Apparently they are, even beyond prioritising encrypted communications in their search results. Google take action, and they are encouraging you to be a part of this.

Love it… a mad-hatters party and Google invited themselves 😉

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The RTBF (Right to be forgotten) is a hot topic following the Spanish ruling against Google. The fact is that European Google must first evaluate and remove if considered reasonable search results that threaten the requester’s right to personal privacy. It is claimed to be a blow to Freedom of Speech. Google has already received 70,000 requests and receives on average 1000 requests each day! In U.K. claims are being made that it is in conflict with s.32 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

There is a good write-up on discussions following the ruling at: Debate Write-Up: Rewriting History.

Christopher Graham the Information Commissioner gives a good explanation of what it really means, but unfortunately it is lost in the panicked crys of other participants in the debate.

It is very straight-forward: There is claimed to be a the conflict between the Freedom of Speech and Personal Privacy, i.e. in this case the RTBF. However there is not, it is as Graham states:

1) There are two types of parties here: a) the data controller, and b) the journalist;
2) The ruling pertains to the data controller the RTBF, not journalists, so in UK for example, this does not impact s.32 of the Data Protection Act;
3) Just that the search results are not returned by the search engine of the data controller, does not mean that the data does not exist. It is just that is is not searchable;
4) This information pertaining to an individual is still on the website of the newspapers, and should be searchable directly on the website.

So this cannot be likened to ‘burning of books’ or ‘re-writing history’ as in George Orwell’s 1984. It basically means that if, for example an individual defrauded the Inland Revenue 10 years ago:

    – If you search for this person by name, it will not return this name in the result.
    – However if you search for ‘Inland Revenue fraud’ it could return this person’s name in one of the related articles.

What I see is that the main challenge is from a technical perspective. At the moment the onus is on the data controllers to receive requests, to decide if the requester has a valid request for removal from their search engines. However, I believe that this should be done as default by websites of newspapers. This could be difficult because on a technical level it is only possible, that I am aware of today, to exclude whole webpages from Google, not names or specific words.

I took this from Panopticon Blog concerning the outcome of the Google order. Now what if the rights of the Swedish citizen was to be escalated to the EU courts, would the outcome be the same?

“The first question for the CJEU was whether Google was a data controller for the purposes of Directive 95/46. Going against the opinion of the Advocate General (see earlier post), the Court held that the collation, retrieval, storage, organisation and disclosure of data undertaken by a search engine when a search is performed amounted to “processing” within the meaning of the Directive; and that as Google determined the purpose and means of that processing, it was indeed the controller. This is so regardless of the fact that such data is already published on the internet and is not altered by Google in any way.

The Court went on to find that the activity of search engines makes it easy for any internet user to obtain a structured overview of the information available about an individual thereby enabling them to establish a detailed profile of that person involving a vast number of aspects of his private life. This entails a significant interference with rights to privacy and to data protection, which could not be justified by the economic interests of the search engine operator. In a further remark that will send shockwaves through many commercial operators providing search services, it was said that as a “general rule” the data subject’s rights in this regard will override “not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in finding that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name” (at paras 81 and 97).”

Google officesI love this, the EU Court has confirmed that we have the right to be forgotten. Google and other internet search engines face a new world where they must remove links to websites containing certain types of personal data when individuals ask them to do so. The European Union says you have “a right to be forgotten” digitally online. This is great news for every citizen of the EU, including our children!

Read more in English and Swedish.

In fact I wouldn’t use any email provider outside of the EU if you an EU resident. A recent court case concludes that you cannot expect privacy when using a third party to manage your email, i.e. it is likened to having an assistant who may open your mail for you.

There has been more written on this hack by David Kearn (a known propeller-head in identity management) in his blog Virtual Quill. Read what he has to say if you are interested.