Is it just them or does everything have to be cleansed? Credit- Google

It is quite clearly right and just that not all of our past behaviour follows us around as an anchor upon our ambitions. We were all young once and that means some very large percentage of us were also stupid. We’ve encoded this into the very law with the idea of convictions for this or that being spent. Even though we did it, got caught and sentenced, it’s no longer relevant and thus doesn’t appear in basic – at least – searches about our criminal or not past.

We’ve also, more controversially, gone on to say that such shouldn’t turn up in Google searches either. That’s a bit more of a problem:

Criminals are to have the “right to be forgotten” after Google lost a landmark High Court case to a businessman who asked it to remove information about his conviction.

The man, who cannot be identified, had a spent conviction for conspiracy to carry out surveillance and had been sent to prison for six months.

Mr Justice Warby, sitting in the High Court, said his offending and sentence, which was served over a decade ago, was “of little if any relevance” to future business activity and ordered that the links should be “delisted”.

“The crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability, so that an appropriate delisting order should be made,” he said.

The man also had a young, second family, as well as adult children, which added to his case for privacy under the Human Rights Act, the judge said. He did not award any damages.

My own view is that we shouldn’t be doing this. What is relevant depends upon what the person with the information thinks is relevant, not what some judge does. I’m out of step, as is so often true.

But here comes the problem – how deep does and should the cleaning of that past go? Is it, for example, legal to include the information in a blog post? In the search function of a particular site? Are the newspaper archives reporting the original conviction to be cleansed?

That is, how much are we to change our record of history in order to protect that right to privacy, which is where the cleanse itself comes from? My supposition is that the law doesn’t just apply to search engines – so, where does it end?

Do we ban and or burn books that were published containing that information when it was entirely legal to do so?

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Hector Drummond
Member

I’m also sympathetic to the idea of spent convinctions, but these actions against Google amount to giving the state a licence (or another licence) to censor and suppress the truth.

bloke in spain
Member
bloke in spain

WTF’s “conspiracy to carry out surveillance” when it’s at home & when did surveillance become a crime? That said, one of the advantages of this here interweb is the ubiquity of information is returning us to the “village” culture human societies grew from. To have good information about the people we deal with. Why would you want to blunt this? What people have done in the past is an indicator of what they might do in the future. Maybe they’ve learnt lessons from past mistakes. Maybe they haven’t. Maybe, when they’ve worn out their welcome in one place, they go… Read more »

Bloke in North Dorset
Member

There was another case that Google won where the convicted man did 4 years in jail for conspiring to account falsely.

I’m also sympathetic to the idea of spent convictions but I’m not sure I want someone who conspired to accounting fraud working in my accounts department no matter how long ago the crime was committed.

jgh
Member
jgh

I think that’s a case where a conviction is never spent. Acounting fraud – can never be an accountant again. Millions of other jobs he can do.

Diogenes
Member
Diogenes

Is it even feasible for Google to enact this? The case might be mentioned on a wide variety of sites – newspapers, blogs, legal reference sites, blog comments….. How would Google be able to de link all of those locations?

Diogenes
Member
Diogenes

Let alone the problem that Google is not the only search engine out there. Does the judgment apply to duckduckgo etc?

Spike
Member

No; presumably only to the famous search engines.

Spike
Member

Yes, it’s impossible to purge everything. Yes, the “right to be forgotten” is an artificial right, like the UN’s “right to a nationality,” which mostly slips government a shiny new power. Real rights are negative rights, my right to live free from external coercion, not to obtain health care or a living wage. I don’t even have a right to a reputation, as it exists in the minds of other people. Again, my gossipy neighbors use small bits of personal information on me for personal profit (mostly improving their standing in town and acquiring gossip allies). Google uses machines to… Read more »

jgh
Member
jgh

I can go to my library and read a newspaper reporting the Guildford Four being banged up for bombing.

John Galt
Member

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

BniC
Member
BniC

Could you argue if it wasn’t relevant the search algorithms would bury the link so deeply that no one would bother clicking through the pages to it?
My name is so common everyone complains they can’t find me on LinkedIn as there’s so many results returned so finding my traffic offence from teenage years would be nigh on impossible even if it was online.

Tim Newman
Member
Tim Newman

What’s really scandalous is this whole discussion has only had one journalist – Gareth Corfield at El Reg – covering it from start to finish. None of the mainstream journalists have been interested. He was the only one at the public deliberations.

Bloke on M4
Member
Bloke on M4

There’s 2 ways to address technological change. Either you can a) accept it, and rearrange society around it, or b) you can fight it. Eventually, you end up with a) I think this is one of those things. People are used to stuff being forgotten. News was transient, what you did at school didn’t get carried very far. But it wasn’t like everything was forgotten. You’d remember Peter Sutcliffe. Major porn stars struggled to exit the industry and do something legit because people recognised them. To the kids growing up, this is just some old people’s shit. They’ve grown up… Read more »

John Galt
Member

The saying used to go “Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper”, which was about as good a way of defining the transience of news at that time. Today, matters are far different and the weight of memory of the interwebs is not only massive it is growing both forwards and backwards in time. How long will it be until the Googleverse starts hoovering up all those microfiche archives of the national and then local newspapers, converting the images into searchable, indexed text and then putting them on the web. Get arrested for a bit of drunken disorderly as… Read more »