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Forget Me Not

What the EU's New Internet Privacy Ruling Means for the United States

Broken computer keyboards, December 13, 2013. Kacper Pempel / Courtesy Reuters

The modern innovators of Internet human rights are not U.S. leaders or bold Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. They are stodgy bureaucrats, politicians, and lawyers in Brussels, Berlin, and Strasbourg. As the National Security Agency (NSA) and American firms have relied on sucking up massive amounts of data to observe citizens and create and serve consumers, the European Union has fought to establish privacy rights. Over the last ten years, however, the EU initiative seemed to be on the ropes as the United States pressed Europeans to water down their privacy protections in a number of key sectors. But now, the tables are turned.

This month, the European Court of Justice, Europe’s closest equivalent to the Supreme Court, ruled that Google must delete search results linked to the name of a Spanish citizen that the citizen had found outdated and upsetting. The ruling obliges Google and other Internet firms to

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