The European Union is in the process of proposing new laws on how large corporations handle users’ personal data.
Speaking at the Digital Life Design(DLD) conference in Germany on Sunday, EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, said she thinks governments need to find a balance between policing the internet to protect copyright and upholding freedom of expression.
Reding was reacting to a US crackdown on hundreds of websites accused of offering pirated music or movies or counterfeit goods, as well as calls for new legislation to guard intellectual property.
“The protection of creators must never be used as pretext to intervene in the freedom of the Internet,” Reding told an international Internet conference in the southern German city of Munich, noting the “heated debate” surrounding the issue.
US authorities have seized more than 350 website domain names since launching an anti-online piracy campaign dubbed “Operation In Our Sites” more than 18 months ago, including a spectacular global swoop on file-sharing site Megaupload.com.
But US congressional leaders have put strict anti-online piracy legislation on hold following a wave of protests led by Google and Wikipedia denouncing the bills as a threat to internet freedom.
In her keynote Reding argued that internet users had a “right to be forgotten” — the idea being that anyone should be able to delete all the data they have online at any time, except in cases where there is a legitimate interest in maintaining information in a database.
American journalist and television critic, Jeff Jarvis, commented on Reding’s statement saying: “I fear the implications for free speech. And on a practical level, how can one as a principle tell people to no longer know what they know?”
Though deleting one’s data doesn’t necessarily mean all traces of you online are gone. Twitter mentions and Facebook posts can always be found online.
Reding also warned against an overzealous approach to internet freedom that could have a chilling effect on the industry.
“You’ll never have from Europe a blocking of the Internet — that’s not the European option,” she said.
“Freedom of information and copyright must not be enemies, they are partners… European policy aims at equilibrating the respect of both rights.”
The draft copy of the new EU policy, which was obtained by Reuters shows that the “right to be forgotten” simply “would allow people to request that their information be erased and not disseminated online.”