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google

EU Guidelines for “Right to Be Forgotten” Harm Transparency and Represent a Vast Overreach on Internet Policy

On November 26, the Article 29 Working Party released guidance for the “Right to be Forgotten”—a policy that allows users to request that search engines remove links from search queries associated with their names, even if the information being removed is accurate. These guidelines will force European privacy laws on other nations and erode free speech rights globally. These new rules will also make it difficult for third-parties to determine when links have been removed, diminishing the ability for websites to appeal removed links.

The working group has stated that Google and other search engines should remove links not only for European-specific domains (e.g. google.fr), but for all global domains (e.g. google.com). In effect, Europe is saying that its rules for the Internet should apply everywhere and trump that of any other nation.

As ITIF has argued previously, Europe should not seek to impose its policies on other autonomous nations, including by extending the Right to be Forgotten beyond the country code top level domains of European nations. Instead, European nations should create domestic Internet policies that do not affect the ability of other nations to set their own policies.

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Another Problem with the “Right to be Forgotten”

History is riddled with examples where attempts to achieve one outcome actually led to the opposite result. In May, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Europeans have the “right to be forgotten,” the ability to request search engines to remove links from queries associated with their names if those results are irrelevant, inappropriate, or outdated. Just as Prohibition famously increased alcohol consumption, it would seem the “right to be forgotten,” while intended to increase online privacy, may actually have the opposite effect, both by cataloging shameful information and incentivizing individuals to publicize the very materials people want forgotten.

Since the decision, Google has scrambled to meet Europe’s demands by creating an online form to process removal requests and hiring new personnel to handle compliance. When individuals want information removed about themselves, they must submit verification of their identity, provide the URLs to be removed, and justify why they should be taken down. Google then verifies that the submitted information is accurate and meets the criteria for removal. Then, if the company decides to take the link down, it notifies the website where the content was posted of

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Robyn T-240D CB Radio

If the Courts Do Not Recognize Technology Neutrality in the Wiretap Act, Congress Should Intervene

Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit against Google for illegal wiretapping could proceed.

The case involves Google’s Street View project which provides online access to panoramic views of public streets in cities around the world. To build the database of images, Google sent vehicles into cities to photograph public streets. At times, these vehicles also unintentionally recorded data that users were transmitting over unencrypted wireless networks. The central claim of the lawsuit is that this collection of unencrypted data from wireless networks is a violation of the Wiretap Act. Google argued that the case should be dismissed because the Wiretap Act exempts “electronic communications” that are “readily accessible to the general public.” In its ruling, the Court denied Google’s motion to dismiss.

The basic logic of the Wiretap Act is that if people do not take action to make their communications private, then they do not have an expectation of privacy. For example, if two individuals use unscrambled CB radios to have a conversation, then other radio users are not in violation of the Wiretap Act if they hear this conversation.

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safari-privacy-settings

Latest Privacy Kerfuffle Shows Limits of Proposed Privacy Legislation

Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article accusing four online advertisers—Google, Vibrant Media, Media Innovation Group and PointRoll—of using special code on web pages to circumvent the privacy settings in the Apple Safari web browser for the purpose of “tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.” The Safari web browser is used by approximately 7 percent of desktop Internet users and 24 percent of mobile users. Google responded in a statement by saying, “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It's important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.” Google also disabled the code in question.

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Google’s Privacy Dilemma: Damned If They Do; Damned They Don’t

Changes over Google's proposed privacy changes need some clarification. Google has not made any radical changes to its privacy policies. Google still does not sell personal information to third parties. Google is not collecting more or less information than before. Google still does not have people in its company reading through people’s email or search history. And Google still offers users the ability to control their data through various tools including the Google Dashboard, an opt-out feature for personalized ads, and the Data Liberation Front which allows users to export data from Google services. More importantly, users can simply opt to not use Google products. As great as Google is, there are plenty of alternatives if users choose to leave

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