'Privacy' The Latest Tool Being Used For Censorship

from the right-to-be-forgotten dept

In the last few months, we’ve written a few times about the EU’s bizzare fascination with a “right to be forgotten,” which is a bizarre attempt to create laws that would let individuals demand that anything they don’t like about themselves be deleted from the internet. The argument supporting this is always that it’s a form of a “privacy” right, but that’s not true. A right to privacy is about keeping your private info private. This “right to be forgotten” is usually about trying to block public info. However, the EU is still pushing forward with this idea, apparently not realizing how disastrous it would actually be in practice. Supporters have mocked concerns about free speech, claiming that we Americans “fetishize” free speech.

But this goes beyond just a basic free speech claim or a privacy claim. This is really about censorship. Berin Szoka points us to a great analysis by Peter Fleischer about how a “right to be forgotten” is really about censorship. Fleischer is Chief Privacy Counsel for Google, but wrote this on his personal blog, rather than as an official Google position.

More and more, privacy is being used to justify censorship. In a sense, privacy depends on keeping some things private, in other words, hidden, restricted, or deleted. And in a world where ever more content is coming online, and where ever more content is find-able and share-able, it’s also natural that the privacy counter-movement is gathering strength. Privacy is the new black in censorship fashions. It used to be that people would invoke libel or defamation to justify censorship about things that hurt their reputations. But invoking libel or defamation requires that the speech not be true. Privacy is far more elastic, because privacy claims can be made on speech that is true.

Privacy as a justification for censorship now crops up in several different, but related, debates: le droit a l’oubli, the idea that content (especially user-generated content on social networking services) should auto-expire, the idea that data collection by companies should not be retained for longer than necessary, the idea that computers should be programmed to “forget” just like the human brain. All these are movements to censor content in the name of privacy. If there weren’t serious issues on both sides of the debate, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.

The whole thing is a good read. He breaks down the component issues, to get around the attempts by some to conflate very different issues to support a right to be forgotten.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “'Privacy' The Latest Tool Being Used For Censorship”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you want to invoke your right to be forgotten, they will comply as per the law. Also per the law, they will have to log your invocation of said right, as well as all information they had to delete.

If you want those new logs to be forgotten you will just have to invoke your right to be forgotten again. Granted, that will create a new set of logs with the same information plus the new request to be forgotten.

Your only hope is to create an infinite loop with requests to be forgotten and hope they run out of disk space.

BBT says:

“The argument supporting this is always that it’s a form of a “privacy” right, but that’s not true. A right to privacy is about keeping your private info private.”

Are you sure? Let’s imagine a hypothetical world where legislation has been passed that installs millions of cameras, recording everything that ever happens in a public area. All locations that are open to the public are required to install these cameras (perhaps they’re reimbursed for the costs). Microphones are everywhere public, too.

Would such legislation not be a gross violation of privacy? Even though the only things that would be recorded are “public”?

As technology continues to makes surveillance devices cheaper, and recording quality better, and data storage cheaper…this type of issue will become more common. The courts have relied on the faulty premise that there is no right to privacy for things done “in public”. Technology is on a steady march to making constant surveillance of everything done “in public” an economically viable idea. When it happens, we’ll see just how faulty that premise is.

Donny (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think a key difference is, do you regard yourself as basically public, and when you want conceal something you take steps to do so – wear a trench-coat and sunglasses, close the door, etc – or do you regard yourself as basically private, and the extra steps are what’re taken in order to place yourself in the public arena?

That legislation is horrible to the latter, but to the former isn’t even worth frowning at.

jenningsthecat (profile) says:

What about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc?

If they were alive today, would they have a “right to be forgotten”?

The EU isn’t promoting privacy, they’re merely attempting to erase history. They won’t succeed because of the nature of the ‘Net, but they may establish some dangerous precedents and justifications in the process of trying.

It would be tempting to dismiss this as mere stupidity, if it wasn’t also dangerous.

Brian Schroth (profile) says:

Why do the law’s authors stop at the internet? I should be able to demand the erasure of any information about me, no matter whether it’s on the internet or not. If a newspaper publishes an article about me, I demand the right to destroy every copy of that newspaper after the designated time-to-forget it. And if anyone writes a book about me, I really ought to have the right to have a good ol’ fashioned book burning after enough time has gone by.

Hell, what if someone out there just has a good memory, and remembers what I did? They’ll have to be lobotomized, of course. I have a right to make them forget.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...