Don’t follow EU’s bad privacy ruling in HK

18-Jun-2014 Intellasia | SCMP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

It sounds less ominous in Spanish. After all, the case that started the imbroglio originated from Spain. Derecho al olvido means roughly the right to turn over a new leaf. In French, it’s droit a l’oubli, which is close to the English of “the right to be forgotten”.

People in the European Union with links on the internet to public records they are unhappy about can now demand Google and other search engines delete such references, after a ruling by the highest court of the EU last month.

A Financial Times commentator who denounced the absurdity of the ruling wrote at the time: “Those in the US and Asia will remain unaffected, rather as Google in Hong Kong presents the search results that the Chinese government refuses to permit on the mainland …

“Before long, people’s search results will start to resemble official biographies, recording only the facts that they want other people to know, and not the reality.”

He spoke too soon. Our privacy chief Allan Chiang Yam-wang wants Google in Hong Kong and other jurisdictions across Asia to offer a similar service.

There is a difference, though. In the EU, the service is demanded by law. In Asia, it would be out of the goodness of Google.

I say, don’t do it. We must not follow a terribly bad decision made by a foreign court just because Chiang thinks it’s a good idea. One saving grace is that he is not planning to turn it into law.

If the search engine giant’s motto is still “don’t be evil”, then it should continue to provide legitimate links to public documents and records.

Note that we are not talking about links to public records that are libellous, false or in violation of copyrights or intellectual property, but those that are perfectly legitimate and accurate.

They merely have to be considered “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive”, in the words of the EU court, in order to be struck out. But who makes that decision?

Well, I guess it’s the fraudster, child molester, loan defaulter and anyone who has a history they would prefer not to be so readily available. I am sure plenty of dubious characters in Hong Kong and on the mainland would be happy to see those links deleted.

The Europeans have screwed up. Let’s not follow their example.


Category: Hong Kong

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