#DLD12: Viviane Reding on privacy

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.

  • I am wondering, Jeff, if this whole take back what I said game that Governments are playing is more about Government Officials taking back what they have said, rather than you or I requesting our information back.

    When media was controlled by the few, tapes could be conveniently lost, and anyone wanting to match up a governing officials vote versus their said stance, would need to do a lot of work to make relevant decisions, rather than just believe the party line.

    (Obviously, this would neeveer happen.)

    These days, at the touch of a button, I can wonder aloud to an android or iphone, and listen to different representatives to as far back as people who had tape recorders where taping tv show. What is the history of Newt Gingrich? Just search and listen to what he has said, and how what he has said has changed, then you don’t seem so upstanding as a candidate. ( I am picking on Newt, when I have not performed this search on him, but have every reason to suspect, due to him being human, that his positions have changed.)

    When we line up what position a politician takes under what pressure, two things will happen.

    Number one, we as citizens forget. If it didn’t happen immediately in the past, it no longer matters, barring there is not some reason that it stays with us. The internet changes that, allowing citizens to see a clearer picture of their representatives. This makes it harder for the same person to stay in their current seat.

    Number two, we as engineers and scientists, and tech enthusiast will start compiling the data and make the most efficient organization for change the world has seen.

    So governments, be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Love your TWIG show, and will be following you more in other endevers.

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  • Jeff, you shouldn’t confuse copyright and authors’ rights continental european style. SOPA is about big publishing groups, Hollywood and the Music Majors trying to squeeze as much money as they possibly can off the creative crowd’s brainware. Over here, publishers would LOVE to get US style copyright laws which would give them complete control over what they call “content”. If Reding talks about the “right of the creator” she’s referring to the very heart of the Intellectual Property idea: Those who create shall have the power over what shall happen with their own creations, it mustn’t be left to those greedy marketeers.
    Many web users claim they were much more willing to let us writers earn a few bucks than they are to help Rupert Murdoch getting even richer. In fact, Murdoch offers a cheap excuse for not trying to spend money on content anyway. So if what Reding has in her mind was legislation in favor of the creators, instead of the media sales organizations, that wouldn’t sound evil to me. Government isn’t per se worse than business. This is not China or Russia (or D.C., from Tea Partyers perspective ;-). It’s the EU with its very own weaknesses – and strengths.

    • Joe

      Okay. So in that case may I be generous and give the unshod your shoes? Despite the idea that it’s only big menacing “corporations”, the rightsholders being screwed are the authors of the content.

      And you’re right, it’s Europeans we’re talking about. Three months ago they were ready to send out jackbootted thugs to enforce IP rights:

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    • Ewa Nowakowska

      Hi Jeff, I am a huge fan of you and your book about Google.

      Jeff, tell me, Have you heard about the WAZZUB profit sharing portal and what do you think of it? Do you think it’s feasible at this moment?



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  • Yes, but is government — which can most abuse our data

    You really think businesses can’t abuse your data worse than government?

    • Joe

      I know that government can abuse the data it has more than anyone. Moreover, it can make itself not-responsible when things go wrong the way no private entity ever could.

    • Government can throw you in jail. Yes.

      • And that doesn’t include the other niceties they can put you through, like putting you on a list of suspected terrorist, and every time you travel you get “special treatment.”

  • Bauer

    [ “I’m at the DLD conference in Munich… Viviane Reding is speaking…” ]


    In this year 2012, physically shipping humans to Munich for a “conference” seems a very expensive way for those humans to communicate.

    Are there any other effective ways now technically possible for those ‘Munich-Humans’ to communicate/confer… without physical self-transport around the planet (??)

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