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EU Data Rules Worse Than SOPA?

European Union's proposed "right to be forgotten" data privacy rule threatens free speech and online business, critics argue.
"I am disappointed, but not surprised, to see the EU continue a misguided attack on the information economy," Yakowitz wrote. "The right to be forgotten unequivocally favors the interests of the data subject, no matter how selfishly motivated, over the interests of data controllers and other consumers. Moreover, by making the right of erasure inalienable, the EU prevents its own citizens from participating in a business model that allows consumers to trade their information for stuff they want--convenience, discounts, or content."

In an email, Yakowitz explained that her objection to the rules is that they do not attempt to evaluate and balance competing interests.

Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, through his personal blog, also expressed concern about the "right to be forgotten."

"While I strongly believe that people should have the right to complain to third-party websites about information that is published there about them, I am deeply skeptical that the laws should obligate such third parties to delete information on request of data subjects," he wrote. "This raises troubling questions of freedom of expression."

How much control should people have over the data shadows they cast online? And how much control should companies have? Or governments?

Fleischer says there should be more public debate about what the "right to be forgotten" means and about how it applies to search engines that index public information. Giving people too much power to control information about them online would make privacy rights trump the right to free expression, he argues, and would turn third-party Web services like Google into de facto censors.

Yakowitz suggests that tech companies form a protest movement similar to that which derailed SOPA and PIPA, to make sure the draft data rules get changed prior to a final vote. She proposes that Google block every search result involving anyone with first name "John," that Internet retailers stop accepting cookies (which would prevent any e-commerce), and that publishers double the number of ads on their Web pages to compensate for revenue lost to data starvation.

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