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. Shame.
Now a Microsoft guy is giving a talk and I cannot figure out what he’s trying to say. Otherwise, I’d blog it.
Next up, Andrew Keen. Polemic time. He reads a quote from Sheryl Sandberg about deeper portraits online. “I’m here as someone who is raising my voice in defense of lost privacy,” he says. But he doubts that Reding and government are the protectors.
He calls me a spokesman for “the cult of the social.” AKA society, I’d say.
He says we need to learn to live alone. Funny, but the internet was last accused of making us antisocial and now it’s accused of making us too social. It makes us neither. We make it.
Now Nick Bilton leads a panel asking the premise of his book: is privacy dead. Garg.
Odd how the topic of privacy has turned an internet conference into an anti-internet conference.
Nick asks 4Chan’s Chris Poole whether we “should allow anonymity on the net.” That’s how the net is built, Nick. It already is allowed. It is part and parcel of free speech.
I have no tongue left. I bit it off.