We get so many takedown requests from paralegals and pranksters that it’s almost a cliche. Another day, another takedown.
The one purporting to be from Vueling Airlines was almost tossed into the digital trash where it belongs, except that it reminded me of my colleague Jeremy Cooperstock.
Cooperstock is fighting for his right to publish the names, numbers and email addresses of United Airlines’ executives in Canada where privacy and free speech rights are different from those in the States, where this site is published. I’ll have more on his situation in a minute.
But first, let’s get turn our attention to the absurd removal request from Vueling, which we received about 24 hours ago.
Subject: Non authorized Use of Personal Data VUELING AIRLINES
-PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL –
Dear Sir or Madam,
We have noticed that, without any prior written consent, you are using in your website the name, surname and e-mail of individuals who are employees of our Company Vueling Airlines (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/vueling-airlines/).
Moreover, you are using these personal data for your own interest and commercial purposes.
According to applicable Privacy and Personal Data Protection Laws, this non authorized use is considered and intrusion into the privacy of the individuals.
By this letter we hereby expressly request you to remove the following personal data in order to protect the privacy of said individuals:
We reserve the right to initiate legal action in case of failing to remove the information of said individual, in a non-extendible period of 24 hours.
Vueling Airlines, S.A.
Seriously, Vueling? Seriously?
If this is a legitimate takedown request from the “legal” department, I would have expected to receive something in writing at my postal address. But this email looks more like a semi-literate tantrum by an SEO specialist determined to remove useful information from the web.
Also, a real takedown would make a little effort to cite the applicable laws or statutes.
Fortunately, there are none.
We have a little something in America called the First Amendment, as well as 240 years of legal precedent that says we do, indeed, have the legal right to publish these names.
So, Vueling, if that really is you asking us to whitewash our useful website, you have your answer.
But this little dust-up reminds me of how fortunate we are here in the United States to have strong laws that protect our right to share the names, numbers and email addresses of the customer service representatives for an airline or any other company. (By the way, we don’t publish home addresses or phone numbers — although we also have that right, our research team feels it crosses a line.)
Cooperstock, a Canadian professor I’ve known for years, and who runs the excellent website Untied.com, does not necessarily have that right under his country’s laws. He’s in court now, trying to keep his site alive. United Airlines may win, but if it does, it will be a miscarriage of justice.
We receive takedown requests — some polite, some demanding, and some hardly written in the English language — too often. We consider them all carefully but comply with none of them because we are privileged to live in the Land of the Free — and that freedom includes our right to publish these customer service contacts without fear of retribution.
Our geographic location is your good fortune. It means you have access to the best database of customer service contacts in the world.
Thank you, America.