Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google and the Right to Be Forgotten

Jeffrey Toobin wrote a great piece about the obfuscation of information on the internet in the New Yorker. This part, in particular, stood out as poignant, though:

In Europe, the right to privacy trumps freedom of speech; the reverse is true in the United States. “Europeans think of the right to privacy as a fundamental human right, in the way that we think of freedom of expression or the right to counsel,” Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said recently. “When it comes to privacy, the United States’ approach has been to provide protection for certain categories of information that are deemed sensitive and then impose some obligation not to disclose unless certain conditions are met.” Congress has passed laws prohibiting the disclosure of medical information the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, educational records the Buckley Amendment, and video-store rentals a law passed in response to revelations about Robert Bork’s rentals when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Any of these protections can be overridden with the consent of the individual or as part of law-enforcement investigations.

There are some who will view the decisions of European courts to be vast overreaches of judicial authority. However, it is imperative to consider the immense power that Google has with its search engine and its dominance of that market. Companies and people in positions of greater power and reach should have different and greater levels of responsibility. If they don’t create that responsibility for themselves, it’s up to the law to step in and correct that oversight.