contributor
    Comments (459) | Send Message
    This boggles my mind and borders on censorship. I think I need to read the ruling myself before I over-react. That said, my initial thought is, if it's information you published and you control, then you can add the noindex tag to the page and Google already respects that. If it's not information you created and control, then I don't think it's yours to remove.


    Take the example of the politician asking for news articles to be removed. If you are the reporter who wrote those stories or the news site that published them, how are you going to respond to having your content removed from Google based on the politician's request? If you are a voter, how are you going to react to not being able to get full information about the candidate in the future? What about a police arrest records page or a speech the politician gave at the U.N.? Can the politician have that removed, too?


    It all comes down to who "owns" the information about you -- you, the author, the publisher, or the public? There are good and bad aspects of all ownership models and I don't think any one model serves both individual rights and the public interest (not to mention publisher profits.)


    At least as outlined by the synopsis, this is a very problematic ruling.
    15 May 2014, 09:25 AM Reply Like
  • JimmyBobby
    , contributor
    Comments (34) | Send Message
    Politicians should definitely be excluded. Anyone in public service who wants a job based on his/her views and his/her squeaky-clean past should not be able to scrub his or her image after the fact. This link-deleting thing sounded like a reasonably defensible idea until the politician consequence came into view (note the post above: what he said).
    15 May 2014, 09:59 AM Reply Like
  • Guy in Ithaca
    , contributor
    Comments (428) | Send Message
    This issue is far more complicated than just "censorship." A lot of information about people and otherwise on the internet is just flat out demonstrably erroneous. Do search engines and social networks have a basic right to disseminate this "information?"
    15 May 2014, 12:24 PM Reply Like
  • keu4bike
    , contributor
    Comments (459) | Send Message
    'This issue is far more complicated than just "censorship."'


    Potentially, the understatement of the year.


    I'm not really sure it's an internet issue.


    One can argue that all the issues existed 100 years before the internet and therefore, the internet changes nothing. The phrase "consider the source" certainly predates the internet. So do libel laws.


    You can also argue that the internet exacerbates all the issues by dramatically increasing information flow and accessibility.


    Both arguments have a lot of merit. Personally, I'm going to argue that what was right and wrong before the internet is right and wrong now, and we better figure out how to adapt/apply those definitions to the internet because the speed of information flow isn't going to decrease any time soon.
    15 May 2014, 01:14 PM Reply Like
  • toosmarttofail
    , contributor
    Comments (699) | Send Message
    None of this should surprise anyone, but investors didn't care who got destroyed as long as the profits kept rolling in. Now it's a human-rights violation to ignore requests to have information pulled.


    In the EU, even trutful information can be removed, while in the US, even defamation cannot. Something has to give. Any bets on which way the US will turn now?


    Google has ruined lives and no one cared until now. Perhaps investors will start thinking before they dump their money into a company that has enabled many to do evil, like "google-bombing" people.


    Hopefullhy the US will repeal Section 230 to bring their policies more in line with countries which respect reputtaion as a human right.
    15 May 2014, 02:19 PM Reply Like
  • keu4bike
    , contributor
    Comments (459) | Send Message


    I've heard the statement that "Google has ruined lives", but in the cases I am aware of, Google is not producing the offensive content, simply indexing it and making it easier to find. I think of Google as the card catalog rather than the banned book. If you have examples to the contrary, I'm interested in learning about them.


    I prefer the European perspective about ownership of personal information -- especially when it comes to Google monetizing said info about me. I don't think a 10% royalty is at all out of line.


    I agree that an accurate reputation is a human right. I believe people typically earn their reputations, so I won't say a positive reputation is a human right. I don't think the public interest is well served by allowing individuals to suppress accurate adverse information about themselves. After all, that information is part of an accurate reputation and the public is entitled to the whole picture.


    Yes, we have to have a discussion of information ownership and privacy in the USA. I hope we move toward but not to the European model. I think we're better off if we respect personal information better, but manage to balance the interests of the public and the publishers.
    15 May 2014, 06:12 PM Reply Like
  • toosmarttofail
    , contributor
    Comments (699) | Send Message
    "Google is not producing the offensive content." To say you "believe people earn their reputations" is to say you believe gossip and lies, or you just don't rock any boats so you don't have to worry about being targeted yourself.


    Spreading lies is as bad or worse than telling them. Hiding behind Section 230 doesn't make it right, and the EU won't let them hide behind Section 230.


    No, they just take everything written about someone, archive it, then serve it up out of context to everyone who matters in someone's life. Thanks to Section 230, if *one* person lies about you online, everyone else gets to repeat the lie for all eternity, or so they thought until this ruling came down. The US is way out of step with the rest of the world.


    Anyone who warned about Google's defamation and copyright issues was ignored. Now the EU is impossible to ignore. If Google and its investors bet wrong on the legal climate, too bad. My right to be free of defamation and invasions of my privacy trump Google's "right" to violate those rights.
    15 May 2014, 11:52 PM Reply Like
  • pearliephd
    , contributor
    Comments (29) | Send Message
    I am pleased that Google has been taken down a peg. They have been screwing around with me via the ads they flood me with all around my text. They have been clear they must have access to me through ads. They flooded me with sexual ads for women for months. I am 81 years old and married. The best I could do was to get them to stop using their crazy equations to send me ads. Now that they don't use my content in my emails, their ads are less offensive, but they are in every nook and cranny of my screen.


    I would like some help, if you are willing to extend it to a stranger. I would like to switch to another provider that is less arrogant. I'd like a service that provides some useful content and does so with little or no charge. Do you have a suggestion?
    15 May 2014, 08:47 PM Reply Like
  • Land of Milk and Honey
    , contributor
    Comments (9088) | Send Message


    There are other search engines. I haven't explored them, but hear several are decent.


    There's a book that was talked about with it's author on PBS. She went "off the grid", got away from being monitored and documented her adventure doing so. She talks about search engines.. I heard it on PBS within the last month.
    15 May 2014, 10:40 PM Reply Like
  • Seppo Sahrakorpi
    , contributor
    Comments (2146) | Send Message
    In general, you should avoid any free services provided by Google (Gmail, Google search, Android, Google Maps, Chrome browser etc), Facebook etc where the fundamental business model is to datamine your (private, semi-public, and public) information for the purpose of showing you ads.


    I use Microsoft's for my personal email. So no automated scanning of emails there and more privacy than w/ Gmail since the business models between these two companies (Google and MSFT) are fundamentally different.


    For internet searches I use primarily
    since 1) it does not use one's searches for any marketing purposes etc 2) it gives neutral search results (Google modifies search results to please the user, i.e. give people results they are likely to like. For example searching for GOP in Google will give different results for GOP and Democratic party members). In other words, with I avoid 'filter bubble':


    If does not work I use Microsoft's Bing. And then thirdly as a last resort Google search (which does a great job in search, one can not deny that).


    For maps I use Microsoft's Bing maps (which are based on Nokia's HERE maps):


    And my cell phone is not an Android phone, rather than Nokia Lumia Windows Phone.


    For web browsing I use Mozilla FireFox:


    Hope this helps.
    15 May 2014, 11:08 PM Reply Like
  • gmmpa
    , contributor
    Comments (679) | Send Message
    Government and Internet should never be used in the same article. The words should be mutually exclusive. The Internet should belong to the people of the world without condition, without control by anyone, without censorship, without regulation or taxation. PERIOD!!!
    16 May 2014, 08:37 AM Reply Like
  • pearliephd
    , contributor
    Comments (29) | Send Message
    Thank you for your help with search engines, etc. I will pursue your suggestions.
    18 May 2014, 09:49 AM Reply Like
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