Google: Class search results as journalism so we can dodge Right To Be Forgotten

High Court hears hair-raising claim from ads behemoth


RTBF Trial Google is claiming that journalistic exemptions from data protection laws should apply to its search results, in the first ever trial of the so-called Right To Be Forgotten in the High Court of England and Wales.

A man who we are only permitted to name as NT1* is suing Google under the Data Protection Act for misuse of private information. NT1 is invoking an EU Court of Justice ruling from 2014. That established a legal right in EU law for individuals to demand that search results about them which are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive” are deleted from search engines.

NT1 wants Google to delete three search results about his criminal past, on the grounds that his conviction was almost 25 years ago and is spent under the Rehabiliation of Offenders Act 1974. He has already applied, unsuccessfully, to the national newspapers that published the original articles asking for those to be deleted.

“There is a strong public policy in favour of the rehabilitation of criminal offenders,” NT1’s lawyers told the court in a written submission. His lawyers also argued that news reports of NT1’s criminal conviction and sentencing in the 1990s are inaccurate.

For its part, Google said that section 32 of the Data Protection Act (originally passed to stop wrong’uns from abusing data protection laws to sue newspapers for doing their jobs) ought to apply to its search results, giving it immunity from the right to be forgotten. Even though the 2014 CJEU ruling specifically stated that processing personal data for journalistic purposes “does not appear to be [what happens] in the case of the processing carried out by the operator of a search engine,” Google is actively encouraging the High Court to grant it the same legal status as bona fide news publishing companies.

“It is submitted that the CJEU was not making any finding that the processing carried out by a search engine operator can never be for journalistic purposes,” said Google’s lawyers. “If, in a particular case, Google can rely upon the journalistic processing exemption contained in section 32 of [the Data Protection Act], it will be exempt from liability under the right to be forgotten.” “The concept of journalism in EU law is very broad,” continued Google’s barristers. “It encompasses activities such as the making available to the public of documents and information which are in the public domain.”

NT1’s legal team, led by barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC, was dismissive of this. Tomlinson told the court: “Of course Google isn’t an altruistic or public service [entity], it serves its own economic interest. It’s not in any sense a news or media organisation and doesn’t engage in anything that could be described as journalism.”

Tomlinson also hinted, in broad terms, at the circumstances of NT1’s company’s downfall: “The company didn’t collapse, although it ceased carrying on business as a result of various criticisms that were made of it.”

While we cannot name the company*, the court agreed that reporters could refer to it as Alpha.

Antony White QC, defending Google, said to Mr Justice Warby, the judge: “My lord, the defendant’s case is that for the purposes of the right to be forgotten, spent convictions are not a homogenous category. One important reason for this is that convictions do not always relate to the activities in the offender’s private life.”

He added: “This case is different in that the convictions arose not out of activities in NT1’s private life, but out of activities in his, at the time, very high profile business venture. And our submission will be that spent convictions relating to serious business malpractice, particularly involving businesses which target consumers and investors, are likely to be of continuing relevance, especially where the convicted person is still active in business.”

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be fooled by a new form of relay attack.

    Discovered and tested by researchers at NCC Group, the attack allows anyone with a tool similar to NCC's to relay the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signal from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, the hack lets the attacker start the car and drive away too.

    In its testing, NCC Group said it was able to perform a relay attack that allowed researchers to open a Tesla Model 3 from a home in which the vehicle's paired device was located (on the other side of the house), approximately 25 meters away.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022