Software investigate

Google should censor search results, say MPs

Search engines should remove links to information deemed private by injunctions in UK courts, says a parliamentary report.

Google should censor its search results to protect information covered by privacy injunctions, according to UK politicians.

Search engines should remove links to information that has been deemed private by an injunction in the UK courts, the group of MPs and peers said in a report. If necessary a law should be introduced to compel search companies to hide such material, the report by the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions said.

The material should be filtered out of results served to people in the UK, John Whittington, chairman of the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, told TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet UK.

"Google and other search engines should take steps to ensure that their websites are not used as vehicles to breach the law, and should actively develop and use such technology," said the report. "We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so, it should be introduced."

The report goes on to say: "Where an individual has obtained a clear court order that certain material infringes their privacy and so should not be published we do not find it acceptable that he or she should have to return to court repeatedly in order to remove the same material from internet searches."

The recommendations of the committee are advisory, and the government is under no obligation to follow them.

Google said that it would be unreasonable to expect any search engine to screen its content.

"Requiring search engines to screen the content of their web pages would be like asking phone companies to listen in on every call made across their networks for potentially suspicious activity," the company said in a statement.

"Google already removes specific pages deemed unlawful by the courts. We have a number of simple tools anyone can use to report such content, which we then remove from our index."

The committee also recommended that, when granting privacy injunctions, courts should alert the claimant of the need to head off possible breaches online.

"We recommend that, when granting an injunction, courts should be proactive in directing the claimant to serve notice on internet content platforms such as Twitter and Facebook," it said.

The report was commissioned by the government to look into privacy and free speech after a series of high profile super-injunctions were made public online last year.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

4 comments
Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

to identify what should be deemed private, which as far as I'm aware is defined by not a matter of public interest. Unfortunately about all I trust them with is to wear strange clothes and have no contact with reality. MPs and judges...

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

To be sued for breaching Local Laws a few times to get the message that they are not above the Law in the countries where they want to be accepted as the Good Guys. Breaching Court Orders hardly follows the [b]Do No Evil Moto[/b] that they claim to so strongly believe in. One of the little understood things relating to the Cloud is that it is subject to all Laws where it has a Presence. So not only the Country where the Servers are located but any country that access those Servers Local Laws need to be respected. Google already has changed it's tune to comply with Laws in China or face the consequences which they dont seem to want to live with, so whats wrong with doing the same on a World Wide Scale? Col

gevander
gevander

Paraphrasing: "We already have tools in place to take care of that. Maybe the government needs to *participate* in the existing process instead of legislating a new one."

j-mccurdy
j-mccurdy

This will probably get implemented and i will be a prime candidate for abuse. A lot of people love to find an excuse for censorship.