With the proliferation of Internet platforms for user-generated content, people are increasingly seeing examples where one person's right to freedom of expression may infringe someone else's right to privacy, and vice-versa. If I upload my holiday pictures to the Internet, taken from a public place, and if they capture you lounging by your pool, does my freedom of expression trump your right to privacy, or the other way around? Whatever you think, there are already billions of such photos online and publicly accessible.
Both freedom of expression and privacy are fundamental human rights. But those rights are not both equally enforced, protected or policed. There are literally thousands of data protection bureaucrats in Europe whose job is to enforce European data protection regulations. As far as I can tell, there is not a single government official in all of Europe whose sole job is to do the same for freedom of expression. Curious, no?
As I go to privacy-centric conferences where people invariably talk about the problems and risks of social networking sites, I'm often the odd guy out who seems to think that they're also precious platforms for freedom of expression. Lots of guys in power lecture about how lives or careers or futures are jeopardized by a single embarrassing photo posted to a platform.
Well, I'm not so sure. I was thinking about what this guy showed when he was young, and he just got elected Senator, so maybe things are changing.
A privacy regulator in Europe told me the other day that he thought it was a data protection violation for anyone to post a photo online if it captured someone's face or property without their consent. I asked him whether he thought this restricted the right to freedom of expression. He didn't seem to understand the question.