A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

'Right To Be Forgotten' Forgotten

What do online companies know about you?

The EU does do some things worthy of admiration. Make no mistake: it would be better for them to be done by elected individuals, rather than unelected functionaries. But sometimes unelected functionaries have the right of it. Such as when they propose a 'right to be forgotten' online.

The European Justice and Fundamental Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding first came up with the novel idea back in March, in a speech before the European Parliament. It aimed to extend data protection rules, which already apply to written information and government-held data across much of Europe, onto the Internet, granting the citizens the right to see all data stored on them by online companies - searching, social networking sites, etc. - and to request its deletion.

It would have restricted employer's ability to scour the private lives of potential or current employees for any sign of not-quite-automative behaviour - or a personality, as it's known - to those willing to buy in to such an instrusive system, and would have greatly reduced the amount of information that online companies hold about you (the amount is truly frightening - and it's not solely limited to what you think you've told them. Anyone with a Facebook account feel free to try this), if you so wished. Anyone who didn't mind giving their personal information to websites in return for a more personalised service would have been free to continue under the previous system. No-one would have lost out.

At least, no-one who's not a lobbyist, a marketing executive, or an e-millionaire. The proposals has been brought down following an intense lobbying campaign. Would that the Commission was democratic so we could vote out those who were prone to such things, but, sadly, it isn't - so it looks like the 'right to be forgotten' is dead in the water. Unless our national parliament takes up the cause.

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