Tag Archives: right to be forgotten

Your next social network could pay you for posting

In this guest post, Jelena Dzakula from the London School of Economics and Political Science considers what blockchain technology might mean for the future of social networking. 

You may well have found this article through Facebook. An algorithm programmed by one of the world’s biggest companies now partially controls what news reaches 1.8 billion people. And this algorithm has come under attack for censorship, political bias and for creating bubbles that prevent people from encountering ideas they don’t already agree with.

blockchainNow a new kind of social network is emerging that has no centralised control like Facebook does. It’s based on blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and promises a more democratic and secure way to share content. But a closer look at how these networks operate suggests they could be far less empowering than they first appear.

Blockchain has received an enormous amount of hype thanks to its use in online-only cryptocurrencies. It is essentially a ledger or a database where information is stored in “blocks” that are linked historically to form a chain, saved on every computer that uses it. What is revolutionary about it is that this ledger is built using cryptography by a network of users rather than a central authority such as a bank or government.

Every computer in the network has access to all the blocks and the information they contain, making the blockchain system more transparent, accurate and also robust since it does not have a single point of failure. The absence of a central authority controlling blockchain means it can be used to create more democratic organisations owned and controlled by their users. Very importantly, it also enables the use of smart contracts for payments. These are codes that automatically implement and execute the terms of a legal contract.

Industry and governments are developing other uses for blockchain aside from digital currencies, from streamlining back office functions to managing health data. One of the most recent ideas is to use blockchain to create alternative social networks that avoid many of the problems the likes of Facebook are sometimes criticised for, such as censorship, privacy, manipulating what content users see and exploiting those users.

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The Bubble Reputation: Protecting, Inflating, Deflating and Preserving It

james-michael-ialsVenue:  Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Charles Clore House
17 Russell Square
London, WC1B 5DR
6pm – 8pm, 8 March 2017

Booking: This event is free but advanced registration is required using the IALS Events Calendar.  

Speaker: James Michael, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS; Chair, IALS Information Law and Policy Centre

The Bubble Reputation: Protecting, Inflating, Deflating and Preserving It (or a Right to be Known, Unknown and Remembered?)

Does, or should, everyone have a right to a reputation, and if so, should that be the reputation that is desired, deserved, or created? If there is a right to a reputation, should it be malleable to the point of infinity, to be extended, amended, or deleted? And is a posthumous reputation the property of the dead, the next of kin, or a larger community? Cases and statutes from various jurisdictions give varying answers, sometimes reflecting national and regional cultural and historical differences, but the contrasts may point the way for international standards.

“Right to be forgotten” requires anonymisation of online newspaper archive

In this post, Hugh Tomlinson QC discusses the implications of a ruling in the Belgian justice system for the application of the “right to be forgotten” for news organisations. Tomlinson is a member of Matrix Chambers and an editor of the Inforrm blog. The post was first published on the Inforrm blog and is cross-posted here with permission. 

In the case of Olivier G v Le Soir (29 April 2016, n° C.15.0052.F [pdf]) the Belgian Court of Cassation decided that, as the result of the “right to be forgotten”, a newspaper had been properly ordered to anonymise the online version of a 1994 article concerning a fatal road traffic accident.

The applicant had been convicted of a drink driving offence as a result of the accident but his conviction was spent and the continued online publication of his name was a violation of his Article 8 rights which outweighed the Article 10 rights of the newspaper and the public.

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Eerke Boiten: Privacy watchdog takes first step against those undermining right to be forgotten

This guest post by Eerke Boiten, University of Kent, considers the implications of granting an individual the right to be de-listed from online search results: should new articles about de-listed content be removed too? 

The UK’s data privacy watchdog has waded into the debate over the enforcement of the right to be forgotten in Europe.

The Information Commissioner’s Office issued a notice to Google to remove from its search results newspaper articles that discussed details from older articles that had themselves been subject to a successful right to be forgotten request.

The new reports included, wholly unnecessarily, the name of the person who had requested that Google remove reports of a ten-year-old shoplifting conviction from search results. Google agreed with this right to be forgotten request and de-linked the contemporary reports of the conviction, but then refused to do the same to new articles that carried the same details. Essentially, Google had granted the subject’s request for privacy, and then allowed it to be reversed via the back door.

The ICO’s action highlights the attitude of the press, which tries to draw as much attention to stories related to the right to be forgotten and their subjects as possible, generating new coverage that throws up details of the very events those making right to be forgotten requests are seeking to have buried.

There is no expectation of anonymity for people convicted of even minor crimes in the UK, something the press takes advantage of: such as the regional newspaper which tweeted a picture of the woman convicted of shoplifting a sex toy. However, after a criminal conviction is spent, the facts of the crime are deemed “irrelevant information” in the technical sense of the UK Data Protection Act.

The arrival of the right to be forgotten, or more accurately the right to have online search results de-linked, as made explicit by the EU Court of Justice in 2014, does not entail retroactive censorship of newspaper reports from the time of the original event. But the limited cases published by Google so far suggest that such requests have normally been granted, except where there was a strong public interest.

Stirring up a censorship storm

It’s clear Google does not like the right to be forgotten, and it has from early on sent notifications to publishers of de-listed links in the hope they will cry “censorship”. Certainly BBC journalist Robert Peston felt “cast into oblivion” because his blog no longer appeared in search results for one particular commenter’s name.

It’s not clear that such notifications are required at all: the European Court of Justice judgment didn’t call for them, and the publishers are neither subject (as they’re not the person involved) nor controller (Google in this case) of the de-listed link. Experts and even the ICO have hinted that Google’s efforts to publicise the very details it is supposed to be minimising might be viewed as a privacy breach or unfair processing with regard to those making right to be forgotten requests.

The Barry Gibb effect

De-listing notifications achieve something similar to the Streisand effect, where publicity around a request for privacy leads to exactly the opposite result. I’ve previously called the attempt to stir up publisher unrest the Barry Gibb effect, because it goes so well with Streisand. So well, maybe it oughta be illegal.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVyeNZCENZA?wmode=transparent&start=0]

Some publishers are happy to dance to Google’s tune, accumulating and publishing these notifications in their own lists of de-listed links. Presumably this is intended to be seen as a bold move against censorship – the more accurate “List of things we once published that are now considered to contain irrelevant information about somebody” doesn’t sound as appealing.

In June 2015, even the BBC joined in, and comments still show that readers find salacious value in such a list.

Upholding the spirit and letter of the law

While some reporters laugh at the idea of deleting links to articles about links, this misses the point. The ICO has not previously challenged the reporting of stories relating to the right to be forgotten, or lists of delisted links – even when these appear to subvert the spirit of data protection. But by naming the individual involved in these new reports, the de-listed story is brought straight back to the top of search results for the person in question. This is a much more direct subversion of the spirit of the law.

Google refused the subject’s request that it de-list nine search results repeating the old story, name and all, claiming they were relevant to journalistic reporting of the right to be forgotten. The ICO judgment weighed the arguments carefully over ten pages before finding for the complainant in its resulting enforcement notice.

The ICO dealt with 120 such complaints in the past year, but this appears to be the only one where a Google refusal led to an enforcement notice.

The decision against Google is a significant step. However, its scope is narrow as it concerns stories that unwisely repeat personally identifying information, and again it only leads to de-listing results from searches of a particular name. It remains to be seen whether other more subtle forms of subversion aimed at the right to be forgotten will continue to be tolerated.

Eerke Boiten is Senior Lecturer, School of Computing and Director of Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research at University of Kent.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Open Letter to Google From 80 Internet Scholars: Release RTBF Compliance Data

I am among the signatories of a letter from 80 academics  to Google, asking for more data and transparency on ‘right to be forgotten’ or de-listing decisions and policy, following the ECJ’s judgment in Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González in May last year. Importantly, this letter unites scholars with a range of views about the merits of the ruling: some think it rightfully vindicates individual data protection/privacy interests. Others think it unduly burdens freedom of expression and information retrieval. Many think it depends on the facts. But we all believe that implementation of the ruling should be much more transparent. The letter was published in full on the Guardian site and reported (with a response from Google) here. Professor Ellen Goodman has published it on Medium here. Hats off to Julia Powles, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law (@juliapowles) and Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers University School of Law (@ellgood) for pulling it together in time for the anniversary of the decision’s publication. More academic commentary can be found here.

The letter in full

What We Seek

Aggregate data about how Google is responding to the >250,000 requests to delist links thought to contravene data protection from name search results. We should know if the anecdotal evidence of Google’s process is representative: What sort of information typically gets delisted (e.g., personal health) and what sort typically does not (e.g., about a public figure), in what proportions and in what countries?

Why It’s Important

Google and other search engines have been enlisted to make decisions about the proper balance between personal privacy and access to information. The vast majority of these decisions face no public scrutiny, though they shape public discourse. What’s more, the values at work in this process will/should inform information policy around the world. A fact-free debate about the RTBF is in no one’s interest.

Why Google

Google is not the only search engine, but no other private entity or Data Protection Authority has processed anywhere near the same number of requests (most have dealt with several hundred at most). Google has by far the best data on the kinds of requests being made, the most developed guidelines for handling them, and the most say in balancing informational privacy with access in search. We address this letter to Google, but the request goes out to all search engines subject to the ruling.


One year ago, the European Court of Justice, in Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González, determined that Google and other search engines must respond to users’ requests under EU data protection law concerning search results on queries of their names. This has become known as the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) ruling. The undersigned have a range of views about the merits of the ruling. Some think it rightfully vindicates individual data protection/privacy interests. Others think it unduly burdens freedom of expression and information retrieval. Many think it depends on the facts.

We all believe that implementation of the ruling should be much more transparent for at least two reasons: (1) the public should be able to find out how digital platforms exercise their tremendous power over readily accessible information; and (2) implementation of the ruling will affect the future of the RTBF in Europe and elsewhere, and will more generally inform global efforts to accommodate privacy rights with other interests in data flows.

Google reports that it has received over 250,000 individual requests concerning one million URLs in the past year. It also reports that it has delisted from name search results just over 40% of the URLs that it has reviewed. In various venues, Google has shared some 40 examples of delisting requests granted and denied (including 22 examples on its website), and it has revealed the top sources of material requested to be delisted (amounting to less than 8% of total candidate URLs). Most of the examples surfaced more than six months ago, with minimal transparency since then. While Google’s decisions will seem reasonable enough to most, in the absence of real information about how representative these are, the arguments about the validity and application of the RTBF are impossible to evaluate with rigour.

Beyond anecdote, we know very little about what kind and quantity of information is being delisted from search results, what sources are being delisted and on what scale, what kinds of requests fail and in what proportion, and what are Google’s guidelines in striking the balance between individual privacy and freedom of expression interests.

The RTBF ruling addresses the delisting of links to personal information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive for the purposes of data processing,” and which holds no public interest. Both opponents and supporters of the RTBF are concerned about overreach. Because there is no formal involvement of original sources or public representatives in the decision-making process, there can be only incidental challenges to information that is delisted, and few safeguards for the public interest in information access. Data protection authorities seem content to rely on search engines’ application of the ruling’s balancing test, citing low appeal rates as evidence that the balance is being appropriately struck. Of course, this statistic reveals no such thing. So the sides do battle in a data vacuum, with little understanding of the facts — facts that could assist in developing reasonable solutions.

Peter Fleischer, Google Global Privacy Counsel, reportedly told the 5th European Data Protection Days on May 4 that, “Over time, we are building a rich program of jurisprudence on the [RTBF] decision.” (Bhatti, Bloomberg, May 6). It is a jurisprudence built in the dark. For example, Mr. Fleischer is quoted as saying that the RTBF is “about true and legal content online, not defamation.” This is an interpretation of the scope and meaning of the ruling that deserves much greater elaboration, substantiation, and discussion.

We are not the only ones who want more transparency. Google’s own Advisory Council on the RTBF in February 2015 recommended more transparency, as did the Article 29 Working Party in November 2014. Both recommended that data controllers should be as transparent as possible by providing anonymised and aggregated statistics as well as the process and criteria used in delisting decisions. The benefits of such transparency extend to those who request that links be delisted, those who might make such requests, those who produce content that is or might be delisted, and the wider public who might or do access such material. Beyond this, transparency eases the burden on search engines by helping to shape implementation guidelines and revealing aspects of the governing legal framework that require clarification.

Naturally, there is some tension between transparency and the very privacy protection that the RTBF is meant to advance. The revelations that Google has made so far show that there is a way to steer clear of disclosure dangers. Indeed, the aggregate information that we seek threatens privacy far less than the scrubbed anecdotes that Google has already released, or the notifications that it is giving to webmasters registered with Google webmaster tools. The requested data is divorced from individual circumstances and requests. Here is what we think, at a minimum, should be disclosed:

  1. Categories of RTBF requests/requesters that are excluded or presumptively excluded (e.g., alleged defamation, public figures) and how those categories are defined and assessed.
  2. Categories of RTBF requests/requesters that are accepted or presumptively accepted (e.g., health information, address or telephone number, intimate information, information older than a certain time) and how those categories are defined and assessed.
  3. Proportion of requests and successful delistings (in each case by % of requests and URLs) that concern categories including (taken from Google anecdotes): (a) victims of crime or tragedy; (b) health information; (c) address or telephone number; (d) intimate information or photos; (e) people incidentally mentioned in a news story; (f) information about subjects who are minors; (g) accusations for which the claimant was subsequently exonerated, acquitted, or not charged; and (h) political opinions no longer held.
  4. Breakdown of overall requests (by % of requests and URLs, each according to nation of origin) according to the WP29 Guidelines categories. To the extent that Google uses different categories, such as past crimes or sex life, a breakdown by those categories. Where requests fall into multiple categories, that complexity too can be reflected in the data.
  5. Reasons for denial of delisting (by % of requests and URLs, each according to nation of origin). Where a decision rests on multiple grounds, that complexity too can be reflected in the data.
  6. Reasons for grant of delisting (by % of requests and URLs, each according to nation of origin). As above, multi-factored decisions can be reflected in the data.
  7. Categories of public figures denied delisting (e.g., public official, entertainer), including whether a Wikipedia presence is being used as a general proxy for status as a public figure.
  8. Source (e.g., professional media, social media, official public records) of material for delisted URLs by % and nation of origin (with top 5–10 sources of URLs in each category).
  9. Proportion of overall requests and successful delistings (each by % of requests and URLs, and with respect to both, according to nation of origin) concerning information first made available by the requestor (and, if so, (a) whether the information was posted directly by the requestor or by a third party, and (b) whether it is still within the requestor’s control, such as on his/her own Facebook page).
  10. Proportion of requests (by % of requests and URLs) where the information is targeted to the requester’s own geographic location (e.g., a Spanish newspaper reporting on a Spanish person about a Spanish auction).
  11. Proportion of searches for delisted pages that actually involve the requester’s name (perhaps in the form of % of delisted URLs that garnered certain threshold percentages of traffic from name searches).
  12. Proportion of delistings (by % of requests and URLs, each according to nation of origin) for which the original publisher or the relevant data protection authority participated in the decision.
  13. Specification of (a) types of webmasters that are not notified by default (e.g., malicious porn sites); (b) proportion of delistings (by % of requests and URLs) where the webmaster additionally removes information or applies robots.txt at source; and (c) proportion of delistings (by % of requests and URLs) where the webmaster lodges an objection.

As of now, only about 1% of requesters denied delisting are appealing those decisions to national Data Protection Authorities. Webmasters are notified in more than a quarter of delisting cases (Bloomberg, May 6). They can appeal the decision to Google, and there is evidence that Google may revise its decision. In the remainder of cases, the entire process is silent and opaque, with very little public process or understanding of delisting.

The ruling effectively enlisted Google into partnership with European states in striking a balance between individual privacy and public discourse interests. The public deserves to know how the governing jurisprudence is developing. We hope that Google, and all search engines subject to the ruling, will open up.

Jef Ausloos
Researcher
KU Leuven, ICRI/CIR — iMinds

Paul Bernal
Lecturer in Information Technology, Intellectual Property and Media Law
UEA School of Law

Eduardo Bertoni
Global Clinical Professor. New York University School of Law
Director of the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information -CELE-
Palermo University School of Law

Reuben Binns
Researcher
University of Southampton

Michael D. Birnhack
Professor of Law
Tel-Aviv University, Faculty of Law

Eerke Boiten
Director of Cyber Security Centre
University of Kent

Oren Bracha
Howrey LLP and Arnold, White & Durkee Centennial Professor
University of Texas School of Law

George Brock
Professor of Journalism
City University London

Sally Broughton Micova
LSE Fellow & Acting Director, LSE Media Policy Project
London School of Economics and Political Science

Ian Brown
Professor of Information Security and Privacy
University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute

Robin Callender Smith
Professorial Fellow in Media Law, Centre for Commercial Law Studies
Queen Mary University of London

Caroline Calomme
MJur candidate
University of Oxford

Ignacio Cofone
Researcher
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Julie E. Cohen
Mark Claster Mamolen Professor of Law & Technology
Georgetown Law

Ray Corrigan
Senior Lecturer in Maths, Computing and Technology
Open University

Jon Crowcroft
Marconi Professor of Communications Systems
University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory

Angela Daly
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Swinburne University of Technology
Research Associate, Tilburg University — TILT

Richard Danbury
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law

Leonhard Dobusch
Assistant Professor on Organization Theory
Freie Universitaet Berlin

Lilian Edwards
Professor of Internet Law
University of Strathclyde

Niva Elkin-Koren
Professor of Law
University of Haifa

David Erdos
University Lecturer in Law and the Open Society
University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law

Gordon Fletcher
Senior Lecturer in Information Systems
University of Salford

Michelle Frasher
Non-resident Visiting Scholar, Fulbright-Schuman Scholar
University of Illinois, European Union Center

Brett M. Frischmann
Professor of Law
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Martha Garcia-Murillo
Professor of Information Studies
Syracuse University

David Glance
Director, UWA Centre for Software Practice
University of Western Australia

Ellen P. Goodman
Professor of Law
Rutgers University

Andres Guadamuz
Senior Lecturer in IP Law
University of Sussex

Edina Harbinja
Law Lecturer
University of Hertfordshire

Woodrow Hartzog
Associate Professor, Samford University, Cumberland School of Law
Affiliate Scholar, Stanford Law School, Center for Internet & Society

Andrew Hoskins
Professor
University of Glasgow

Martin Husovec
Legal Advisor, European Information Society Institute
Affiliate Scholar, Stanford Law School, Center for Internet & Society

Agnieszka Janczuk-Gorywoda
Assistant Professor
Tilburg University — TILEC

Lorena Jaume-Palasí
PhD candidate and Lecturer
Ludwig Maximilians University

Bert-Jaap Koops
Professor of Regulation and Technology
Tilburg University — TILT

Paulan Korenhof
Researcher
Tilburg University — TILT

Aleksandra Kuczerawy
Researcher
KU Leuven, ICRI/CIR — iMinds

Stefan Kulk
Researcher
Utrecht University

Rebekah Larsen
MPhil candidate
University of Cambridge, Judge Business School

David S. Levine
Associate Professor, Elon University School of Law
Visiting Research Collaborator, Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy
Affiliate Scholar, Stanford Law School, Center for Internet & Society

Michael P. Lynch
Professor of Philosophy and Director, Humanities Institute
University of Connecticut

Orla Lynskey
Assistant Professor of Law and Warden, Sidney Webb House
London School of Economics and Political Science

Daniel Lyons
Associate Professor of Law
Boston College Law School

Ian MacInnes
Associate Professor, School of Information Studies
Syracuse University

Robin Mansell
Professor, Department of Media and Communications
London School of Economics and Political Science

Alan McKenna
Lecturer
University of Kent Law School

Shane McNamee
Research Assistant, Research Centre for Consumer Law
University of Bayreuth

Maura Migliore
LL.M. candidate, Centre for Commercial Law Studies
Queen Mary University of London

Christian Moeller
Internet Policy Observatory, Center for Global Communication Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
University of Applied Sciences Kiel

Maria Helen Murphy
Lecturer in Law
Maynooth University

Andrew Murray
Professor of Law
London School of Economics and Political Science

John Naughton
Professor, Wolfson College
University of Cambridge

Abraham Newman
Associate Professor, School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University

Kieron O’Hara
Senior Research Fellow, Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton

Marion Oswald
Senior Fellow, Head of the Centre for Information Rights
University of Winchester

Pablo A. Palazzi
Professor of Law
San Andres University

Frank Pasquale
Professor of Law
University of Maryland Carey School of Law

Richard J. Peltz-Steele
Professor
University of Massachusetts Law School

Julia Powles
Researcher
University of Cambridge — Faculty of Law

Artemi Rallo
Constitutional Law Professor and Former Director, Spanish Data Protection Agency
Jaume I University

Giovanni Sartor
Professor of Legal Informatics and Legal Theory
European University Institute

Evan Selinger
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Rochester Institute of Technology

Sophie Stalla-Bourdillon
Associate Professor in IT law
University of Southampton

Konstantinos Stylianou
Fellow, Centre for Technology and Society
FGV Direito Rio

Dan Jerker B. Svantesson
Professor
Bond University Faculty of Law

Damian Tambini
Research Director and Director of the Media Policy Project
London School of Economics and Political Science

Judith Townend
Director, Centre for Law and Information Policy
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

Alexander Tsesis
Professor of Law
Loyola University School of Law

Siva Vaidhyanathan
Robertson Professor, Department of Media Studies
University of Virginia

Peggy Valcke
Professor of Law, Head of Research
KU Leuven — iMinds

Alfonso Valero
Principal Lecturer, College of Business Law & Social Sciences
Nottingham Law School

Brendan Van Alsenoy
Researcher
KU Leuven, ICRI/CIR — iMinds

Joris van Hoboken
Research Fellow
New York University School of Law

Asma Vranaki
Postdoctoral Researcher, Centre for Commercial Law Studies
Queen Mary University of London

Kevin Werbach
Associate Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics
University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School

Abby Whitmarsh
Web Science Researcher
University of Southampton

Tijmen Wisman
PhD candidate and Lecturer
VU University Amsterdam

Lorna Woods
Professor of Internet Law
University of Essex

Nicolo Zingales
Assistant Professor
Tilburg University — TILEC