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When American and European Ideas of Privacy Collide

February 28, 2010

Adam Liptak in The New York Times:

“On the Internet, the First Amendment is a local ordinance,” said Fred H. Cate, a law professor at Indiana University. He was talking about 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.

In one sense, the ruling was a nice discussion starter about how much responsibility to place on services like Google for offensive content that they passively distribute.

But in a deeper sense, it 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.

“Americans to this day don’t fully appreciate how Europeans regard privacy,” said Jane Kirtley, who teaches media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. “The reality is that they consider privacy a fundamental human right.” [More]

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