Google Asks France Not to Require Global Right To Be Forgotten

Search giant says French data agency order goes too far

2 min read
Google Asks France Not to Require Global Right To Be Forgotten
Illustration: iStockphoto

Google has asked France’s data protection agency, CNIL, to retract an order to apply French right-to-be-forgotten rulings to all Google search results. Since a European court ruling last spring, Google has handled right-to-be-forgotten requests only in country-specific versions of it’s search results (see IEEE Spectrum’s story, “Google’s Year of Forgetting”). In a blog post last week, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, Peter Fleischer, wrote that the company’s representatives had asked CNIL “to withdraw” the June order.

European Union residents unhappy with search results for their name can ask search engine providers to remove links from the results by making the case that the links infringe on their privacy and the information is not in the public interest. A web slip-up by Google revealed last month that 95 percent of the requests so far have been by private citizens, not politicians and criminals, The Guardianreports. If the provider doesn’t grant such a request (almost 60 percent of the time for Google, which handles over nine in ten web searches in Europe), individuals can appeal to their country’s data protection authority for a definitive decision.

Yet last year’s court ruling only confirmed that national data protection agencies have the authority to rule in such cases. It did not specify the scope of such decisions. A comment in a February 2015 report by Google’s privacy advisory council hinted at the present conflict. Council member and German federal justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wrote: “Since EU residents are able to research globally, the EU is authorized to decide that the search engine has to delete all the links globally.”

That, Fleischmann wrote last week, could set a troubling precedent. He wrote, “there are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country, would be deemed legal in others: Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be ‘gay propaganda.’ ”

A CNIL representative said it would make a decision on Google’s request in two months, reports the BBC.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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