By now, the NSA has disabused us of the notion that an individual has a right to personal privacy. To be honest, most of us already give it away through blogs like mine or the comments we make on social networks. The Web is so much a part of our lives that we sometimes forget we are not alone when we sit in a room with a computer. The instant we begin typing, we are talking to the world. If we vent feelings in a moment of indiscretion, the consequence is that those remarks live forever on the internet.
Well… maybe not. A lawyer in Spain sued Google to erase information posted about his past debts and won. He has a right, the judges ruled, to reclaim his privacy. (“Internet Privacy,” The Week, May 20, 2014, pg. 16) In the United States that decision would be seen as censorship and forbidden under the First Amendment. According to Jonathan Zittrain of The New York Times, because a difference exists between our laws and those of other countries, the European ruling could fragment the Web along national and regional lines, (Ibid, pg. 16)
Zittrain’s point is well made. Imagine how totalitarian states could use the European decision to expunge inconvenient historical truths. Of course, the ruling only affects search engines but in the minds of ordinary users, the Web and the search engine are almost identical.
To provide a balance between Web transparency and individual privacy is tricky, and it could create cracks in the idea of one Web one world. China, Russia and Brazil, for example, are leading the charge for greater regional autonomy. So far, no other country has fallen in line behind them. Perhaps the others believe there’s more to lose by weakening interconnectivity than there is to be gained. The rights of the individual needs to be considered. But any solutions we impose shouldn’t impede the free flow of information.
(Courtesy of heizung-sanitaer-rosengarten)