points us to a blog post by Peter Fleischer, the Global Privacy Counsel for Google -- perhaps better known as one of the three Google execs to be convicted
on criminal charges due to a video some kids uploaded to Google Video, which the Italian courts believe Google did not take down fast enough. In the blog post, Fleischer discusses the balance between the right to privacy and the right to free expression
, noting that posting a photo online is part of free expression, but if that photo shows anyone else, European privacy laws suggest you may be guilty of violating someone's privacy (which is what Fleischer and the Google executives were convicted of doing). In discussing this balance, Fleischer notes that while there are plenty of regulators in charge of protecting privacy in Europe, there don't seem to be the equivalent regulators in charge of protecting freedom of expression:
Both freedom of expression and privacy are fundamental human rights. But those rights are not both equally enforced, protected or policed. There are literally thousands of data protection bureaucrats in Europe whose job is to enforce European data protection regulations. As far as I can tell, there is not a single government official in all of Europe whose sole job is to do the same for freedom of expression. Curious, no?
As I go to privacy-centric conferences where people invariably talk about the problems and risks of social networking sites, I'm often the odd guy out who seems to think that they're also precious platforms for freedom of expression. Lots of guys in power lecture about how lives or careers or futures are jeopardized by a single embarrassing photo posted to a platform....
A privacy regulator in Europe told me the other day that he thought it was a data protection violation for anyone to post a photo online if it captured someone's face or property without their consent. I asked him whether he thought this restricted the right to freedom of expression. He didn't seem to understand the question.
The right to privacy and the right to free expression are both important rights -- and they're certainly ones that can, conceivably, conflict. This is one case where figuring out where the line is drawn is important, and the lack of anyone fighting for freedom of expression in Europe suggests that only one side of the debate is being heard there.