Law in the Internet Society
Under revision, please feel free to comment.

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) 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, these 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 right? For once, it is not about setting up a new tax, a new DMCA, or any other kind of absurd copyright law, it is about protecting us. Right? “Don’t worry about privacy people, we’ll fix that for you”, that is basically what we are being told now. 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, and the possibility to withdraw information we put on the net.

But why should we rely on regulators, government, agencies, to safeguard our privacy and anonymity? 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 and go on blogs, 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. This is not what we need.

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 that governments thought they could be ahead of that evolution by coming up with the “Right to Be Forgotten”.

Governments are scared by the Internet, they can’t regulate it, but they keep trying. Of course they 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. What can be removed? What should be removed? 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 what about Freedom of Speech. We do not have the First Amendment in Europe, and certainly a very different approach of the freedom of speech.

Not only does this obscure “right” mislead us in making us believe that it is the only solution to protect our privacy, but it also raises number of questions regarding its potential goal: censorship.

-- By NatachaEsteves - 20 Dec 2011

You've certainly mastered the realist style. This is a clever and effective adoption of the approach. I'm not surprised, and you'll not be surprised either, that it makes much more sense to me, as one reader, than the sort of analysis of the provisions of proposals that don't make any sense that one can easily learn how to do in Europe, on all sides of the Brussels-game. You know that I think that if more European law students learned to write like this it would result after a few years in a complete intellectual revolution, a second Enlightenment. Well actually, I don't, but I think it an immense objective improvement. Even if you don't believe a word you say, and are only writing in the argot of American Legal Realism because you know I will like it better, it's still really useful to be able to think this way. At first, it may seem like a bad habit you want to break. But after a while, you'll discover it's actually why you're becoming fabulously successful and are really getting things done in the world instead of pretending. Bravo.

Now, how to make it better? Your last few paragraphs could use tightening. You are a little rushed for space, though you can edit to gain enough words to solve that problem, and the result is that you're also a little unbalanced, at once more rhetorical and less persuasive. Give yourself a few dozen more words through editing earlier parts of the paper, removing everything that doesn't have to be there, so you can rebalance the ending, providing the little bits of explanation that are missing, and putting the sentences in a simple, unhurried order.

Yes, I was a little bit rushed for space, and too rethorical at the beginning of the essay. I'll work on the second part to make it more balanced, and insist on censorship. The censorship thing was just an hypothesis, but I'm gonna look into it more deeply.


Webs Webs

r3 - 07 Feb 2012 - 16:30:03 - NatachaEsteves
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