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Europe's 'Right To Be Forgotten' Threatens Online Free Speech 410

An anonymous reader writes "Jeffrey Rosen, Legal Affairs Editor for The New Republic, explains why the E.U.'s proposed data protection regulation known as the right to be forgotten is actually 'the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet in the coming decade.' In the Stanford Law Review Online (there's a shorter version in TNR), he writes: 'The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already. Unless the right is defined more precisely when it is promulgated over the next year or so, it could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet.' According to Rosen, the 'right' goes farther than previously thought, treating 'takedown requests for truthful information posted by others identically to takedown requests for photos I've posted myself that have then been copied by others: both are included in the definition of personal data as "any information relating" to me, regardless of its source.' Examples of previous attempts this might bolster include 'efforts by two Germans convicted of murdering a famous actor to remove their criminal history from the actor's Wikipedia page' and an 'Argentine pop star [who] had posed for racy pictures when she was young, but recently sued Google and Yahoo to take them down.'"
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Europe's 'Right To Be Forgotten' Threatens Online Free Speech

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  • Re:Wow. bullshit. (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:03PM (#39026271) Homepage

    If I take a picture and post it online and later want it removed, I should be able to get it done. Under US Law, I have a copyright interest in the photograph.

    You do, but as soon as you post it to Facebook (and any other service, really), you gave them have a worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free, non-revocable license to it.

    So the DMCA doesn't really help you, since they're not violating your copyright.

  • by Deorus ( 811828 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:14PM (#39026381)

    The problem is that without this kind of legal entitlement you can not control what others publish about you.

    For example, I've played World of Warcraft in the past, and as a result my characters have an activity feed associated with them showing timestamps with minute precision that I've never actually intended to share. Now the only thing require is for someone to leak who my characters are in the game and everyone online can tell exactly what I've been doing. These are things that, without such protections, you can not control, and they are a lot more complex and harder to avoid than directly posting your life to Facebook.

    Other examples would be, for example, someone taking an innocent picture of themselves at a specific disclosed location featuring your vehicles number plate in the background. Thanks to that picture, now everyone knows where your vehicle was when it was taken, and without such rights there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

  • Re:Wow. bullshit. (Score:4, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:24PM (#39026481) Homepage Journal

    I'm confused

    Yes, you are. Well spotted.

    If I want to, I can order other people, even total strangers, to rip up all of their pictures of me with some sort of legal threat if they don't comply?

    Depends who they are and what they are doing with the pictures. Someone with a private collection on their PC? No. A company that hosts said pictures in a searchable index on the web? Yes.

    Even public photos where I'm in the background or something?

    No, only where you are a primary part of the picture, except in very specific cases like if you were in a shower room or other place with an expectation of privacy.

    Where does this law come from?

    It isn't a law yet, but will most likely be either an EU directive or maybe worked into European Convention on Human Rights.

  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:34PM (#39026587)

    an 'Argentine pop star [who] had posed for racy pictures when she was young, but recently sued Google and Yahoo to take them down.

    Fortunately, Google sucks so badly now that she doesn't have much to worry about. A search for her name in Google Images brings up mostly pictures of other people, including various men, and many pictures that contain no people at all.

  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @10:15PM (#39028011) Homepage Journal

    and, and what about privacy? right or not? what about libel and slander? "freedom of speech" doesn't mean you can say what you want in all cases, that's rather obvious, so what's your point really? if you cry "freedom of speech" for every single thing, like wikipedia trivia, that just makes it cheap.

  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @05:38AM (#39030425)

    Article 12 of the universal declaration of human rights.

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.