EU Wants to Force Facebook to Ensure "Right To Be Forgotten Online"

In a speech delivered today in Brussels, the European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding addressed the European parliament on internet privacy and what she calls “the right to be forgotten.” The speech, called “Your data, your rights: Safeguarding your privacy in a connected world,” is a continuation of Reding’s efforts to reform privacy laws concerning the application of the EU’s rules and regulations to corporations outside of the EU that deal with Europeans – the best example, naturally, being Facebook.

Reding’s concerns are clearly in response to the increasing availability of private data that is stored on servers around the world. She doesn’t want a night of raging hard and some photos of you puking in the toilet with your shirt off to jeopardize your career, and she doesn’t want your personal information being used in ways you didn’t agree to.

In her speech, Reding laid out “the four pillars.” The first encapsulates the heart of the reforms: “the right to be forgotten.” The idea is simple: you should have to right to completely erase any personal data you have on the internet, including but not limited to compromising photos. “I am a firm believer in the necessity of enhancing individuals’ control over their own data,” Reding said in the speech.

New rules and regulations would include laws stating that people have the right – not only the “possibility” – to withdraw their consent to data processing. “The burden of proof should be on data controllers – those who process your personal data. They must prove that they need to keep the data rather than individuals having to prove that collecting their data is not necessary,” Reding said. She did not say, however, how these laws would be enforced.

Basically this means that there would be more transparency surrounding the ways in which we input our personal data and greater visibility of information concerning what’s happening with that data. People should know what’s happening with their “favorite movie” preferences and their photos of them engaged in risky, debauched behavior, according to Reding.

“I want to make sure that greater clarity is required when signing up to social networking. Unfavorable conditions – restricting control of users over their private data or making data irretrievably public – are often not clearly mentioned,” she said.

Another point mentioned in Reding’s speech was the idea of “privacy by default.” Of the whole speech, this is the law the can be easily enforced. The name says it all: when utilizing social network sites, it would be assumed that privacy setting are set to the highest level, and it would be up to the user to allow for greater accessibility of his or her personal information. Not only that, users would have to be legally informed as to how their information might be used so informed consent could be made.

Reding never explicitly mentioned Facebook in her speech. But her final idea, “protection regardless of data location,” is clearly targeted at that social networking site, and it seems to implicitly say, “watch out, Mark Zuckerberg.”

“For example,” Reding said, “a US-based social network company that has millions of active users in Europe needs to comply with EU rules.” It is clear that her finger is pointing at Zuckerberg in an admonishing way, but it’s unclear just how the EU will enforce these laws. Meanwhile, Facebook claims that it already complies with these rules, according to one of its spokesmen quoted in The Guardian.

Sadly, this has nothing to do with Americans! Facebook and other addictive social networking sites will continue to use our private information for marketing purposes, and unless we’re careful, employers are still going to see first-hand evidence of us getting hammered. TC mark

image – Christiaan Tonnis


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  • Andrew F.

    a) The minute you sign up for a service provided by any private, online company, they (within their own operations) get to define your rights to some degree. Everyone agrees to that when they get an account. Not that that's 'right' per se.

    b) Some kind of ultimate transparency might be a good thing for the world. If everyone (many people?) are going out and getting shit-faced on the weekend, should that really reflect badly on you in a work setting? Maybe being open about 'unseemly' but common behavior would lead to an appropriate level of acceptance.

    c) If you don't want pictures of your drunken exploits online, don't put them online. Or untag yourself. Or don't get wasted. We live in a world with billions of other people. Everything you do is subject to being witnessed by a third party. Own your shit, man.

    • marilyn manson

      i think everyone knows point A that's kind of the basis of the article

      B would be nice but we don't really live in that world

    • Afternoontries

      “Why aren't you on PopularSocialNetwork? Do you have something to hide?”

      Job application denied.

      • EmiliaBedelia

        Do people actually think this way? This is actually one of my biggest worries.

      • afternoontries

        Ask Andrew F. and his B) scenario.

        I'm sure he's not the only person who has such a perverse outlook on privacy.

        Imagine what you would think if someone your age said they didn't have a cell phone. In a couple years that's how they're going to treat people who don't have facebook. People will you're some kind of luddite pariah who can't deal with the real world.

      • EmiliaBedelia

        People already think this of me. According to anonymous guy in lecture, not having FB means one is “not human.” But I am totally a luddite that can't deal with the real world. When I was 11 I asked my dad for a butter churner for a birthday present. I wanted to be a Victorian.

      • Andrew F.

        Perverse? Ouch. I was trying to communicate that common behavior shouldn't be so stigmatized and transparency might help there. Or not, whatever.

        I'm all about privacy. However, you can't go out in the middle of the street and expect to have whatever you do there be private. Using Facebook and much of the internet is the equivalent of standing in the middle of a very busy street. Whether that moves one to stop using the service or come to terms with her or his behavior displayed there is up to the individual.

  • EmiliaBedelia

    I deleted my Facebook 7 months ago precisely because I “wanted to be forgotten.” My motivation was not necessarily because I was worried about where my information was being held (and by extension, sold or used) but because it was being held in the first place. The idea of having myself reduced to data and frozen somewhere in cyber-space made me socially and emotionally anxious. Upon realizing that I don't have Facebook, some anonymous student in one of my lectures said “If you don't have Facebook, what are you? You're either not human or a stone-cold elitist.” First, I was really hurt by this comment (actually, really). Second, to be “human” we should be able to be forgotten. Does our existence really depend on our data?

    • Neal Mackey

      so deep…

      • EmiliaBedelia

        i no rite

  • not john hughes

    i agree with andrew F.

    • Joseph Ernest Harper

      Didn't wanna waste a 'like'.

  • Julene

    With the ability for other people to put you on blast on the internet, I have to say I agree with everything Reding said.

    It's easy to tell people to “own their shit” or “be accountable” but humans are not infallible or, dare I say it, perfect creatures. The inability to correct, tone down or otherwise move on from mistakes made due to the internet's ability to keep bullshit around for an person's entire lifetime is a problematic concept on many levels. Can you imagine how many of today's 15 year olds are going to have a hell of a time getting a job at 21? What about 31? I grew up loving the internet because it was not real, a playspace even.

    Christopher Poole gave a speech this week at SXSW about the necessity of online anonymity that strikes me as relevant. Too bad Zuckerberg's ideas of making the internet into a detached extension of real life has caught on to this extent–I shudder to think of what the next 5 years will bring as far as online privacy are concerned.

    Looks like I need to marry a foreigner, stat.

    • Andrew F.

      This is what I was trying to address.

      The fact that a 21 year old's job prospects would be limited by what they did as a child is obscene. Everyone has garbage in their past and, frankly, present. Like you said, humans aren't infallible. So why are we so embarrassed about that? I'm not talking about accountability or even responsibility for one's actions. I'm talking about this prejudice against imperfection in people (aka EVERYONE). I'm saying nobody's perfect and it's ridiculous that we can't accept that about each other.

      • Julene

        We're fully in agreement, then. I think I read your response too quickly & missed that.

        The strange thing is that having a Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/etc. can get you into just as much trouble as NOT having any of those things, as I believe someone else pointed out. This “damned if you do, damned if you don't” bit has to end. I love the internet, but this affair is just too one-sided for comfort.

      • Neal Mackey

        u guys are so deep….

    • EmiliaBedelia

      There is something wonderful about having anonymity. I'd be interested in knowing what Christopher Poole said.

  • migs

    This is impossible. Once something is on the internet, it is there forever, whether or not facebook deletes it. The internet is too complex and too connected for this to ever occur. If you want privacy, unplug, stay away from digital cameras, etc. You can't take things off the internet because if even one machine has seen that picture and that machine stays connected, that picture still exists. In order to delete all evidence, you'd have to break into peoples personal machines. Now, do you want privacy on facebook? Or in your own home.

  • asdfghjkl;

    Why does not giving a shit have to be so epicly impossible. Thanks alot mark fuckerberg

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