Tuesday, June 25, 2013

European Privacy Law Improvement

Concerning: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57590869-38/eu-court-lawyer-backs-google-in-right-to-be-forgotten-case/

A case in the European Court of Justice recently decided that European residents do not have a right to force search engines like Google (the main party because they are the best search engine for most things) to eliminate results on them. This is a good decision for several reasons:

  1. If you have committed a violent crime and are seeking employment the last thing you would want is for a potential employer to find that information. If the (I'm dying not to say crazy people) plaintiffs in Spain had won their case then a felon (or the reasonable equivalent in their country's law) would under  EU law have the right to remove their information from the internet making it harder for people to find their crime. Also, there are many types of search engines that are specific to finding information about people and if the EU gave people this right to remove their information from search engines than private investigators who companies hire to screen their employees would be unable to check that their applicant is safe unless if they had to go right to the specific location where the crime is placed. Since this is extremely tedious looking through every local court in the entire European Union this would of course be an absurd ruling and make background checks far too expensive for most small businesses to do because of the time it would take to get all that information every single time. This has no benefit to society and it is good that the EU decided people have no right to remove publicly available information from search engines. While I would understand some laws for people who have been acquitted of a crime removing information, a blanket allowance of removing information is a very slippery slope, and such a law would be extremely difficult to get right. An easier approach would be to not have restrictions on information (except threats, obviously) and that if someone acted inappropriately based on information they found on someone online they would be committing a crime which would be hitting the problem at the source, easier to enforce, and have no possibility of devolving into an infringement of the freedom of speech which is critical for democracy to function.
  2. The website that hosts the information was not the party being targeted, it was the search engine which only directs people to other information. If one search engine started getting infringed on another search engine would pop up (probably through the Tor Network) that would allow people to get the information anyways. Information wants to be free. Despite their best attempts, both North Korea and China cannot block out the outside world's information, which makes this entire purpose completely moot.
I am pleased with this decision, it would be like arresting journalists for uncovering government corruption, like is happening right now with Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, but it is most like Julian Assange's charges for hosting a website whose purpose was to host news stories that are not covered by the private media. Now we just need to insert whistleblower protections to our laws to prevent further abuse of power as the next step.

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