“The digital age is in full swing,” said New York Times European Technology Correspondent Mark Scott on Tuesday.
“Digital data now runs pretty much everything we do on a day-to day basis,” he said, “Data has become the lifeblood of the 21st century.”
During his presentation, “Who Controls Your Digital Identity,” the World Affairs Lecture Series speaker talked about the issue of freedom of speech versus the right to privacy when it comes to digital data.
The discussion was primarily centered on the topic of Europe making moves to become a global watchdog in this new digital age. He talked about how Europe takes digital privacy very seriously compared to the United States.
“The way it works in Europe is that privacy is a fundamental right. Where as in the U.S., there is no equivalent, and therefore it is done on a case-by-case basis,” said Scott. “But (United States) also has the Fourth Amendment, so there are laws in the U.S., but like it or not Europe just goes a bit further.”
According to the European Commission, private information can only be legally collected under strict guidelines within EU law. Persons or organizations that collect this personal data must protect it from misuse and respect specific rights of the data owners.
“It goes without saying that Europe right now has become the global lead on how your data is protected worldwide,” Scott said during his presentation.
However, who controls your digital data still depends on where you live.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of speech. Because of this, there is no ruling that allows people to delete negative information about themselves online, according to Scott.
However, In Europe, the “right to be forgotten” rule allows online users to ask search engines to remove links to negative personal data and protect their right to privacy.
The two different rulings between Europe and the United States has led to “tensions between officials and disputes with companies”, said Scott in his New York Times article.
According to him, where to draw the line between freedom of speech and a person’s right to privacy is something that needs to be discussed.
“I think there are good things that Europeans are doing. I also think that, to some degree, they are going too far,” he said, “Therefore, the line is not black-and-white, it’s in the grey.”
Cliff Nowell, dean of international programs at Weber State, said the presentation was a great way to get students thinking about controversial topics that have a global impact.
He said he hoped it brought awareness to what is going on, not only in the digital world, but in the real world as well.
“I hope that students get that there are different perspectives on information sharing and privacy from what they hear in the mainstream,” he said. “And hope that they just give some thought into that there are different views in the world.”
Scott said that bringing this kind of awareness to young people is especially important because most of their lives have been digitally documented and are now accessible online.
“Being in my thirties, I have that greater privacy, because my younger years weren’t on Facebook,” he said, “So if I were a college student, I would be asking myself, there is a lot of information out there about me, and do I have control over it?”
However, he is not asking people to log-off or power down. The purpose of his presentation was to promote awareness and educate students about the digital era.
“We need to realize that digital data is now part of our daily lives, but we all need to take it with a pinch of salt,” he said.