28 February 2010

When American and European ideas of privacy collide

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An Italian ruling against Google highlights the clash between Europe’s love of privacy and America’s of free speech, writes Adam Liptak in the New York Times.

“Last week’s ruling from an Italian court that Google executives had violated Italian privacy law by allowing users to post a video on one of its services […] called attention to the profound European commitment to privacy, one that threatens the American conception of free expression and could restrict the flow of information on the Internet to everyone. […]

“The framework in Europe is of privacy as a human-dignity right,” said Nicole Wong, a lawyer with [Google]. “As enforced in the U.S., it’s a consumer-protection right.” […]

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” The First Amendment’s distant cousin comes later, in Article 10.

Americans like privacy, too, but they think about it in a different way, as an aspect of liberty and a protection against government overreaching, particularly into the home. Continental privacy protections, by contrast, focus on protecting people from having their lives exposed to public view, especially in the mass media.”

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