Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Right to Be Forgotten

The Right to Be Forgotten
Kayla Punt

If there is one thing to take away from Stacy Snyder’s story told in the article “Failing to Forget the Drunken Pirate,” it’s that your life can be ruined in seconds by what you or your friends post online. The Internet is a fantastic world, don’t get me wrong, but there are always downsides to too much freedom and accessibility. In the case of Snyder, she lost her shot at a career, after years of college and loans, all because of a photo of her in a costume holding a red solo cup back in the “good ol’ days” from the past. Because of the Internet, because of the false sense of security social media sites promote, our pasts can virtually come back to haunt us. This brings to mind the legalities of such situations. Do we own what we post online? Is it our right? From asking these questions, the concept of the Right to Be Forgotten was born.

The right to be forgotten is a sweeping new privacy right announced at the end of January of 2012 by the European Commission. While the law seems reasonable in the sense that the teenager who sees a photo of herself holding a beer bottle can now delete it without having to worry, on the other side, politicians could cover up scandals, court evidence could disappear inconveniently and that nonprofit you’re considering donating to give only 20% of the funds to those it says it helps. But you would have no clue.

Here’s John Oliver’s view on the matter:

As it stands, the European Commission’s regulation policies are broad enough that the right to be forgotten may be applied to the deletion of items relating to you but not posted by you. This means that this right to be forgotten now becomes an infringement upon the freedom of speech. If we can take down anything we feel is detrimental to us in any way, then Google and Facebook and other sites become censor-in-chiefs by their users. As of now in Europe, Google has fielded about a hundred and twenty thousand requests for deletions and granted roughly half of them.

The roots of data protection in Europe stem from the terrible history of the twentieth century. Intellectual father of European data protection, Mayer-Schönberger states “With the Stasi, in East Germany, the task of capturing information and using it to further the power of the state was reintroduced and perfected by the society.” With the gathering of data by the communists and fascists of the time came totalitarian surveillance states. With the amount of technology and access thereof we have today, George Orwell’s idea of Big Brother doesn’t seem too far off.

Without our privacy, we’re subjected to being virtually strip-searched without our knowledge. Yet with our privacy, we’re denied our right to the freedom of speech and some accessibility on the Internet. The right to be forgotten seems reasonable in some aspects—Snyder should be allowed access to a career due to her standing as a mature adult, not as a stupid kid in college—however, this law needs to become much more refined before it can slide its way into American courts.

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