Google (NSDQ: GOOG) executives got a rough ride from a House Of Commons committee on Monday, when they declined to systemically filter law-breaking web pages from search results.
Associate general counsel Daphne Keller told the joint committee on privacy and injunctions that algorithmic filtering-out was technically feasible but not on the company’s policy agenda.
The committee had called Keller along with with public policy heads from Google (DJ Collins), Facebook (Lord Allan of Hallam) and Twitter (Colin Crowell).
MPs drew their attention to the case of Max Mosley, who won a privacy claim against News Of The World for having filmed him engaged in sex and who now spends his time filing individual takedown requests so that Google can hide remaining privacy-breaching web pages from search.
But MPs believe that, since the privacy ruling has already been made, Google should act pre-emptively to automatically remove such results – for example, using image matching. “Is it technically feasible?,” one asked.
Despite Collins’ softer approach, Keller’s testimony was like a red rag to the committee’s bulls, many of whom regard such matters in aggressive, black and white terms.
Embarrassing rudeness to Google, Twitter & Fb and ignorance about internet from my ‘colleagues’ on joint privacy & injunctions cttee today
— Martin Horwood (@MartinChelt) January 30, 2012
With that policy in place, Twitter’s Crowell, too, was looked toward by committee members to commit to automatic pre-filtering of illegal material. Ben Bradshaw asked him if the policy meant Twitter would strip out UK tweets that broke a privacy injunction, as in the case of Ryan Giggs last year.
But Crowell, though he made a general commitment to this, tip-toed around the area, saying that Twitter would work through such issues on a “case-by-case basis”: “It’s a hypothetical. I wouldn’t know how to answer that. A determination would need to be made about the applicability of that to services such as our own.”
Bradshaw’s point was that, in the Giggs case, an injunction was delivered to newspapers and should be served on Twitter in the same way.