On Wednesday, July 27, 2011, the Privacy Working Group held a panel discussion on the proposals in the European Union (EU) to create a “right to be forgotten.” These proposals have spurred similar debate in the U.S. over whether individuals are entitled to a “delete” button for their information on the Internet.
Moderated by Daniel Castro, Senior Fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and hosted by Mr. Castro and Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste, the panel included experts in the field of online communications and privacy such as Emma Llanso, a Bruce J. Ennis Foundation Equal Justice Works Fellow for the Center for Democracy and Technology; Solveig Singleton, Vice President and Senior Analyst at Convergence Law Institute, as well as Adjunct Fellow at the Institute for Policy Innovation and Blogger at Technology Liberation Front; and Noah Lang, Director of Business Development at Reputation.com.
Highlighting the discussion was a conversation about how Professor of Law at the University of Fribourg and Georgetown University Law Center Dr. Franz Werro’s paper relating to the European concept of the “right to be forgotten” translates into American parlance while mitigating concerns about the First Amendment to the Constitution’s role in the debate. For more information on Dr. Werro’s paper, you may want to read a recent article in the Atlantic.
While the EU does not have such concerns, in the U.S. the ideal of removing information that is a matter of public record, such as newspaper reporting of incidents, as well as other historic records could not only be problematic for those who would enforce such rules, but also raise questions as to the constitutionality of any law regulating the content on the Internet.
As the discussion ensued, questions about personal responsibility in content management were raised. Several members of the audience raised concerns about how young people are using social media on the Internet today. These same young people may, as they get older, regret some of the things they are posting, whether their comments on issues, photos or other personal information, and desire to have them removed from their online presence.
While no conclusion was reached in how to coalesce the differences between the EU and America on addressing the “right to be forgotten” issue, it was obvious at the end of the panel discussion that personal responsibility in what an individual posts should always be considered prior hitting the “share” button.