One of the things we’ve become conditioned to believe is a given in the modern world is that if you do or say something stupid and it ends up on the internet — like sucking a dildo nose at a college Christmas party — there’s nothing you can do about it and you just have to live with the fact that it may haunt you forever. However, that appears to be the case only if you’re an American.
You see, in Europe, a peculiar idea, as the New York Times reports, has taken hold: That individuals have a “right to be forgotten” — a provision that photos, blog posts, etc. on the web that could embarrass someone should have the potential to be scrubbed. Socialism!
Spain’s government is now championing this cause. It has ordered Google to stop indexing information about 90 citizens who filed formal complaints with its Data Protection Agency. The case is now in court and being watched closely across Europe for how it might affect the control citizens will have over information they posted, or which was posted about them, on the Web.
Whatever the ruling in the Spanish case, the European Union is also expected to weigh in with new “right to be forgotten” regulations this fall. Viviane Reding, the European Union’s justice commissioner, has offered few details of what she has in mind. But she has made clear she is determined to give privacy watchdogs greater power.
“I cannot accept that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace,” she said last month. She said she had heard the argument that more control was impossible, and that Europeans should “get over it.”
The Times goes on to note that in the U.S. the “courts have consistently found that the right to publish the truth about someone’s past supersedes any right to privacy ” whereas in Europe “you don’t have the right to say anything about anybody, even if it is true.” Perhaps embarrassing meme folk like the weather peen guy should consider moving to France?