I’m at the DLD conference in Munich. Haven’t live-blogged in ages. But the European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding is speaking and I disagreed with her rather a lot in Public Parts, arguing that her four pillars for internet governance — privacy by default, demanding European standards for storage of data, the right to be forgotten, and transparency — bring unintended consequences.
Reding says that in “Europe, we have too many rules, too many conflicting rules.” So she wants to take over the rules for all Europe. Look at SOPA, too: There is a competition among governments to regulate the internet, to consolidate power.
“Persosnal data is the currency of today’s digital market. And like any currency, it needs stability and trust,” Reding says. Yes, but is government — which can most abuse our data — its best protector?
“Can we be sure that the rules we make today will fit tomorrow?” she asks. She says one cannot build rules that are too rigid; they need to be “futureproof.” But then, they also become very broad and that, too, has consequences.
She argues that following 27 separate sets of regulations costs 2.3 billion euros a year. Again, she justifies taking over local authority. But that is the EU.
She also calls for a smoother exchange of data among police authorities in the EU members to fight terrorism. Well, that sounds like the greatest threat to privacy I can imagine: all governments pooling what they know about you.
Reding says companies will be required to appoint data protection (privacy) officers. Thus the regulatory-industrial complex of the new privacy industry grows.
She says data-protection authorities need to be “independent” of politics. Does that mean they are above government by the people and representation?
Now to her “right to be forgotten.” It is a right, she says, to “withdraw permission” for data held by companies. I fear the implications for free speech. And on a practical level, how can one as a principle to tell people to no longer know what they know?
She says it is not an absolute right. “There are no absolute rights,” she says. She says it’s not a right to erase history or impact media. So this shows the problem with this notion, when one starts making exceptions for a principles.
Now she speaks about the debate about the freedom of the internet. She says the freedom of information and expression is a basic right and “this is directly linked to the freedom of internet, which has thus to be preserved. But those are not the only freedoms…. Sometimes one must balance freedom.” She claims the right of the creator (read: copyright) is “equally important.” Really? Higher than speech? But she says that Europe will never pass blocking legislation (read: SOPA).
No opportunity to question Reding. Schade.