Wow, as other countries protect many rights, the US is eradicating rights. I would have never thought this would ever happen, especially in the US. This is what the US needs to do, and get back to the right to privacy, regardless of your past.
By Jannie Schipper
People who publish footage and photographs of alleged criminals on the internet can expect to receive a hefty fine in future. The Netherlands has once again confirmed its reputation as a strict guardian of the right to privacy.
At present, the Dutch Data Protection Authority only has the power to issue warnings to offenders. It is up to the courts to impose fines or payment of damages. The DPA recently gave a leading homeowners’ association a rap on the knuckles for plans to publish videos of burglars online.
But a law in the making could lead to private individuals and organisations paying tens of thousands of euros in fines if they publish such material. Jacob Kohnstamm, head of the DPA, is advising the government on the new legislation due to be introduced in the autumn:
"We want the Data Protection Act to carry a fine for people who don’t comply. This [publishing photographs and footage of alleged criminals] is forbidden, and it’s a very unreasonable thing to do. I can understand people saying ‘We have pictures of these people and we want them arrested.’ But that’s up to the police and the legal system. They are the only ones who can solve these cases. It can’t be done by taking the law into your own hands and starting a rogues’ gallery on the internet."
Better for criminalsThe proposed law has sparked indignant responses. Controversial website GeenStijl, which publishes naming and shaming material on a daily basis, sets the tone: “Three cheers for the Justice Ministry. With this idea you’ve succeeded in making our legal system even worse for law-abiding citizens and better for criminals.”
Yvonne van Hertum, founder of anti-child abuse website Stopkinderseks.com, believes that the publication of photographs should be allowed in connection with serious crimes:
"Imagine your child has been raped and the man responsible is still out there somewhere. This law would mean that you’re not allowed to warn the public. That’s something I just cannot agree with."
The police themselves regularly publish images of suspects on the internet, but only under strict conditions. “We have to ask the public prosecutor for permission for each publication,” explains a police spokeswoman. And once the suspect is arrested, the image must be removed.
Doesn't really workIn the UK and the US, citizens go much further in publishing photographs and footage of alleged criminals. There are a range of websites that disclose the full details of suspects. A spokesman for US website Perverted-Justice.com says he regularly cooperates with police and the justice department to get people convicted. In the UK, the Data Protection Act only protects people from abuse of their personal details by government bodies and institutions, not against publication by other members of the public.
Euro MP for Dutch democrat party D66, Sophie in ’t Veld, believes the new law makes the Netherlands a forerunner in Europe. She hopes there will be a new European directive against online naming and shaming in 2012:
"We have been naming and shaming people for centuries and back then crime rates were many times higher than they are today. In other words, this approach doesn’t really work. That’s the stupid thing: if it actually helped reduce crime it might be different, but that’s simply not the case."
Facebook campaignThe debate about privacy as opposed to naming and shaming is not only raging in the Netherlands. In China, using internet to track down suspects is a familiar tactic. Officially, photographs of suspects first have to be published by the police but there are no records of people having been punished for doing it themselves.
In Brazil, people usually respond in person if their photograph appears on the internet without their consent: it heads the list of countries where people submit requests for images to be removed from the internet.
And in Indonesia, an internet information law dating from 2008 is causing a commotion. A hospital used the law to sue a patient who had disseminated an online message complaining about her treatment. When she was convicted, her supporters started a campaign on Facebook. The result was exactly what the hospital had been trying to avoid: it ended up being named and shamed in front of an even wider internet audience.