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De Maizière suggests 'digital eraser' for online privacy

The Local · 7 Sep 2010, 10:19

Published: 07 Sep 2010 10:19 GMT+02:00

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Comparing the concept to neighbourhood property laws, de Maizière told daily Rheinische Post that the initiative must address individual situations.

“The rules say that a pear tree may grow over the fence as long as it doesn’t disturb the neighbours, but when it bothers them that the branches grow onto their property, then they must be cut,” he told the paper, explaining that this would be a clever approach to online privacy tiffs.

The online equivalent to this rule would be the “digital eraser,” he said.

“All of human history is based on the fact that one is allowed to put things in the past,” the Interior Minister told the paper. “The ability to forget is essential for humans to live together. Every family knows how important ‘wiping the slate clean’ is.”

However, the internet doesn’t forget, and users must have a right to change this in certain cases, he told the paper.

But such an approach would also need effective sanctions, said the member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

And those individuals who failed to properly protect themselves might be on their own, he implied.

“When someone doesn’t buy curtains because they think they are corny, then he can’t call on the state to better protect him from public view,” he said.

De Maizière’s suggestion ties in to the ongoing debate about privacy in Germany, most recently sparked by concerns over Google’s Street View program, which allows users to peruse street-level, panoramic pictures of major cities in a kind of “virtual tour.”

The pictures are taken by cameras mounted on cars that drive around the city, and German coalition politicians have demanded that the US internet giant first gather residents’ consent to photograph homes, rather than waiting for them to object via their online ‘opt-out’ form.

Story continues below…

While de Maizière has said the angry emotions directed towards Google over Street View are an overreaction, he has expressed a willingness to consider a universal law that would cover geological data services.

Google plans to put Street View online for 20 major German cities by the end of the year.

The Local/ka (news@thelocal.de)

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:57 September 7, 2010 by dcgi
Your online eraser won't work in the tubes, people just need to understand what's been posted on the Internet is public and will be forever more.
13:24 September 7, 2010 by Kayak
Analogies are great. I often reach for an analogy to help explain a complex issue to someone. But "curtains" and "erasers" to help explain the issue of privacy on the internet.

Perhaps, newspapers and governments around the world would like to "wipe the slate clean" and begin again. They too know the importance of using "the abilty to forget".

Wouldn't a better analogy be that we are now all publishers and managers of our own public statements - just like this one?

Maybe the German Government should just create a German Internet with all these necessary safety measures designed in to it and charge Google et al for access.

Sounds like a wall to me but that would just be another analogy.
13:58 September 7, 2010 by moistvelvet
Didn't think it would be too many paragraphs until Google's Street View was mention.

I keep hearing about the masses that are engaged in this ongoing debate about privacy, but then I realise it is just someone at The Local going on and on about it, supporting what a couple of out of touch envious politicians have to say in opposition of technology advancement. The rest of the people seem to think that there isn't a problem with Street View at all.
16:57 September 7, 2010 by NYsteve
First of...I just wanted to say...oh wait, this will be forever...oh great, now that is forever...OK,,,for real...oh cr@p...now THAT'S forever........
21:43 September 7, 2010 by dcgi
"Gordon Freeman, the right person in the wrong place, can make all the difference" ... dude is the Gman!
09:52 September 8, 2010 by catjones
Where does the local find these people, down at the Luddite town hall?
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