EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘Google execs convicted in Italy for Down’s video‘:

It seems that all major commentaries around the world about this Google indictment miss the actual legal issue, i.e. the extension of data protection act. Google execs have been indicted – this is the charge – for having infringed sect. 167 of the Italian Data Protection Agency [DPA] by gaining profit (adwords revenues) from a non-authorised personal data handling. In other words, since Google execs failed to verify whether the person portrayed in the video agreed with that, then they’re liable for DPA infringement.

While, in theory, the idea that personal data must be subjected to a prior authorisation from the concerned person, I wonder how far this duty can be stretched out. Putting aside concerns over the risk of severely affecting the telcommunications industries (loss of investment and jobs), the danger I see is that the DPA has been turning into a tool to legally enforce global control.

If the Court of Milan is right, then every ISP, content provider and, why not access provider too would have to carefully scrutinise each ‘move’ by users and decide ‘on the fly’ whether the action is legal or not under the DPA (this means: enforcing a user’s global control policy). By failing to do so, they bear the risk of being ‘milanized’.

The legal paradox of the legal doctrine supported by the prosecutor is summarised thus:

  • Fundamental human rights overpower the industry rights (correct)
  • Personal data protection is a fundamental human right (correct)
  • So DPAs prevail over industry rights (correct… well, maybe not absolutely)

No matter that if by asserting this conclusion, other fundamental human rights are affected.

As Cicero said, summum jus, summa injuria.

Andrea Monti

ALCEI Electronic Frontiers

Italy

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