Google appeals “right to be forgotten” law

Google appealed EU’s “right to be forgotten” law that allows citizens to apply for the removal of false or damaging information indexed by search engines. Although the company is willing to comply by the law for European domains, like, France’s data regulation authority (CNIL) ordered Google to comply by the law for its international domain,

If Google refuses, the company may suffer significant fines or sanctions. Google officials argue that applying the EU’s “right to be forgotten” rule to its international server is both time and resource consuming, and may result in widespread censorship. Google does not have the right to appeal again until it has been fined for violating the CNIL order. After that, however, the company will be given the chance to refute the fines in France’s Supreme Court. The EU’s recent regulatory fine structure could charge Google for up to 5 percent of the company’s international operation cost, which would amount to roughly € 3 billion.

Google’s global privacy officer Peter Fleischer released a statement: “We believe that no country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access.”

Article via Legaltech NewsSeptember 22, 2015

Photo: Review of the Latvian Presidency via European Parliament [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Tech companies protect against government surveillance

The best protection against widespread government surveillance now comes from major tech companies, including those accused of collecting mass amounts of data to sell to other companies seeking targeted advertising.

The FBI has accused Apple of aiding criminals by offering default encryption in the new iPhones it sells. Government reproach is also directed towards Google, which is offering the same encryption for its new Android phones. However, the majority of Americans are grateful for the tech companies’ new developments; a recent Pew survey found that 65 percent of people believe that there aren’t enough limits on government surveillance.

Smartphone encryption is not the only guard against surveillance, either. Google and Yahoo announced that they’re both working on end-to-end encryption in email, and Facebook was established on a Tor hidden services site so that people with access to network traffic can’t access user data.

Encryption tools are generally difficult to operate, and thus only tech-savvy users have been able to achieve full privacy. As a result, anyone using encryption tools was unique and therefore suspicious to government officials. With new integrated encryption, privacy will be more universal, and those previously using encryption systems will be better camouflaged.

Articles: The Center for Internet and Society, September 9, 2015

Photo: DC Ralley Against Mass Surveillance via Susan Melkisethian [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Google’s algorithm can manipulate elections

According to a study done by Robert Epstein and Ronald E. Robertson, changes made to Google’s search algorithm have the ability to manipulate voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study experimented with the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) in two countries with over 4,500 participants.

The investigators conducted an experiment where participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups in which search rankings favored Candidate A, B, or neither. Before researching for 15 minutes on a search-engine called Kadoodle, participants were provided a short description of both candidates and asked whom they would be voting for. The 30 search results were the same for everybody, but ordered differently depending on the group. The number of people favoring a candidate increased between 37 and 60 percent due to the biased search algorithm.

Google adjusts its search algorithm 600 times a year. In refutation of SEME, Google comments: “Providing relevant answers has been the cornerstone of Google’s approach to search from the very beginning. It would undermine the people’s trust in our results and company if we were to change course.”


Articles: Politico Magazine, August 19, 2015; via MILRN

Photo: Campaigning with a Smile via Jack [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Tech companies settle antipoaching lawsuit

Antipoaching, the act of refusing to hire employees from a rival company, may not seem like the best business strategy for large tech companies like Google or Apple who are always capitalizing on the “next big thing”. However, a civil law suit was filed against several companies including Google, Apple, Adobe, and Intel for antipoaching and is now recently being settled for $415 million after movie studios Pixar and Lucasfilm and financial software company Intuit settled previously. The companies involved in the lawsuit were accused of agreeing to not hire certain employees from each other which allowed each company to retain employees they would rather not lose. While antipoaching does sometimes serve the best interests of the company as a whole, some employees looking to earn a higher salary or explore other opportunities outside their place of work feel that the antipoaching agreement hindered their abilities to move up in their fields. Earlier versions of the lawsuit also included allegations that the antipoaching agreement allowed companies to artificially keep salaries low.

Even though all of the companies involved in the lawsuit chose to settle, many of the companies continued to state that they believed they had done nothing wrong. A statement released to CNET from Adobe by one of their spokespeople explained that, “Adobe firmly believes that our recruiting policies have in no way diminished competition for talent in the marketplace…Nevertheless, we elected to settle this matter in order to avoid the uncertainties, cost, and distraction of litigation.” A similar statement was released by Intel back in January when the settlement was originally proposed.

Article via CNET, September 3, 2015

Photo: Google Headquarters – Mt View via Servizi Multimediali [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]