Saturday, 13 May 2017

Election Manifesto Pledges Rights EU Citizens Already Have

A story about a Conservative party election pledge caught my eye this morning: giving power to people to ask social media companies to remove content they posted in their younger days. BBC quoted Labour's response as, "cynically trotting out tough talk that we know will be ultimately meaningless". The article is here.

They're both wrong. Well, actually, one is following the EU and the other has apparently never heard the biggest reformation of European data privacy law to occur since 1995. The power to remove content posted as a child is just one aspect of the 'right to erasure', also known as the right to be forgotten. This right was first recognised by the much loved Court of Justice of the European Union. Yes, those bucks. It's now been written into legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR 2016).
It's amazing how much shame one
motherboard can hold
The GDPR 2016 is a piece of EU law that applies throughout the Union in the same way, so we all get equal protection. It was officially published in 2016, but it's not due to come into force until 2018. Thanks to this law, everyone in the EU will have this right to be forgotten.

Returning to the Conservative pledge, let's take a moment to discuss why it's not as groundbreaking as they're trying to pass it off. First of all, the EU's right to be forgotten recognises that things you did online as a child that bring you shame now and states that being a former Bebo Stunnah is grounds for asking for your picture and any embarrassing comments you left to your other half to be removed. So, basically, the Conservative's pledge.

The right to be forgotten is much broader than this though, because it allows anyone who withdraws consent to data processing to have content removed. Data processing is as simple as hosting a picture or a comment on a website. So, at any time, you can withdraw consent to anything under the GDPR 2016 and ask social media companies, search engines, or any other website to remove material. The GDPR 2016 even covers situations where someone uploads a picture of you and you don't consent to a website hosting it.
Brexit strikes again
As amazing as the GDPR 2016 is, it's only applicable to the EU. So it requires the UK to enact their own law to match its protection. But this is something that's probably going to happen anyway for the purposes of trade agreements. To get a good deal with the EU, countries need to have similar regulatory systems so that neither party is disadvantaged by the other's lax approach to protection. It makes good sense because why would the EU allow someone who doesn't follow any of the rules that they think are important to compete with EU players subject to those rules?

Having now slated the Conservatives for their lack of originality, let's bring some balance to the discussion and examine Labour's nonsensical statement about the pledge. This pledge can't be "utterly meaningless" if 27 EU countries are going to enforce a much more robust version of it next year. It's astounding that they could be blind to a Regulation that's received so much discussion.

To summarise, the Conservatives are promising a watered down version of what the EU has already set in motion and Labour haven't been paying attention. To all my UK readers, hard luck; to all my EU readers, try not act too smug when you're in the UK taking advantage of the bastarised exchange rate.

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