Online Communication Technologies: Finding the Balance Between Connecting Us and Respecting Our Rights
In today's digital era, people are grappling with the difficult issue of using technologies that make their lives better or easier, but also erode their fundamental rights and values. While these tools enable people to communicate and connect with the world, they often impinge upon a user's right to privacy, free speech and an online existence. As ongoing political and legal disputes around the globe — chiefly involving Google — have shown, these technologies also frequently fail to offer people the right to be forgotten.
Legislators around the world have found it difficult to agree on new amendments and/or the creation of new laws relating to how such technologies impact the above-mentioned rights. The question they face is whether our fundamental rights should stop at the gates of the digital world or extend beyond its limits, as the internet is part of our daily lives. As recent policy rulings in Europe have shown, a consensus has been difficult to reach. While the European Union's Court of Justice backed a ruling brought against Google Spain by a Spanish citizen, the British House of Lords subsequently stated in a report that the ruling was "unworkable, unreasonable and wrong in principle."
While uncertainty surrounds existing communication tools and how they treat users’ personal data, some brands are going the extra mile and promising to never betray their users’ privacy. These companies should be a guiding light, offering technologies that guarantee their users’ right to be forgotten.
Jean Dobey is the CEO of Virtual Artifacts, a company that builds technologies for safe online interactions.