France Goes to Extremes on Privacy

The French have long been known for infamous and extraordinary things. Whether that is the Eiffel Tower, their 75% tax on the wealthy, or even their love for exotic food, they like to make news. Now, it seems they want to take over the world! Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. However, what they are trying to do is limit the information that may be viewed around the world.

Eiffel Tower

If you have followed the news at all, you may have heard about the right to be forgotten law that just took place in the European Union. That means that people may petition Google to get information removed about them. That is somewhat understandable to get information taken down in the country where the user lives.  That said, the French feel their right to be forgotten should extend all over the world.

The problem with this is, they want to the ability to control the world’s information on citizens or URLs. The government calls this move a natural extension, but to request Google to take down information around the world is too much. If the French government has a problem with information, they could always implement a firewall like China has. One of the things that makes the internet such a great tool is the free flowing information around the world. As with anything, good intentions can often lead to negative consequences. By granting the right to privacy in this manner, you detract from the right to information and expression.

Recently, there were just over 200k websites that were requested to be taken down, and almost half of them got removed. The BBC specifically began listing the URLs to sites that had been removed from the results. One of the BBC staffers, David Jordan, pointed out this was a matter of historical record. Despite the medium, there is essentially no difference in electronic media and print media, in this situation. Both are part of history.

To the lengths the French are taking it, there is just too much opportunity for abuse. There have been many people through the course of time that would love to alter or control the flow of information about the past. Even with the most recent wave of privacy concerns, there needs to be a balance between privacy and information altering. Without that distinction, we run the risk of seeing more items of public record being altered because they were not complementary .