EU Officials Way Too Worried About Social Networks

from the not-that-big-a-deal dept

What is it about politicians that make them absolutely freak out about things that they really shouldn’t be wroried about? The latest is that the EU internet security agency ENISA is calling for all sorts of new laws to be put in place concerning social networks. It sounds like most of the proposed laws will take care of really minor “problems” that might occur at the expense of annoying just about everyone. For example, it wants laws to be put in place saying that you cannot post someone’s photo online without their consent. You can understand the extreme case they’re looking to prevent (someone putting up embarrassing photos), but that’s rare, and the trouble it will cause for normal folks just taking snapshots will be immense. ENISA is apparently also really worried about the fact that (I kid you not) people don’t realize that you can befriend people via a social network that you don’t really know (gasp!). The thing is, social conventions seem to take care of most of these problems without the need for any sort of special legislation, but if you’re a gov’t agency, I guess it’s only natural to think in terms of what laws can you add.

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Comments on “EU Officials Way Too Worried About Social Networks”

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Matt says:

Re: It is obvious you don't "get" the european mindset

Photos period, huh?

So what do you do if you take a picture in a town and just by chance someone else in the world actually gets caught in the picture?

Think that might cause a problem in oh, the entire world as this happens continually, and you might not have contact info for everyone else? Yes, it would.

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

Mamma says...

don’t talk to strangers!

These are laws for children not adults.
The EU is treating all citizens as if they were too stupid to recognize and discriminate real life.

We eventually all grow up and realize that
a Stranger is just a friend that you have not met yet.

Yes, I know there are all sorts of predators, spammers, advertisers and phish out on the internet. Your job is to teach your children that these things exist and to beware, be aware but not to be a hermit.

Just as in real life, you start off in a nursery, protected and supported. Eventually you leave the protection of the nursery with more knowledge, understanding and the ability to discriminate good from bad. As you get older your ability to discriminate gets better until you leave the nest.

That is why you shelter children in the beginning.
Parents are made for children.
Laws are made for Adults.

We have to be free to make our own mistakes.
Failure is our best teacher.

We are always more interested in the failures;
just look at the news, full of failure stories;
it is what we want to know.

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

What about Google

GoogleEarth, MSNEarth and every other satellite photo service.
Do they need to run around getting waivers from every person on the planet?


The US and EU are setting up laws that will make hosting web sites in free countries a major business.

That is where Wikileaks is hosted, a free country.

So your “Old Europe Privacy” will make you slaves.

And by that I mean that the US and EU are NOT free countries any more.

Security is a body glove that slowly chokes the life out of you.
Freedom is the two edge sword that cuts both ways.
Give me the freedom to make mistakes any day.

Michael Bluett (user link) says:

They're worried about the disclosure of personal data

ENISA are worried about the disclosure of personal data and the possibility that their data can be aggregated and used for ill:

“Users are often not aware of the size of the
audience accessing their content…SNS [Social Networking Site] members
broadcast information much more widely, either
by choice or by mistake.”

They consider images and names to be very personal:
“A common vulnerability is that more private
attributes which are directly accessible by profile
browsing can be accessed via search (e.g. a
person’s name and profile image is accessible via
search on MySpace, Facebook and others, unless
default privacy settings are changed).”

Ralf Bendrath (user link) says:

not EU vs. US or other constructed cleavages


this is not just the EU perspective. Look at Daniel Solove’s book on “The Future of Reputation” (available for free as pdf now), which has numerous examples of bad outcomes from pictures taken out of the local context and posted online. He has a thorough discussion on how to deal with this within the US legal system.

By the way: The famous article “The right to privacy” by Brandeis/Warren in 1890, which started the US legal tradition on privacy, was a reaction so some paparazzi taking pictures at private parties in Boston and then publishing them in the newspapers. So this is not a European perspective only in any way.

The general problem behind this is: There are privacy laws and other regulations that are aimed at how companies and government agencies deal with personal data, including pictures. What is not really regulated yet is the issue of “peer-to-peer surveillance” or the publishing of embarrassing stuff about others, which has become a mass phenomenon in Web 2.0. What is embarrassing or not should also be up to the photographed person to decide. Same issue was when Robert Scoble sucked his friend’s data out of Facebook and brought it somewhere else. It’s not just his data, he was reminded, but also belongs to the other persons, who should be asked before.

It’s very normal that once a new technology becomes widespread and creates social problems, you start thinking about a need to regulate its use. In the old times, many of this was regulated by local social norms and customs (think of the varying norms on gossiping), but in the internet age, it is more tricky because stuff gets available out of the local context.

Nasch says:

Re: not EU vs. US or other constructed cleavages

What is not really regulated yet is the issue of “peer-to-peer surveillance” or the publishing of embarrassing stuff about others, which has become a mass phenomenon in Web 2.0. What is embarrassing or not should also be up to the photographed person to decide.

So if I do something embarrassing in a public place, I should have the legal right to prevent someone from reporting that photographically? And this respects freedom of speech how?

Ralf Bendrath (user link) says:

Re: Re: not EU vs. US or other constructed cleavages

There is no clear black and white private-public distinction. If you do something in a pub which only the people present there can see, you also don’t expect it to be published in the local newspaper next day, told to your boss, or submitted to the internet archives, right? In other curcumstances, like closed business conferences, it is absolutely appropriate that e.g. the recordings of the lectures are put online afterwards (though not of the conference parties, right?).

There are many semi-public/semi-private places, and they are getting more on the internet. The problem there is that on the internet, a lot of personal information is taken out of its temporal, spatial, and therefore social, context.

I therefore tend to believe that we should think about this not as public or private, but as different contexts. What happens in one context is not always (or most of times not) appropriate to be reported in another context. Only this allows us to play different roles in different contexts, and this is one of the foundations of a complex society, as sociologist Georg Simmel wrote a hundred years ago in his essay about the secret. Helen Nissenbaum from NYU has developed this into a helpful theory of “privacy as contextual integrity” a few years ago.

It’s a different issue if this can or should adequately be addressed by laws or by social norms or even by technology. Rule of thumb: Sometimes it is hard to tell what is ok and what not if you don’t know the norms of the context and the persons present in it very well, therefore you are on the safe side if you ask. Besides, it is more polite.

It is a tricky balance between freedom of speech and privacy here, I agree. Look at the Brandeis/Warren article and Daniel Solove’s book, and you get a good sense of the over 100 years of legal thinking about it.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re: not EU vs. US or other constructed cleavages

I don’t know how it is in the UK but in the US a bar is considered public. But let’s sit that aside for a sec.

Let’s say you’re walking threw a public park (public is in the name) and you trip over a rock and fall on your face. At the same time some parent snaps off a picture of their kid playing on the grass and catches you in the background. Do you think you should have the legal right to prevent that parent from posting the picture online so they can show it to their friends and family? (for the record, in the US you don’t.)

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re #10

That is the point Mike is making. They are worrying about nothing. Society tends to sort these things out on their own. This is self evident by the many times Facebook users have become angry with Facebook over changes they have made. In return, Facebook enhances or alters the privacy settings to allow more control to the user. Putting laws in place to affect this is simply stupid, and moving more towards 1984.

Sean (user link) says:

Playing the beaurocrats game!

Dude, look at it’s name – it HAS to find things to worry about. And, it has to do so in a highly public manner, otherwise it won’t get funding. Attack Facebook/MySpace/Bebo equals Newspaper Headlines equals Bigger Budget equal More Power In The Beaurocratic Mess That Is The EU

And for everyone moaning about the UK, get real, the UK is only marginally involved in the EU and in no way represents the EU mindset.

DanC says:

Re: Playing the beaurocrats game!

And for everyone moaning about the UK, get real, the UK is only marginally involved in the EU and in no way represents the EU mindset.

You’re right. A much better example of the EU mindset towards privacy would be the prototype system to install cameras in airplanes (one per passenger) in order to analyze facial expressions to detect potential terrorists.

Roger (user link) says:

Surely it's up to the individual

Here’s yet another example of governments wanting to regulate individual behavior. Caveat emptor! Surely, we can offer ways to show users that their data is more or less available according to privacy settings, the specific platform, etc.

Certainly trying to regulate behavior of millions, and billions of posts, comments, dms, etc., is a lost cause. It would be entirely unenforceable, and unenforceable laws merely create contempt for the law.

If the government wants to protect society (that is their job) perhaps the legislation should be for the providers (who are making the money from the users) to show that users understand the privacy issues.

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