'This Week': Internet Privacy

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Tech Freedom's Berin Szoka about Europe's new ruling on the 'right to be forgotten.'
5:58 | 05/18/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Internet Privacy
All of us may be getting used to the idea that true privacy is a thing of the past. Every time we post a selfie, search the web or buy a product online, we sacrifice some personal space for the convenience or connection. ABC's David Wright examines the consequences. Reporter: For queen bee and jay Z, the invasion of privacy is the price of fame. This sort of attention on the red carpet feeds their brand. But in the elevator, moments earlier, an argument in which beyonce's sister appears to physically attack jay Z. The release of the elevator security cam footage is clearly a violation. Technology for surveillance is so cheap and powerful that anyone can be competing in the surveillance business. Reporter: The danger isn't just the big brother Edward Snowden warned us about. It's millions of little brothers, keeping a watchful eye on the digital footprints we leave without even realizing it. Every website we visit, every purchase we make, revealing intimate secrets to total strangers. You might say there's nothing with this. And maybe there isn't. Reporter: Ashkan Soltani demonstrates software that reveals third partying watching your every move online. We look up luggage. 12 or so third parties pops up on the site. Reporter: These are just people lurking in the shadows. That's right. These are people that want to know that I'm interested in luggage and monitor me. Reporter: Did you know, Google keeps a record of every search you ever made. Think about that. Every search you've ever made. Saved for posterity. Google knows the truth because it sees your behavior. Reporter: So, just like that scene imagined in "Minority report." You could use a guinness right about now. Reporter: They can sell stuff to you wherever you go. But commerce is just part of it. Text messages, e-mails, online chats, all supposedly private. Those messages are retrievable, by divorce lawyers, employers and others. One big concern is all those cameras out there. If they're ever combined with facial recognition technology and powerful search algorithms. Right now, you have this sort of false sense that they're not actually looking at you. Once it becomes technologically feasible to identify people right away, then I think we are going to be in a world where, you know, you will never be able to be not found. Reporter: A brave, new world in which every one of us will become a beyonce or a jay Z, with nowhere to hide. Somebody always watching. For "This week," David Wright, ABC news, Los Angeles. And we are joined by two men who thought a lot about these questions. Berin Szoka, the president of tech freedom. And Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, author of "Without their permission." Alexis, let me begin with you. You say we have to preserve our right to privacy in this brave, new world. But is it too late? Yes, we are in an age of oversharing with selfies and everyone's got a smartphone on them. But I think a lot of what's happened as a result of the revelations of people like Edward Snowden and glen Greenwald, we do have a right to privacy when we expect it to be private. We make decisions to publish certain things. We make a decision to publish other things privately online or offline. And what's interesting is, I think the european government has the best of intentions with the laws that they're trying to pass. The problem is going to come down to actually executing it because this is the -- the internet is one giant copying machine. You describe the decision by the european court for this so-called right to be forgotten, which would give people the right to ask Google or some other search engine to take down links that they find embarrassing. Are you worried about that? I'm very worried about that. As a practical matter it will make hard for websites like Reddit to keep providing user content. That'shy in the U.S., we decided to not make sites like Reddit responsible for what their users do. That's been the basis of the open internet in this country. My concern is there's a false debate here. There's people who say privacy's dead. And that's not true. I don't believe that. There's people who say privacy is a fundamental right. And that leads you to crazy decisions like the european one. The real goal is to figure out in the middle, how to deal with real harms, real problems, when the NSA is able to get all of our information. When police can get information about us without going to a judge. And when companies can track every, single thing your kids do online. Same thing. So, you can either say there's an absolute right and try to shut it down. Right? That's not going to work. That really would start to break the internet. But that doesn't mean there's no role for government. There is a role going after real harms, real problems. And making sure, for example, identity theft, data security breaches. Those are serious problems. We should be dealing with those. We should make sure that users do have choices. But we shouldn't think that we can stop technological change. People tried to stop mail when it first started because it creeped them out. And technology is always going to be creepy. The camera was very creepy when it first started. And then, we got used to it. How about on this argument, the right to be forgotten. Most average people are defined by their worst moment online. If they defaulted on a debt at 1 point 15 years ago, that's the 1 thing that comes up. Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations? The challenge becomes, the internet is a global copy machine. And the challenge is, trying to snuff it out in one place, is going to create a kind of black market for this information somewhere else. Maybe because of geographic location or whatnot. It's a difficult proposition. This technology enables a lot of stuff. But the problem is, it's really hard to put that genie back in the bottle. And there's other ways to get around it. There's companies in the business of doing reputation management, to help you kind of cleanse your search results by promoting other content that's better, the kind of thing you want your future employer to see. That seems to be part of a meaningful solution.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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