Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Google starts forgetting

THE LEDE: Google on Thursday begin rolling out new filters on searches in Europe, after a top court last month ordered the company to delete some links.

Implementation of the so-called “right to be forgotten,” which allows people to request that some embarrassing or outdated links are taken down, would be a gradual process, Google said. As the process continues, it is likely to increase tension over the fine line between personal privacy and transparency.

{mosads}“This week, we’re starting to take action on the removals requests that we’ve received,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue.

“We’ll continue to work with data protection authorities and others as we implement this ruling.”

In May, the European Court of Justice declared that people have the right to order Google to remove links to some old or outdated content. Since then, the company has been working to prepare for what is likely to be a massive compliance effort.

The First Amendment makes the U.S. unlikely to follow suit, but some privacy advocates say the country should consider the option. “The Internet giant should offer U.S. users the same basic right to privacy,” John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, said in a statement. Simpson, a vocal critic of Google, called the company’s decision to limit the court’s decision to European users “an outrageous disregard for the privacy rights of its U.S. users.”

Simpson pushed back on criticism that the European court’s ruling will allow for censorship and compared the right to be forgotten in Europe to the U.S.’s “privacy by obscurity,” the idea that old information about a person remains accessible but is not prominent.

“The right simply allows a European to identify links that are no longer relevant and ask for their removal… Americans deserve the same right,” Simpson said. “Google, which claims to care about privacy, should be ashamed that it is not treating people on both sides of the Atlantic the same way.”

Lofgren worries that telecom mergers could hurt startups: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is worried that a spate of multibillion dollar mergers in the telecom industry could hurt small tech startups in her Silicon Valley district and elsewhere. Lofgren is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has held recent hearings on the proposed $45 billion deal to combine Comcast and Time Warner Cable and the proposed $49 billion proposal to combine AT&T and DirecTV. Those two mergers, announced earlier this year, come as rumors swirl about an in-the-works mulitbillion deal to combine the country’s third and fourth largest wireless companies, Sprint and T-Mobile.

As regulators consider the proposed deals, they should keep in mind how the mergers will affect the small startups that can challenge the large incumbents that would grow larger through the deals. “If we just think about the startups and what they need to have a shot, we’re going to be doing the right thing,” she said speaking at a Politico event on Thursday. “If we allow actions that destroy startups, then we’re probably crippling our future.”

Chaffetz worried about cyber attacks: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is sounding the alarm on digital attacks that could bring down the country’s communications infrastructure. “The attacks that are happening on the cyber front are very real,” he said, speaking alongside Lofgren at Thursday’s event.

Chaffetz expressed concerns about attacks launched by foreign governments, “rogue elements” and organized crime groups. Those attacks could include hacks, use of satellites and electromagnetic pulses that some worry could damage electronic equipment and systems, he said. “We all say we’re aware of it, but it’s happening. We’re just getting bombarded.”

Eshoo calls for new laws after Aereo ruling: Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on Wednesday striking down online video streaming company Aereo demonstrates the need to update the laws governing the video marketplace, which were “written in a time long before the Internet existed” and “are hindering innovation and consumer choice, while protecting incumbent interests.” Eshoo, the top Democrat on the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, has called for changes to the law, including to overhaul the way broadcasters negotiate with cable and satellite companies over compensation for television programming.

“Every day I hear from my constituents who are fed up with rising cable bills and a business model that forces them to buy a bundle of channels they will never watch,” Eshoo said in a statement. “Aereo provided the innovative solution needed to disrupt the video marketplace, giving consumers greater choice in how they watch their favorite free over-the-air broadcast programming.” Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling “is a reminder that our video laws are broken and ripe for reform,” she said.

Senate Judiciary pushes back cellphone unlocking bill: The Senate Judiciary Committee is delaying its consideration of a bill to allow people to switch their cellphones from one wireless network to another. The panel was originally set to mark the bill up on Thursday but pushed the measure back until after the Senate returns from the July 4 recess.



The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday renewed a “must-pass” satellite television law that avoided changes to the way businesses negotiate to send TV programs into people’s homes.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) doesn’t see Congress moving a bill to protect consumer privacy anytime soon.

The German government is planning to drop a contract with Verizon over fears of U.S. government snooping, according to a Thursday report.

The Federal Communications Commission’s complex and highly anticipated 2015 airwave auction is “absolutely not a train wreck,” according to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.


Please send tips and comments to Kate Tummarello, katet@thehill.com, and Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @ktummarello, @jmhattem

Tags Google Jason Chaffetz Privacy right to be forgotten Zoe Lofgren

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