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

High Court hears hair-raising claim from ads behemoth

Here's what we're not allowed to tell you

NT1 himself, a businessman, took the stand to give evidence. He wore a neat dark suit with a broadly striped tie and a well-cared-for pair of shoes.

Most of what was asked, and talked about at length, concerned the precise details of NT1’s early career and the inner workings of Alpha, things we are prohibited from telling you*. We can say, however, that in the early 1990s, during the height of Alpha’s public prominence, it made an application to join a trade association.

“The trade association unanimously rejected your company’s application for membership. Do you recall?” White asked NT1. “I don’t recall that,” he responded, blaming the passage of time for dimming his memory.

NT1 blamed a director of Alpha for public statements made by it to the press. We cannot name this man either but shall refer to him as Mr Fitzgerald. He was NT1's co-defendant at his trial.

“[Alpha] was still sending out brochures incorrectly claiming it was a full member of [a trade association] and [a consumer group], even though they wouldn’t have you as a member. Do you recall that?” asked White.

“I have no recollection of this article, after 26 years,” replied NT1.

“Mr Fitzgerald was blaming this on a large print run,” said White, reading from a 1990s national newspaper article about Alpha which quoted Fitzgerald.

“I can’t possibly comment,” said NT1.

Even the judge himself weighed in, while NT1 was being asked about a sanction handed to Alpha by a regulator.

“You've told me so far you didn’t engage with the process,” said Mr Justice Warby. “Was any part of your thinking, in failing to engage with the process, a recognition that there were some justified criticisms in there?”

“Yes, my lord,” replied NT1.

The main thrust of Google’s questioning was intended to show that, instead of what NT1 claimed about his having been a relatively minor businessman, he was the principal of a large undertaking which had a significant effect on a number of people and companies. Sums of millions of pounds were mentioned in relation to Alpha’s revenues and profits. At one stage it entered liquidation after a court application was made “to scrutinise the provenance of a substantial sum which Alpha’s solicitors had put up to enable Alpha’s creditors to be paid and allow Alpha to come out of liquidation.”

In what could be interpreted as a crude attempt to divert public attention from this case, yesterday Google released an updated version of its Transparency Report.

The case, NT1 v Google Inc, being heard in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, continues. In around two weeks, a very closely related case, NT2 v Google, will be heard in the same court. ®


A widely drawn reporting restriction order obtained by NT1 means we cannot name him, or say where he lives, or even tell you precisely what he did in the 1990s to receive a criminal conviction for false accounting. We cannot say anything specific about the “controversial property company” that he “had an interest in”, though we can say that its activities brought about sustained interest from the press and state authorities alike during a large part of the 1990s – attention that ultimately led to NT1’s criminal conviction.

We are able to say that its business model was “a sometimes controversial business of offering services and credit to consumers and companies in connection with properties.”

“He is, I don’t think this is disputed, not a public figure, in the sense of, he’s not someone who occupies or has ever occupied any public office,” said Tomlinson, NT1’s barrister.

We cannot tell you anything about the other criminal offence “involving serious dishonesty” that prosecutors wanted to charge NT1 with but ultimately did not pursue. Neither can we tell you why they didn’t proceed with that charge. We cannot tell you which judge sentenced him, for how long he was sent down, or even which court found him guilty.

Neither can we refer to the Court of Appeal judgement – in theory, a public document – which threw out his doomed effort to clear his name. We can’t even link to “contemporaneous news reports on the Claimant’s conviction”, or name the book that referred to his crime and the circumstances in which it was committed. The terms of the reporting restriction order that NT1 obtained even prohibit us from linking to his own blog, despite the fact he appears to have deleted it since obtaining the order.

Mr Justice Nicklin, the High Court judge who granted the order, observed: “If [NT1] was named … reports of the case would lead to the publication again of the very information which they argue should be allowed to be ‘forgotten’. In other words, without reporting restrictions, the claimants would destroy, by the legal proceedings, that which they seek, by those proceedings, to protect.”

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022