Street Photography, Right to be Alone and the Challenge of the Reasonable Privacy Expectation

Question: what does ? street-photography has in common with Google’s indictment in the Mosley suit?

Answer: both challenge the balance between reasonable privacy expectation and the right to be informed.

There is a widespread attitude acknowledged by some European courts – namely, Italy and France – that grants legal protection to this alleged “right to be forgotten”. This is a rather dangerous attitude because following this path leads to the deletion of the collective memory of a culture: if Catilina were alive today, he would have had merit in asking his conspiracy to be deleted by the chronicle. Agreed, not everybody is a Catilina – or a public person whatsoever – but there is a shared principle in Western legal systems that separates what is public and what ought to be private. As soon as something falls in the former, there is not – or ? there shouldn’t be – a reason to delete the information of its existence.

To provide an example of the absurdity of the enforcement of this alleged “right to be forgotten” on the freedom of (online) press I can quote a fact I’ve witnessed in person, professionaly. An online magazine has been targeted by a threatening letter from a law firm, asking to remove from its server an article talking about an acquittal – yes, acquittal – of a Mr. Somebody. The basis of the claim is not a falsity or an exaggeration – that would have been illegal, indeed – but the simple fact that this Mr. Somebody “didn’t like the news to be online.” Only the future will tell whether this case will end in settling new censorship’s standards, or if the Justice – once and if the issue will be taken in Court – will decide in favour of the freedom.

As per the relevant case law, after a couple of lower court decision that enforced this “right to be forgotten”, a Supreme Court decision ruled that there is no such thing as “right to be forgotten” when freedom of press is involved and the news is correct. The concerned person, nevertheless, has the right to ask the online newspaper to update the original news in case of some further development of the story.

With a rather unusual sense of balancement – when dealing with the Internet – the Supreme Court issued a reasonable decision that should stop any further attempt of erasing the History.


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