Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Podcast: Explaining Europe's historic online privacy ruling

May 15, 2014 by NCC Staff


The European Union has reached a big privacy decision that could change how you use Google, Facebook, and other digital services in the United States and areas outside of Europe.

GooglesignThe European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said on Tuesday that people have the "right to be forgotten" and can ask Google to remove some sensitive information from its Internet search engine. The ruling also potentially applies to services like Facebook, which hosts years of data about you and other people you may know.

Privacy advocates worldwide generally cheered the ruling, while a disappointed Google said it needed to study all the ramifications of the new requirements.

What complicates this broad decision is how it applies to constitutional law in the United States.

The current legal structure in America grants far broader discretion to information service providers such as Google in how they handle issues like defamation and copyright protection. For the most part, since the 1990s, the burden for handling these issues has been on original online information publishers, and not search engine providers like Google.

And there is the considerable problem of how the European Union ruling might conflict with the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Any similar privacy laws, if passed in Congress, would undoubtedly face a battery of court challenges that could refine the Internet business in America for the 21st Century.

Joining our Jeffrey Rosen,  who has written extensively about this subject, to discuss the ruling are two other experts who don't necessarily agree with Rosen on the case.

Michael Fertik is the CEO of Fertik is an industry commentator with guest columns in Harvard Business Review, Reuters, and Newsweek, and he founded his first Internet company while he was a Harvard student.  Fertik also has a degree from Harvard Law School.

Marc Rotenberg is Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington, D.C. He teaches information privacy law at Georgetown University Law Center and has testified before Congress on many issues.

You can listen to the entire podcast in the player below or by clicking on the following link: Download this episode (right click and save)

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