Is It Right to Be Forgotten?

Have you ever wished to take something embarrassing off the internet? Maybe it’s a quote of yours, an article about you, or even unflattering pictures of yourself. In the EU as of last May it is now legal to request certain information to be “Forgotten”. Last year a man named Mario Costeja González won a case against Google which now makes it a search engine’s job to control what search information is displayed. Since then, thousands of requests have been submitted asking google or other search engines to take down unwanted content.

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Many cases have legitimate reasons behind the requests such as revenge porn,  someone’s political views that are no longer true, or, in Mario Costeja González’s case, results showing misleading information of a person. With every practical case comes many that are downright ridiculous. A man in the Netherlands asked for a picture of himself playing a didgeridoo in a park to be taken down because he thought it was embarrassing (no, amazingly this is not a joke); they actually took it down. Some pedophiles have even requested to have search results of their arrests taken down. Thankfully, these requests were denied.

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It is easy to see how subjective the rulings are on each case. According to Peter Fleischer, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, “The process is still evolving”. Many people criticize that if it is legal to request to remove information in the EU then why is it not the same in the US or other countries? I see this becoming a growing concern globally considering so many people want certain information to not exist. Facebook has also been getting flack on the security of their default privacy controls. Facebook has been accused of selling information of its users to ad agencies. People are becoming more concerned about how people see them online. Personal branding is a term often used today that describes how you control your image. It is getting harder to do that currently when just about anything can be posted to the internet. So after reading this, take a moment to search your name and hopefully the results are not surprising.


The Tragedy of German Wings

Adreas Lubitz is a name we have all been seeing in the news lately. He was a seemingly normal guy who had many friends, a girlfriend, and made it into flight school with Lufthansa. Many remember him as a “friendly, if very reserved, person.” Andreas often competed in long distance races, such as half-marathons, often placing very high. He was what most people would consider a typical, and even successful, young 27-year-old. Shockingly, last week Andreas took his own life and those of 149 others in the worst Lufthansa airline crash in twenty-two years.

Andreas Lubitz running the Lufthansa Half-Marathon

On March 24th, German Wings Flight 4U 9525 smashed into the French Alps, killing everyone on board (German Wings is a smaller airline owned by Lufthansa). What was thought at first to be an accident was later found out to be intentional by the Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz. As the plane’s black box made clear, at around 10:30 am the pilot stepped out of the cockpit to go to the restroom, leaving Lubitz alone to man the controls. The door to the cockpit was manually locked when the pilot left, which could only have been done intentionally by Lubitz. On the cockpit’s recording that was recovered, the sound of the pilot softly knocking on the door can be heard. There is no answer. The knocking gets louder until it sounds as if the pilot is trying to knock the door down. The autopilot controls were manipulated, keeping the plane on track, but the altitude was changed from 38,000 feet to 96 feet. Once set, the aircraft started descending at around 1,000 feet per minute. The pilot was joined by others as he was helplessly knocking on the door. At 10:40 am the plane struck the side of a mountain obliterating flight 4U 9525 into thousands of pieces.

Damaged recording data of the cockpit

The motive for Lubitz’s actions is unknown. He was treated for depression before the incident occurred, but is that all it takes to take all 150 lives on board? In my opinion, much more had to have happened to drive a man to commit such a crime. Investigators have searched his house for clues as to why he might have done this. They found a torn-up doctor’s note that excused him from working on that fateful Tuesday morning. It is not yet known what the doctor’s note was in treatment for, but why did he choose to go to work that day? These questions may never be answered, but it makes me wonder, should these airlines require stricter standards to pass their psychological screening? I think that in many cases, when it comes to an employer knowing a worker’s personal medical history, it should be kept private. However, in the case of a pilot or any other kind of worker who could directly endanger the public, it is vital to know if they are mentally stable.

I think an additional precaution might have prevented the incident as well. German flights do not always require two people in the cockpit like American flights do. When a pilot steps out to go to the bathroom on a U.S. flight, a flight attendant must join the other pilot for reasons like this. The doors on the cockpits are unable to be opened from the outside due to changes after 9/11, which is understandable, so having a second person in the cockpit might have been the only solution.

A brief description of how the cockpit manual lock works

It is impossible to predict if a pilot will commit such a crime if he is mentally unstable, but we can increase the odds of being safe by making the medical records known in such cases and by encouraging foreign airlines to have two people in the cockpit at all times.

Ultimately, I know we all try and figure out ways to keep things like this from happening, but sometimes it’s only clear in hindsight. I hope for the sake of all the victims, as well as the Lubitz family and friends, that more information is uncovered that will shed light on what exactly led to that tragic Tuesday morning.


Budget Cuts to Largest American Youth Exchange Program

My sophomore year of high school I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship through the U.S. and German governments that allowed me to travel to Germany and stay as a foreign exchange student for an entire year. The program is called Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (or CBYX for short). The program was started in 1983 and is funded by both American and German governments and awards 700 scholarships to American and German students annually.

The program suffered budget cuts that will reduce the funding by 50% and could even jeopardize the future of it. There are over 23,000 alumni of the program, all of which would be sad to see the funding cut in half.

My year I spent in Germany was one of the best years of my life. I spent my time going to a German Gymnasium which is the American equivalent to a college prep school. I was placed right outside of Frankfurt in a small town called Usingen. During my time there I created many lasting friendships, I was able to travel all around Europe, and I became almost fluent in German. The trip meant a lot to me and I’m sure to all the other alumni as well.

Congress appropriates the budget which therein includes money for the state department to function. However, the state department uses that money how they deem fit. There should be more oversight by the public to ensure money is being spent appropriately and efficiently. I am surprised that the state department would find it necessary to cut the budget for the program that has been around for over 33 years and only costs $4 million. Luckily, the German parliament stepped in last minute and provided $2 million to fill the budget gap.

Many people are upset that the U.S. state department would make such a poor decision. The U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013, Phillip Murphy, expressed his disappointment and surprise in the budget cuts. Murphy went far enough to say that it is one of the most important exchange programs to the U.S.. Phillip Murphy is not the only politician to express his disapproval of the budget cuts; Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, said she strongly supports the program and even said she brought it up in talks with President Obama.

I hope that the U.S. State Department will review the budget cuts and reconsider. While I was abroad I was able to have experiences I will likely never have again. Educating 700 students each year about another country’s government, culture and people creates a much stronger relationship between the two countries. Others should be able to have the same opportunities that I had and the U.S. State Department should realize how important this exchange program is.