A panel of U.K. lawmakers said the government should consider new laws if search engines and social media platforms such as Google Inc. (GOOG:US), Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. (FB:US) don’t abide by court orders on people’s privacy.
In a report published today, Parliament’s cross-party Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions cited the May 2011 case of soccer player Ryan Giggs, who got an injunction to keep details of an affair secret, only to find the information repeated 75,000 times on Twitter.
Instead of calling for a new privacy law, the panel urged stronger enforcement of existing rules, saying prosecutors should lower the bar for bringing contempt of court actions against people who break injunctions and that the platforms should work to comply with them.
“When granting an injunction, courts should be proactive in directing the claimant to serve notice on internet content platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook,” the report said. “The Attorney General should be more willing to exercise his power as Guardian of the Public Interest to bring actions.”
The committee reserved criticism for Google’s refusal to develop technology to prevent material that was subject to court orders from appearing in search results.
“We find their objections in principle to developing such technology totally unconvincing,” it said. “Where an individual has obtained a clear court order that certain material infringes their privacy and so should not be published we do not find it acceptable that he or she should have to return to court repeatedly in order to remove the same material from internet searches.”
“This is a really important issue for which there are no easy answers, particularly when balancing freedom of expression and tackling unlawful content,” Google said in an e-mailed statement.
“Google already remove specific pages deemed unlawful by the courts,” it said. “We have a number of simple tools anyone can use to report such content, which we then remove from our index.”
It added: “Requiring search engines to screen the content of their web pages would be like asking phone companies to listen in on every call made across their networks for potentially suspicious activity,” it said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at email@example.com.