European Parliament invents Google Nanny

By EDRi · July 14, 2010

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Deutsch: [Europäisches Parlament macht Google zum Kindermädchen |]

The Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection of the European
Parliament has found another use for Google. From now on, Google should read
what we are searching for and, if the search implies any risky behaviour,
Google should tell us to be careful. Of course, it would not be just Google
but any “search engine” and nobody felt to that it was necessary define what
exactly a “search engine” would be in this context.

The first such “risky” behaviour would be looking for information about
medication. In a report about falsified medicine, the Committee agreed to a
proposal to insert warnings in search engines in the event of a search for
medicinal products on the internet. Whether or not people exist who would
both be foolish enough to search for (and buy?) dangerous medicines from
uncertified sources online, but yet clever enough to accept Google’s wise
counsel, is not yet clear. A further question is how one could implement
such a policy without scaring people away from using entirely legitimate and
verified online pharmacies.

One can, however, see lots of useful ways in which this measure can be
spread into other areas where people may be searching for things which
could, in some circumstances, be dangerous. There are vast numbers of things
which are at least as dangerous as searching for information about
medication online, although the biggest danger of all seems to be the
creation of a society whose common sense has atrophied through living in a
nanny state where people are no longer expected to think for themselves.

Undemocratic countries will also be looking with interest on what can be
done using such a system. Belarus claims that its new laws restricting the
Internet are based on legislation introduced in France and the United
Kingdom. The prospect of search engines giving a warning of the consequences
of accessing certain online resources would be an interesting new addition
to an armoury of internet restrictions.

The Committee report (adopted by 46 votes to zero, with two abstentions)
will be probably voted in a plenary session of the European Parliament in
September. It is unclear if alternative proposals will be tabled or whether
the European Commission will support the measure.

Draft report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and
of the Council amending Directive 2001/83/EC as regards the prevention of
the entry into the legal supply chain of medicinal products which are
falsified in relation to their identity, history or source (7.05.2010)

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)