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Google should censor results to block privacy infringements, say MPs

Sites such as Twitter and Facebook should also take proactive role in making sure users don't breach privacy injunctions

By Vinod

Internet services such as Google, Facebook and Twitter should consider censoring results to block any content that potentially breaches privacy injunctions here in the UK, according to a cross-party committee of MPs and peers.

The Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions was set up after the Max Mosley affair, when the former F1 boss attempted to remove from Google a video of him filmed by newspaper News of the World.

The incident involving footballer Ryan Giggs was also considered by the Committee. Giggs took out a superinjunction banning newspapers from revealing details about his private life or that he had even taken the order out, even though his name was being widely circulated on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The group concluded that no new laws were necessarily needed when it comes to high court privacy injunctions but suggested that they should apply to sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter as well. Authorities should be more willing to take action against users who break these rules, the Committee said.

If the sites in question fail to take necessary steps, legislation should be introduced to force them to, the report said.

"It is important that court orders apply to all forms of media equally. The growth of the internet and social networking platforms is a positive development for freedom of expression, but new media cannot be seen to be outside the reach of the law," the report stated.

"We also recommend that major corporations, such as Google, take practical steps to limit the potential for breaches of court orders through use of their products and, if they fail to do so, legislation should be introduced to force them to," it said.

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Google had previously said that while it was possible to develop technology to proactively monitor content for any potential breaches of privacy, it was not practical to implement. The Committee slammed that reasoning.

"Google acknowledged that it was possible to develop the technology proactively to monitor websites for such material in order that the material does not appear in the results of searches," it said. "We find their objections in principle to developing such technology totally unconvincing."

"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. We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so it should be introduced."

In other Google privacy news, the search giant has been forced to suspended part of its autocomplete function in Japan after complaints that it violates users’ privacy.

The case was brought after an unidentified man claimed he had been associated with crimes he did not commit, when links related to crimes committed by someone with the same name appeared when typing his name into Google.

According to the BBC, the man’s lawyer said his client had found it difficult to get work because of the impact the association had on his reputation.

Autocomplete uses a combination of a user’s search history and algorithms to suggest full search queries as the user types, so for example typing ‘London’ into Google suggests ‘underground’, ‘weather’ and ‘tube map’ as a full search.

"These searches are produced by a number of factors including the popularity of search terms," Google said in a statement. "Google does not determine these terms manually – all of the queries shown in autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users."

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