EU

Google sets up ‘right to be forgotten’ form after EU ruling

Google sets up ‘right to be forgotten’ form after EU ruling

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Technology correspondent Dave Lee explains how the controversial system will work

Google has launched a service to allow Europeans to ask for personal data to be removed from online search results.

The move comes after a landmark European Union court ruling earlier this month, which gave people the “right to be forgotten”. Links to “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request, it said. Google said it would assess each request and balance “privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information”. “When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information,” Google says on the form which applicants must fill in.

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Case study – Brad from Derbyshire “The story was relating to an offence of drinking and driving. A criminal conviction. “But has it got any public interest that somebody was convicted of that several years ago? I don’t think so.” ‘Google should forget me’

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Google said it would look at information about “financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials” while deciding on the request. Earlier this month, the BBC learned that more than half of the requests sent to Google from UK individuals involved convicted criminals. This included a man convicted of possessing child abuse images who had also asked for links to pages about his conviction to be wiped. ‘Fraudulent requests’ Google said information would start to be removed from mid-June and any results affected by the removal process would be flagged to searchers. Decisions about data removal would be made by people rather than the algorithms that govern almost every other part of Google’s search system. Disagreements about whether information should be removed or not will be overseen by national data protection agencies. Europe’s data regulators are scheduled to meet on 3-4 June. The “right to forget” will be discussed at that gathering and could result in a statement about how those watchdogs will handle appeals.

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Analysis – Rory Cellan-Jones “Much of the comment online has been deeply sceptical about the right to be forgotten, particularly in the US where the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech would make this kind of ruling impossible. Some have pointed out that information won’t be removed from google.com, just your local version of the search engine, while others question the sheer practicality.” Google agrees to forget

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Information will only disappear from searches made in Europe. Queries piped through its sites outside the region will still show the contested data. On 13 May, the EU’s court of justice ruled that links to “irrelevant” and outdated data on search engines should be erased on request. The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home, which appeared on Google’s search results, infringed his privacy. Less innovation? On Friday, Google said that EU citizens who want their private details removed from the search engine will be able to do so by filling out an online form. However, they will need to provide links to the material they want removed, their country of origin, and a reason for their request. Individuals will also have to attach a valid photo identity. “Google often receives fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information,” the firm said. “To prevent this kind of abuse, we need to verify identity.” However, in an interview given to the Financial Times, Google boss Larry Page said that although the firm would comply with the ruling, it could damage innovation. He also said the regulation would give cheer to repressive regimes. Mr Page said he regretted not being “more involved in a real debate” about privacy in Europe, and that the company would now try to “be more European”. But, he warned, “as we regulate the internet, I think we’re not going to see the kind of innovation we’ve seen”. Mr Page added that the ruling would encourage “other governments that aren’t as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things”.

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European Court of Justice, Luxembourg

People keen to get data removed from Google’s index must:

  • Provide weblinks to the relevant material
  • Name their home country
  • Explain why the links should be removed
  • Supply photo ID to help Google guard against fraudulent applications

Source : BBC News

Latvia becomes 18th state to join the eurozone

Latvia becomes 18th state to join the eurozone

Latvia has begun the new year by joining the eurozone, becoming the 18th member of the group of EU states which uses the euro as its currency.

The former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea recently emerged from the financial crisis to become the EU’s fastest-growing economy.

Correspondents report much scepticism in the country after recent bailouts for existing eurozone members.

But there is also hope that the euro will reduce dependency on Russia.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn said joining the eurozone marked “the completion of Latvia’s journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate”.

The government and most business owners also welcomed the single currency, saying it would improve Latvia’s credit rating and attract foreign investors.

However, some opinion polls suggested almost 60% of the population did not want the new currency.

Missing the lats

“It’s a big opportunity for Latvia’s economic development,” Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said after symbolically withdrawing a 10-euro note as fireworks led celebrations in the capital Riga after midnight.

Newly minted Latvian euro coins on display in RigaLatvia has its own euro coins

The governor of the Latvian central bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, said: “Euro brings stability and certainty, definitely attracting investment, so new jobs, new taxes and so on. So being in the second largest currency union I think will definitely mean more popularity.”

One of those reluctant to give up Latvia’s own currency, the lats, was Zaneta Smirnova.

“I am against the euro,” she told AFP news agency. “This isn’t a happy day. The lats is ours, the euro isn’t – we should have kept the lats.”

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Latvia has begun the new year by joining the eurozone, becoming the 18th member of the group of EU states which uses the euro as its currency.

The former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea recently emerged from the financial crisis to become the EU’s fastest-growing economy.

Correspondents report much scepticism in the country after recent bailouts for existing eurozone members.

But there is also hope that the euro will reduce dependency on Russia.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn said joining the eurozone marked “the completion of Latvia’s journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate”.

The government and most business owners also welcomed the single currency, saying it would improve Latvia’s credit rating and attract foreign investors.

However, some opinion polls suggested almost 60% of the population did not want the new currency.

Missing the lats

“It’s a big opportunity for Latvia’s economic development,” Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said after symbolically withdrawing a 10-euro note as fireworks led celebrations in the capital Riga after midnight.

Newly minted Latvian euro coins on display in RigaLatvia has its own euro coins

The governor of the Latvian central bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, said: “Euro brings stability and certainty, definitely attracting investment, so new jobs, new taxes and so on. So being in the second largest currency union I think will definitely mean more popularity.”

One of those reluctant to give up Latvia’s own currency, the lats, was Zaneta Smirnova.

“I am against the euro,” she told AFP news agency. “This isn’t a happy day. The lats is ours, the euro isn’t – we should have kept the lats.”

Leonora Timofeyeva, who earns the minimum wage of 200 lats (£237; 284 euros; $392) per month tending graves in a village north of the capital Riga, said: “Everyone expects prices will go up in January.”

But pensioner Maiga Majore believed euro adoption could “only be a good thing”.

“To be part of a huge European market is important,” she told AFP. “All this talk about price rises is just alarmist.”

Alf Vanags, director of the Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies, told Bloomberg news agency he personally did not like giving up the familiar lats but it was an “entirely irrational sentiment”.

Euro adoption was good for Latvia “on balance”, he argued, since it provided a mutual insurance policy that countries could draw on when they got into trouble.

Latvia, with its large ethnic Russian minority, is often seen as having closer economic ties to Russia than its fellow Baltic states Lithuania and Estonia. Russia remains an important export market while its banking system attracts substantial deposits from clients in other ex-Soviet states.

City of London calls halt to smartphone tracking bins

City of London calls halt to smartphone tracking bins

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The City of London Corporation has asked a company to stop using recycling bins to track the smartphones of passers-by.

Renew London had fitted devices into 12 “pods”, which feature LCD advertising screens, to collect footfall data by logging nearby phones.

Chief executive Kaveh Memari said the company had “stopped all trials in the meantime”.

The corporation has taken the issue to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The action follows concerns raised by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, after details of the technology used in the bins emerged in the online magazine Quartz.

Mr Memari told the BBC that the devices had only recorded “extremely limited, encrypted, aggregated and anonymised data” and that the current technology was just being used to monitor local footfall, in a similar way as a web page monitors traffic.

He added that more capabilities could be developed in the future, but that the public would be made aware of any changes.

The bins, which are located in the Cheap side area of central London, log the media access control (MAC) address of individual smartphones – a unique identification code carried by all devices that can connect to a network.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation said: “Irrespective of what’s technically possible, anything that happens like this on the streets needs to be done carefully, with the backing of an informed public.”

Legal ‘grey area’

Mr Memari insisted that the bins were just “glorified people-counters in the street” and that his company held no personal information about the smartphone owners.

While the collection of anonymous data through MAC addresses is legal in the UK, the practice has been described as a “grey area”.

The UK and the EU have strict laws about mining personal data using cookies, which involves effectively installing a small monitoring device on people’s phones or computers, but the process of tracking MAC codes leaves no trace on individuals’ handsets.

Websites or companies wanting to use cookies to tracks users’ habits have to ask for permission. By monitoring MAC addresses, which just keeps a log of each time a wi-fi enabled device connects to another device, they can work around this requirement.

Presence Orb, the company that provides the tracking technology to Renew London, calls its service “a cookie for the real world”.

‘Data and revenue’

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “I am pleased the City of London has called a halt to this scheme, but questions need to be asked about how such a blatant attack on people’s privacy was able to occur in the first place.

“Systems like this highlight how technology has made tracking us much easier, and in the rush to generate data and revenue there is not enough of a deterrent for people to stop and ensure that people are asked to give their consent before any data is collected.”

Reacting to the City of London Corporation’s call, an Information Commissioner’s Office spokesperson said: “Any technology that involves the processing of personal information must comply with the Data Protection Act.

“We are aware of the concerns being raised over the use of these bins and will be making inquiries to establish what action, if any, is required.”

By Joe Miller

BBC News

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