May 24, 2014

Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman: Forget Me Not: What the EU’s New Internet Privacy Ruling Means for the United States

Network member Abraham Newman (Georgetown) has published an article (with Henry Farrell of George Washington University) in Foreign Affairs which may be of interest to readers. The first two paragraphs are below and you may read the remainder here.


The modern innovators of Internet human rights are not U.S. leaders, or bold Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. They’re stodgy bureaucrats, politicians, and lawyers in Brussels, Berlin, and Strasbourg. As the National Security Agency (NSA) and American firms have relied on sucking up massive amounts of data to observe citizens and create and serve consumers, the European Union has fought to establish privacy rights for its citizens. Over the last ten years, however, the EU initiative seemed to be on the ropes as the United States pressed Europeans to water down privacy protections in a number of key sectors. But now, the tables are turned.

This month, the European Court of Justice, Europe’s closest equivalent to the Supreme Court, has ruled that Google must delete search results for a Spanish citizen that the citizen had found outdated and upsetting. The ruling obliges Google and other Internet firms to respect a limited version of the “right to be forgotten” --the right to have certain kinds of information, such as former debts or inappropriate photos, removed from the public sphere. The right will be enforced by national data protection authorities, for example the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Germany or the Information Commissioner in the United Kingdom, which can require e-commerce firms to remove embarrassing, misleading or outdated information about EU citizens where they think it appropriate. In its most extreme form, an individual could request that search engines remove all links to their name, making them virtually anonymous in the Internet. [continue reading here]

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