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While Mozilla talks about online privacy, European Court of Justice acts

Talking's okay, but doing's better.
Talking's okay, but doing's better.
Courtesy Mozilla, by permission

Just days after Mozilla posted a website and a video saying that internet privacy is good, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) actually did something to make online privacy better. Deciding a case that originated in Spain over the posting of some settled lawsuits, "Europe’s highest court said on Tuesday that people had the right to influence what the world could learn about them through online searches," the New York Times reported May 13.

In creating a new "right to be forgotten" that lets people delete posted information about themselves, this ruling, according to the Times, "rejected long-established notions about the free flow of information on the Internet." By giving "individuals the right to ask internet search engines to remove links to information about them that they do not want known," it "raised the possibility that a Google search" and, yes, a Mozilla Firefox search "could become as cheery — and as one-sided — as a Facebook profile or an About.me page."

Internet privacy is a valid concern. As Politico notes,

Commercial data brokers know if you have diabetes. Your electric company can see what time you come home at night. And tracking companies can tell where you go on weekends by snapping photos of your car’s license plate and cataloging your movements.

Private companies already collect, mine and sell as many as 75,000 individual data points on each consumer, according to a Senate report. And they’re poised to scoop up volumes more, as technology unleashes a huge wave of connected devices — from sneaker insoles to baby onesies to cars and refrigerators — that quietly track, log and analyze our every move.

But, according to Mozilla's online poll of self-selected respondents it's more of a top issue with Europeans (40.4 percent of respondents) than anyone else. North Americans were next, with 35.2 percent, and Africans last with 23.9. Except for Africa, the whole world shares the same amount of concern about Internet freedom – not much, at 14 percent plus or minus a few decimals.

Do as we say...

Mozilla's one-minute video uses the old technique of featuring kids saying the darndest things. Things like, "The Internet is our largest shared resource" and "Balance commercial profit and public benefit." You know, things you hear around the playground all the time.

And what a politically correct bunch of children they have saying those things. Of the nine kids on camera, six are female. Between the girls and the federally recognized minorities, there's only one white male – and he gets to say all of eight words.

Other than nodding your head (in either agreement with or boredom from all these pious sentiments), taking the online survey and sharing the page, there's nothing the Mozilla kids say you can do about it. But then, recent events suggest that Mozilla isn't all that big on online privacy after all.

...not as we do.

After all, it was only last month that Mozilla ousted CEO Brendan Eich, with less than two weeks' tenure on the job, because he'd privately and quietly donated $1,000 in support of California's Proposition 8, the referendum in which a majority of voters voted against gay marriage.

Eich never made any public statements on the issue. He never made any anti-gay remarks. He never discriminated against gays in the workplace or anywhere else. But his name appeared on an online list of political donors. So Mozilla forced him out of his job because of a private act that just happened to be posted on the Internet.

One thing Mozilla's video doesn't say is that respect for privacy, like charity, begins at home.

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