University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

October 21, 2017

Academic Freedom Lecture to explore expression, privacy online

September 26, 2016

Academic Freedom Lecture to explore expression, privacy online

Topic: Campus News

Imagine living in Europe and unsuccessfully requesting that Google or Yahoo! erase links to accurate — but less than favorable — information about yourself.

Marc Rotenberg

Perhaps that information involved a bankruptcy filing 10 years prior or pictures from a drunken night in college. In either case, you learn that these online search engines would not remove the information even if you deemed it no longer relevant.

This controversial issue involves privacy and freedom of expression, which are important when it comes to the information age, said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research institute in Washington, D.C.

"It's not a trade-off. It's not a balance," said Rotenberg, who is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. "You can't have one without the other."

Rotenberg will discuss these issues during the 26th Annual University of Michigan Senate's Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom at 4 p.m. Oct. 13 in the Law School's Honigman Auditorium.

"The Misunderstood Right to Be Forgotten: The Future of Free Expression and Privacy in the Online World" is free and open to the public.

The lecture is named for three U-M faculty members — H. Chandler Davis, Clement L. Markert and Mark Nickerson — who in 1954 were called to testify before a panel of the House Un-American Activities Committee. All invoked constitutional rights and refused to answer questions about their political associations. All three were suspended from the university. Markert subsequently was reinstated, and Davis and Nickerson were dismissed.

To illustrate his point, Rotenberg will reference the 2014 privacy ruling in Europe. A lawyer in Spain didn't want his old bankruptcy records available on the Internet, and demanded that a Spanish newspaper and Google delete them. Only Google had to delete the link, he said.

Rotenberg has a long history in advancing both areas, having testified before Congress on more than 60 occasions regarding privacy and emerging civil liberties issues.

He testified before the 9-11 Commission on "Security and Liberty." He has also spoken before the European Parliament several times and given invited lectures in more than 30 countries.

He has written more than 50 amicus briefs on privacy and civil liberties for federal and state courts, including three briefs for the Supreme Court in the 2012 term (Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l, Florida v. Harris, and Maracich v. Spears). He has submitted comments in about 100 federal agency rulemakings and similar agency proceedings.

Rotenberg is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and has received several awards and honors, including the World Technology Award in Law, the American Lawyer Award for Top Lawyers Under 45, the ABA Cyberlaw Excellence Award, the Norbert Weiner Award for Social and Professional Responsibility, and the Vicennial medal from Georgetown University for 20 years of distinguished service.