The Google/EU Search Removal Issue

Google are starting to remove results when searching for individuals, if that individual requests – provided the result is no longer relevant.

It seems to me that this is simply a logical extension of the Data Protection act – here are the principles that underline the UK act. In particular, take a look at parts 3, 4 & 5. Google, having been established as a data controller for individuals, are obliged to keep the data they hold about individuals proportional and relevant.

That’s also – surely – Google’s goal: to have relevant results, which includes prioritising accuracy and timeliness. Therefore, is the Removal Form simply achieving something Google’s algorithms haven’t been able to do for themselves?


Not Smart Enough

We’re still getting post for a former householder who moved out ten years ago (plus daily post for previous owners, 1yr on). Surely they’ve noticed either the lack of response, or my “return to sender” messages aren’t getting through. The former owners had a redirect for a while as well, so the data’s in the system. It’s tiring and wasteful on all parts.

Tom Morris has a long list of things Google thinks he is interested in – except he’s not (he really doesn’t like country music!).

Dave Winer’s dad would be surprised if he got an iPad – as recommended by Apple for Father’s Day – because he passed away several years ago. “With these companies doing such a great job of Big Data, you’d think they could get a clue about this one.” 

Taking Responsibility for Data

One of my early aims for the local election website was to list each candidate, along with party and website, directly on the page. It seemed right that – if I were promoting ease of access – that this should be a basic requirement.

Pretty quickly it became clear that this was an ambitious task - most of the 2000+ wards are in PDF format, some in Word and a tiny minority in HTML. The PDFs are not easily readable (aside – I’d love to know how they fare for disability discrimination tests) so any hope of automating the process went out of the window.

I simply didn’t have the time either. It took two days just to get the links together. A conservative estimate of one minute per document would have me working another week just to get the local elections up.

The bigger problem is liability. While I have rightly disclaimed that there are probably errors, and that users should double-check the council website, trying to present concise summary information based on copy & paste would be risking making mistakes. Disclaimers can probably help protect me against anybody getting nasty, but I neither want the hassle nor the exposure.

With the links as-is, there is a failsafe of sorts. Each linked PDF has the ward and constituency listed at the top of the page. If the viewer sees the wrong name, they know something is amiss.

If I were to put a candidate in the wrong political party, or list the party in the wrong election, the user would have little reason to doubt the results. There is no failsafe.

Had I had more time I might have tried to put something together that enabled a community effort. There are plenty of people out there who support this kind of stuff and would likely donate some time and effort. This additional manpower – mixed with proper QA – could help reduce the risk.

However, I still think a decent dataset from central government and/or local governments would be the ideal solution. They are likely going to take considerable measures to ensure the data is correct, and the candidates will undoubtedly be referring to their lists for completeness and instantly feeding back corrections.

One of the strong benefits of opening data is that the economics can be changed. Effort need not be duplicated; we largely eliminate human error. Time spent recreating these lists is time wasted.

Vodafone’s Mobile Internet

Just got a text from Big Red:

“Good news! Your monthly data allowance is now unlimited so u can use mobile internet & email every day. Fair use applies. More at”

…and at you’ll see that’s Vodafone’s idea of unlimited is “subject to a fair use limit of 500mb per month”

500Mb is not the same as unlimited.

Reminds me of the reputed Henry Ford quote: “You can have any color as long as it’s black”.

I’m also amused by “internet & email”. Email is via the internet, so it’s a bit of a pointless confirmation. Unfortunately a lot of people equate internet to web browsing. I do hope Vodafone don’t restrict this 500Mb package to web browsing + email only. Can anybody confirm?