“When American and European Ideas of Privacy collide.”

March 1st, 2010

On 26 February 2010 the New York Times had a dramatic headline : ” When American and European Ideas of Privacy collide.” The article, by the respected collumnist Adam Liptak, arose out of the ruling from an Italian Court that Google executives had violated Italian privacy law by allowing a user to post a video showing an autistic boy being bullied. The article states that the ruling calls 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.2 The ruling balanced ECHR Article 8 rights against free speech and ruled in favour of the former. Given the biorderless quality of the Internet, that balance has the potential to affect Nations that prefer to “tilt towards the values” protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution (whose “distant cousin” is Article 10 of the ECHR), and makes Europe the “effective sovereign of global privacy law”. The word “privacy” does not appear in the US Constitution. The Italian prosecution would have been “unimaginable” in the US. The article concludes : “Britain is only slowly moving towards the Continental model.”

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