The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Tuesday, May 13, that “Internet search engines are responsible for protecting personal data that appear on web pages published by third parties.” See “Google loses data privacy court case” at Europeanvoice.com, http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2014/may/google-loses-data-privacy-court-case/80874.aspx.
Quoting the previously mentioned article: “Search engines will now have to respond to legitimate requests from individuals to delete certain types of private information from their records.” Hooray. The ruling does not apply to public figures, such as politicians and celebrities. I applaud the ECJ for its pro-privacy ruling in favor of the average European Union (E.U.) citizen.
The case stems from a complaint filed by a Spanish citizen in 2010 against Google for posting a link in search engines results displayed personal information about the citizen. European data privacy laws are a bit stronger than U.S. data privacy laws. Unfortunately, I do not see this benefiting U.S. residents, as Google, and other search engine providers, will simply tweak search results as requested for E.U. citizens in E.U. countries.
In March, a French consumer rights watchdog group filed suit against Google, Facebook and Twitter for violating French privacy laws. See: http://rt.com/news/france-facebook-google-suit-129/. The details on that suit are a bit sketchy, but many foreign courts are friendlier to privacy concerns than some U.S. courts.
U.S. courts have taken it easy on Google at times, but this past December, an U.S. appeals court ruled against Google in the “Street View” privacy case. Google was charged with illegally capturing unencrypted Wi-Fi transmissions as its “Street View” cars, the cars that photograph neighborhoods for Google Maps, were driving through communities. See: https://epic.org/amicus/google-street-view/.
Google reached a $7 million settlement with 38 states and the District of Columbia in the Street View case, but where does that money go? I am certain that not all those Wi-Fi users who had their transmissions scanned and captured will receive a check.
I know many readers are concerned about U.S. government spying on us, but I worry more about the private firms that are collecting data about us. The government does not know what to do with the data it collects; the private businesses know all too well what to do — profit from knowing us better than we know ourselves.
Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple Iie.
Posted May 15, 2014