Law in the Internet Society
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The Right of Oblivion, or How We Love Being Patronized.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

The Kingdom of France is good to its people, and I’m part of those privileged ones. People are now extremely concerned about privacy and anonymity on the Internet. My country, run by perfect demagogues (supported by the EU) has an answer to our fears.

Most of us worry about what Facebook could do with our information, or what Google is doing with those information, etc... That is why France and the EU, being busy doing nothing and having an amazing propensity to legislate on senseless things, are now talking about a very strange and inconsistent right: The right of Oblivion (Right to be Forgotten). This essay will not discuss whether it is good or not, or if it could work, because this CAN’T work. It consists in allowing people to remove information they put on the Internet, those information being harmful to their reputation, or just information that they don’t want anyone to see or to find out. The withdrawal of data and information would be done upon our request. According to Viviane Reding (Vice President of the EU Commission), citizens should be able to withdraw the information they gave to websites and other services. Ms Reding can wish whatever she wants but this “right” is going to a dead end. There are no boundaries on the Internet, information are multiplied endlessly, it gets forwarded, it’s copied and widely distributed, once it’s there, it’s there forever. This new “right” will be technically impossible to achieve, and is just a myth.

My Government and the EU are answering to people fears regarding privacy concerns, and this myth is, according to them the only way to protect us from Facebook, from other evil social networks, and advertisement companies tracking us on the Internet. No one really knows what this “right” will be about, mixing up privacy and anonymity on the Internet. But it is for our own good. It is about protecting us right?“ “ Don’t worry about privacy people, we’ll fix that for you”.

Viviane Reding takes offence: “I cannot accept that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace”. So here they come, with sterile debate about privacy. But why should we rely on regulators, government, agencies, to safeguard our privacy? There are many ways to protect ourselves, we don’t need any Governments or agencies to do that. TOR can enable us to improve both our privacy and anonymity on the Internet, so we can share information without compromising our privacy, and we can be protected from “traffic analysis”. You can make sure that advertisement websites are not tracking you. The FreedomBox is also a good example of devices that can safeguard our privacy and anonymity.

Governments better think about how to educate people on Internet matter. Our regulators did not come up with a vast program promoting education on Technologies and Internet matters, something that could give us tools to understand the Net and how to interact with it. This is not taught at school, and that form of knowledge is not widely spread. Unless you are curious, or had the chance to be taught on that matter, then you have no idea that there are tools available to you to improve your privacy and you anonymity on the Internet. Instead, we are being patronized. Like kids we need that mothering attitude to face all those privacy issues. It is much better for the Government to have us computer illiterate, it makes things much easier, and we are stupid enough to believe that this nebulous concept of Oblivion will fix our privacy anxiety.

Granted, keeping us ignorant by passing laws that are supposedly “good” for us, is a sport in which Governments are excelling.

Governments reaction is somehow understandable, because the equation is simple: if privacy and anonymity are endangered, we’ll turn, hopefully, to different means to protect it (TOR, FreedomBox, etc…). But if we use those tools, then governments, advertisement websites, and equivalents won’t be able to track us anymore. Before this happens, I guess governments thought they could be ahead of that evolution by coming up with the “Right to Be Forgotten”.

Of course Governments are not going to let us protect our privacy, because it means that we are taking control. Governments being control freaks, this is not going to happen (or at least it will but without their consent).

Something else might also be behind this concept of Oblivion: Censorship. Indeed, it is difficult to know what this “right” will cover, and at some point this broad and elastic concept of privacy would, by extension, lead to censorship. People all agree on the fact that it could be good not to be tracked on the Internet (ads websites, etc…), but where is this going to stop? Spain, recently asked Google to remove from its index 90 people’s name to protect their privacy. Sacrosanct Privacy will become the rule and the freedom of expression the exception to the rule. This “right” has been clearly designed for those who want to clean up their reputation on the Internet (public figures, politicians…). Whenever they will be unhappy or worried with what has been written about them (whether it will be accurate information or not) , they will come with the Banner of Privacy (which appears to be a stronger tool than a defamation claim if this “right” is adopted), and will have the “embarrassing” information removed.

As I said, deleting will be technically impossible, but it will be more complicated to find information, and people might want to do “self censorship”. Controversial information will be harder to find (people will “hide them” on the Net to avoid privacy infringement claims). Here is what will be left: non controversial, consensual, politically correct and shallow information.


Webs Webs

r5 - 04 Sep 2012 - 22:02:26 - IanSullivan
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