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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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  • Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:37PM (#39025947)

    Europe's new privacy law could cost Google up to 2 percent of their income, which obviously threatens online free speech.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:43PM (#39026027) Journal

    Apparently her name is Virginia Da Cunha, so just go to Google pictures and search for "Virginia Da Cunha racy photos []" (warning: NSFW! )

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:52PM (#39026133)

    I agree, I dont see this as a threat to free speech, I think we will still be able to publish what you think more or less. I think the EU law is more about data protection and what businesses can do with the information they have directly or indirectly gleaned from you. And your rights to have that data destroyed. To make this a threat to "free speech" issue is like wrapping the argument in a "think of the children" issue. The only threat I see is to some major (american) advertisers business models. The call of a threat to free speech sounds like a political call to rally the support of the american public.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:18PM (#39026419) Homepage Journal

    One aspect that doesn't seem to be obviously stated in the article, that in order to be certain what is related to the person who wants to be forgotten, online systems have to implement a rather tight tracking of this information. So if someone re-post picture on the Facebook, Facebook would have to check it against hashes of all other FB-hosted images to know where the origin is from (and re-share tags for all depicted users).

    Not hard, there are plenty of sites that do just that in fact. Tin Eye, for example, can take an image you upload and find identical but resized or partially distorted (with logos or cropping etc) versions.

    If I can't find something related to you -- I can't remove it.

    The onus would presumably be on the person asking for the information to be removed to find it. That is the way the law currently works - someone could write something libellous about you but keep it in a locked drawer in their house and there would be no way for you to find out about it, but then again why would you care?

    And bonus -- multi-user content. If user A wants to be forgotten, but photo contains also users B and C, removing it might violate rights of other users (unless there's going to be a little digital eraser applied to the tagged face)

    What right is that? The EU is talking about human rights, so stuff like copyright is trumped. That has always been the case.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:28PM (#39026533) Homepage

    The question is what right do you have to reclaim your personal information from the web.

    For example there is one group of people who the rest of use want to know about before we interact with them, psychopaths. Once the pattern of behaviour has been established crimes against people, do they have the right to be able to publicly hide or do we have the right to protect ourselves from them, which we can only do if we have foreknowledge of who they 'really' are.

    The flip side is of course do people have the right to prevent corporations from gaining sufficient information to be able to manipulate the decisions and choices, not just adults but also children. Corporations have publicly demonstrated a complete lack of qualms when it comes to psychologically manipulating children regardless of the psychological harm it causes as long as there is a profit it (sick corporations employ even sicker doctorates in psychology to more effective achieve this, doctors paid to cause harm upon a mass scale).

    The difference here seems to be what information individuals can save and share, what governments can retain and distribute in the public good and what corporations can use to data mine in order to manipulate and control. More than just the data, what is done with the data is far more important.

    So Google and Facebook retain a lot of data, often on behalf of individuals and not directly, what should they be allowed to do with it and what audits should they be subject to, in order to limit abuse of that information. What information should people be able to remove and or correct and what process needs to be established to facilitate this, whilst not allowing people who cause harm to others to 'hide' their behaviour so they move from locale to locale to continue their abuses.

  • by Kaikopere ( 892344 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:34PM (#39026585)

    I was reading Delete by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger recently and he has a very simple solution... put expiration dates on all data. I don't know that it's a basic human right to be forgotten, but it's pretty harsh to have a picture of one act of foolishness follow you around for 20 years.

  • Interesting.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:36PM (#39026607) Journal

    I see The New Republic doesn't seem to have a single story about ACTA in their pages.. yet the europeans are out protesting it in droves...Europeans want to protect privacy and suddenly someone from America is all over them..
    I also notice the Standford law review doesn't return a single article written about that either..

    Clean up your own house before you go telling others how to run theirs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:43PM (#39026665)

    Have you ever considered that the difficulty getting along with the more spiritually-inclined might have less to do with them prying into your affairs and more to do with how you can't even get through a post on a completely unrelated topic without a profanity-laden bashing of their religion?

    Have YOU ever considered that in person that I'm a respectful of others beliefs and I listen to them witness and preach to me - without saying a word?

    Have YOU considered that maybe living in cognito that that I've heard some ridiculous shit from people of "faith" or "spiritually inclined"?

    Have YOU even considered that my online posts are nothing like I am in real life because I really need to blow of steam?

    Have YOU considered that I am incredibly isolated because all of my neighbors believe in an adult version of Santa Claus? It's like being around children who in all seriousness are talking about how they are asking (praying) for toys (money, good health, people's souls, etc....)?

    Have YOU considered that YOU are making some serious assumptions and complete irrational judgments about me because of one post (and this one of course)?

    You see, in normal everyday life, I HAVE to listen to the nonsense of the spiritually inclined. Which leads me to another thing: YOU assume I'm not "spiritually inclined". Actually, I am - I just don't believe in all that super natural magical childish horseshit.

    You'd think after 2,000 years,the human race would have gotten beyond believing in the magical super natural superstitious horseshit.

    Believe it or not, you can be spiritual without having to believe in such non-sense as a Sky God.

    Just being kind and following the Golden Rule that Confucius invented 3,000 years ago (which Jesus mistakenly got all the credit for) and be compassionate towards others - which I am NOT doing right now - which makes me a hypocrite.

    I guess I could be a GREAT Christian after all!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2012 @11:21PM (#39028435)

    Speaking as an American, I want the European version of privacy and the American version of Free Speech.

    You are aware that in many European countries your income and assets like bank account balance are published by the government?
    Who you live with, how, where, how old you are, .. all online.
    Your face get 3d scanned and you get fingerprinted just to get a government approved ID (which you need for a bank account, and you need a bank account for a job) etc.
    Your location is tracked at all times if you have a cell-phone (which everyone have). You internet activity is (or could be) recorded (without warrants or suspicion). I could go on...

    The concept of "privacy from the state" does not really exist. Privacy means (at best) privacy to keep some things from non-government entities.

    In many ways the US protects the privacy of its citizens way better than many European countries.

    (The Orwellian example country above is mostly Sweden, where I lived for quite some time. Others, like Norway and Finland are pretty much the same.)

  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:38AM (#39029303)

    The whole thing does not make sense to me and makes me think either the article is bullshit, the law is being misquoted, or both.

    When I hear "the right to be forgotten" I am thinking that means you can request that a website remove all information regarding your account. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. As a developer I know that every single piece of content a user uploads into my system can be tagged with an owner. When that owner requests complete "deletion" (not just hiding it) then I can just search for everything with that tag and remove it. It's actually very simple to do if you think about it from the beginning. Having developer large scale databases and back end systems this type of design is not new or ground breaking.

    Needing a law to force corporations to actually remove all the data you ever provided them does not surprise me.

    I don't think it should be somebody's right to demand removal of content that has nothing to do with their account specifically. If they want it removed without actual ownership, then I say let them go through the courts on each and every website and prove copyright.

    If that is really what the "right to be forgotten" law is all about, then I am in complete agreement that a compromise is required because otherwise the author of the article is right. It leads the EU down a road they really don't want to go.

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