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The Star Online: Business

Google gets take-down requests after European Court ruling

Posted: 14 May 2014 07:20 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO: Google Inc is already getting requests to remove objectionable personal information from its search engine after Europe's top court ruled that subjects have the "right to be forgotten," a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The world's No. 1 Internet search company has yet to figure out how to handle an expected flood of requests after Tuesday's ruling, said the source, who is not authorized to speak on the record about the issue.

The decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which affects the region's 500 million citizens, requires that Internet search services remove information deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant." Failure to do so can result in fines.

"There's many open questions," Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said at the company's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday in response to a question about the ruling and its implications on Google's operations.

"A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know. From Google's perspective that's a balance," Schmidt said. "Google believes having looked at the decision, which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong."

He was not asked about the recent take-down requests.

Google will need to build up an "army of removal experts" in each of the 28 European Union countries, including those where Google does not have operations, the source said. Whether those staffers merely remove controversial links or actually judge the merits of individual take-down requests are among the many questions Google has yet to figure out, the source said.

Europeans can submit take-down requests directly to Internet companies rather than to local authorities or publishers under the ruling. If a search engine elects not to remove the link, a person can seek redress from the courts.

The criteria for determining which take-down requests are legitimate is not completely clear from the decision, said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at the George Washington University and head of the National Constitution Center.

The ruling seems to give search engines more leeway to dismiss take-down requests for links to webpages about public figures, in which the information is deemed to be of public interest. But search engines may err on the side of caution and remove more links than necessary to avoid liability, said Rosen, a long-time critic of such laws. He was asked by Google to speak to reporters on Tuesday's ruling, but has no formal relationship with the company.

Search engines will also have to authenticate requests, he noted, to ensure that the person seeking a link's removal is actually the one he or she claims to be.

Google is the dominant search engine in Europe, commanding about 93 percent of the market, according to StatCounter global statistics. Microsoft Corp's Bing has 2.4 percent and Yahoo Inc has 1.7 percent.

Google has some experience dealing with take-down requests in its YouTube video website, which has a process to remove uploads that infringe copyrights. Google has automated much of the process with a ContentID system that automatically scans uploaded videos for particular content that media companies have provided to YouTube.

Google may be able to create similar technology to address the EU requirements, said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

Even if Google does not automate the process, the extra cost of hiring staffers is likely to be insignificant to a company that generated roughly $60 billion in revenue last year, Gillis said. If Google were to pay staffers $15 an hour to process take-down requests, for example, the company could get a million hours of work for $15 million, he said. "It's the cost of doing business for them."

Google has said it is disappointed with the ruling, which it noted differed dramatically from a non-binding opinion by the ECJ's court adviser last year. That opinion said deleting information from search results would interfere with freedom of expression.

Yahoo is "carefully reviewing" the decision to assess the impact for its business and its users, a spokeswoman said in a statement. "Since our founding almost 20 years ago, we've supported an open and free internet; not one shaded by censorship."

Microsoft declined to comment.- Reuter

Japan's Amari: Economy to continue recovery on firm domestic demand

Posted: 14 May 2014 07:14 PM PDT

TOKYO: Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Thursday that the economy is making steady progress towards beating deflation and that it will continue to recover in the current fiscal year led by firm domestic demand.

Private consumption is showing weakness after the April 1 sales tax hike but the move is within expectation, Amari said, adding that he hopes consumption will recover gradually ahead alongside an improvement in job conditions.

Amari was speaking to reporters after data showed the economy posted its fastest growth in 2-1/2 years as consumer spending jumped ahead of the sales tax increase to 8 percent from 5 percent in April.- Reuters

Hyundai Motor Union demands higher wages shorter hours

Posted: 14 May 2014 07:11 PM PDT

SEOUL: Hyundai Motor Co's South Korean labor union has demanded higher pay and bonuses and more cuts to working hours, as the automaker heads into annual wage talks in June under the threat of industrial action.

Any strike action in South Korea - which makes nearly 40 percent of Hyundai vehicles sold globally - could disrupt supply around the world as the company fights to reverse a fall in profits linked to the stronger won and competition from the likes of Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE>.

New union boss Lee Kyung-hoon is seen as a moderate but he has not ruled out industrial action, telling a union newspaper in February that he was "willing to risk waging an all-out war" to get a better deal for workers.

Hyundai, the world's fifth-biggest automaker along with its affiliate Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS>, has been hit by strikes in all but four of the union's 27-year history, leading to lost production worth 14.4 trillion won ($14.06 billion).

Union delegates finalized their demands late Wednesday, including a 8.2 percent rise in the monthly basic wage and performance pay totaling 30 percent of the automaker's 2013 net profit distributed to workers.

The most contentious issue would be expanding the definition of the regular wage, which is the basis for calculating overtime and other payments to the firm's 47,000 workers in South Korea.

The union is also calling for daily working hours to be trimmed by one hour to 16 from 2015, after the automaker scaled them back from 20 to 17 starting from March last year.


E*Trade Korea auto analyst Kang Sang-min said Hyundai faced an "uphill battle" to reach an agreement with the union over tricky issues like the regular wage.

"A potential disruption to output will dampen investor sentiment, already hurt by Hyundai's decelerating growth," he said.

Hyundai, which was an outperformer during the 2009 global economic downturn, has posted lackluster earnings in the past couple of years. Its January-March net profit slipped to its lowest in five quarters, missing estimates.

The strengthening won and stiffer competition from rivals' refreshed models has seen Hyundai's U.S. market share drop from a record 5.1 percent in 2011 to 4.4 percent this year.

The labor talks will be the first since Lee took the reins of South Korea's biggest union in December, stirring hope of steadier industrial relations after his predecessor called strikes in two consecutive years.

Lee led the union during a rare, strike-free period from 2009 to 2011, although a company spokesman said his previous record counted for nothing in the forthcoming negotiations.

"The current union leader is seen as a moderate, but he is still a unionist," the spokesman said.

Kia Motors is also preparing separate annual wage talks with its South Korean union, while General Motors' <GM.N> South Korean unit kicked off annual wage negotiations in late April.- Reuters

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