EU Proposes 'Right To Be Forgotten' Online, In Contradiction With Free Speech Concepts

from the which-is-more-important? dept

As a bunch of folks have sent in, there’s a proposal making the rounds in the EU for a “right to be forgotten,” which would require websites to delete all information about a person at their request. We’ve actually seen something like this in the past, in Germany, where last year we noted that a convicted German murderer, was using such a law to demand details of his conviction be removed from various websites. It’s not difficult to recognize how problematic this concept can be. As Adam Thierer notes, a “right to be forgotten,” is a clear restriction on free speech.

Now, some might claim that this is a point where free speech and privacy rights clash, but I’m not sure I actually agree with that. In fact, I’d argue that a “right to be forgotten” is not really a “privacy” right in the first place. A privacy right should only concern information that is actually private. What a “right to be forgotten” does is try to take information that is, by default, public information, and pretend that it’s private. That’s a very different situation, and one that clearly conflicts with free speech concepts.

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Comments on “EU Proposes 'Right To Be Forgotten' Online, In Contradiction With Free Speech Concepts”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“And there’s no freedom of speech in there – freedom of expression is completely different.”

Uhh, no.

“There’s also “protection of personal data” in the charter.”

And…this has what to do with your claim that “no other countries want free speech?” Oh right, nothing.

“Also the EU charter does not apply to the UK. You’re the ignorant one not me.”

Oh look, more non sequitor. It is fun watching you squirm in an attempt to avoid the fact that you posted a comment with no basis in reality.

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Freedom of Speech, Privacy and the ECHR

The closest thing to “freedom of speech” that exists in the EU is article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which includes the “right to freedom of expression”. This is subtly distinct from freedom of speech (which is a very USian idea). The article goes on to say that the exercise of this right can be restricted for various reasons including “the protection of health or morals” and “the protection of the reputation or rights of others” (among others).

In terms of privacy, there’s no specific right to privacy in the ECHR, but the subtly different “right to respect for … private and family life, home and correspondence” including in Article 8. Again, this can be waived for the same reasons as above. These two articles often get balanced against each other, for obvious reasons. It also isn’t hard to see how this “right to be forgotten” could be covered under (or related to) this right to respect of private life etc., when it wouldn’t necessarily be covered by a simple right to privacy.

From what I have observed the US holds the idea of freedom of speech much higher than it is held elsewhere, particularly in Europe, where other “rights” (including privacy, protection from defamation and prevention of hate-speech) often take precedence. While in some case this can go too far (such as the Twitter Joke Trial), it is part of how European culture seems to operate. As such, while there is an obvious conflict with freedom of speech in this proposal, it may not be quite as noteworthy as it may seem from an American perspective.

With regard to the ECHR and the UK, (iirc) the UK was the first country to sign the convention (and the first country to be taken to Court by it) and it has been binding on the state since 1953. In 2000 this was strengthened through the Human Rights Act 1998 which made it easier for cases etc. to be considered with regard to the convention.

Bengie says:

Re: Re:

“The US is the only country that has free speech. No other country does. No other countries want free speech as it violates human rights – such as your privacy example, and allows defamation.”

Defamation is illegal. Might want to get your facts strait.

Facts an opinions are covered in free speech, but defamation is not.

DanVan (profile) says:

I don’t have much of a problem with this thought as some stuff put online is disgusting, not true, and can in fact hurt people for jobs and their lives in general

I am not someone who wants everything and anything to just be allowed

I have something about me put online that DOES come up with a google search and DID hurt me looking for a job as someone asked me about it. I have done my best getting it deleted but no luck so far. BTW, it is not even remotely true

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why can’t you explain your situation when asked about whatever this is? Either it’s true or false. If it’s false, no problem. If it’s true, it’s either still true or it was only true in the past. If it was only true in the past, depending on what it was and how past, no problem. If it’s true now… it’s either pertinent or not. If it’s not pertinent, no problem. But if it IS pertinent, then you’re asking other people to hide your dirty laundry. If it IS pertinent, then your prospective employer SHOULD know about it, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

I think laws are unnecessary for that.

Besides this is not how the network works, every node that has that information would need to be wiped clean, are those people willing to go after every single instance of some information?

That is just ridiculous, as no government in the world or company or person have the man power, financial resources or power to do so.

Brazil I know have a law like that and it doesn’t work, they also have inside the constitution the words “It is forbidden to be anonymous” LoL no I’m not joking. Now look at how those things work there and you will see why is not a good idea, those type of laws are used to curb free speech and threaten political, administrative transparency everywhere.

Ryan Diederich says:

i think

I think that this should become law, but not in the way that it is stated. For example, I should not be able to have sites take down court information about myself. Thats not right.

But, if I am a user of a certain forum or whatever, I should be able to ask them to remove anything I have posted. It could be a matter of personal security, a matter of privacy, or whatever.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yet, you continue to fail to understand that the USA is not the EU.

I understand that plenty.

We value free speech as one right amongst many, not as the one that trumps all

I understand that as well. I just think it’s wrong. Sorry.

And even if you can’t enforce it 100% of the time, having such a law is better than not having it…

A right to forget? Really?

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And even if you can’t enforce it 100% of the time, having such a law is better than not having it…

There’s evidence that the opposite is true, that having a poorly-enforced law can actually be worse than having no law at all, both because of the effects on the specific issue in question and the side effects on “respect for the law” in general.

Nevermind unintended consequences, potential abuses, etc, etc.

RCasha (profile) says:

Good for them!

I fully agree with what they’re doing (or at least the principle of it – I haven’t examined the details).

With more and more employers, marketers and other people scouring the web to extract personal information about you, this right is an important one. If I decide that I no longer want (say) a facebook page, or myspace, or whatever, I should have every right to delete my account. Same with my Google account, my flickr page and so on.

Maybe my social network site has had a number of security breaches in recent times, or maybe I just don’t want my employer to see the photos of my wild party days. Several such sites make it extremely difficult to remove your own page, since they know that the presence of the page might encourage some to “reactivate” their page some time in the future.

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Good for them!

Maybe someone quotes you saying something foolish or embarrassing. Maybe you just changed your mind. Maybe you just don’t like what they said in reply. Should you have legal force to have their comment removed?

Maybe you show up in the background of some’s picture doing something foolish/dangerous/embarrassing. Should you have legal force to have their picture taken down?

If you answered yes to either of those, now envision government or corporate abuses that could stem from this. Even if the “right” only applies to natural persons (as opposed to legal ones, like corporations), corps and governments can pay people to exercize this right on their behalf. Don’t like an article, make sure someone quoted by it changes their mind and wants their comments forgotten. Don’t like a pictures from protest? Make sure someone in the background decides they don’t want to be associated with the event.

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Good for them!

To be fair, I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Some people have said or done things in the past that they’d like to distance themselves from, and it’s not always about getting drunk at a party. That having been said, though I can understand the sentiment, I’m against government-mandated amnesia, and I think some things need to be remembered no matter how many people wish it could be forgotten. The burden of the past is, I think, an acceptible cost to avoid the side effects of such a law.

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