Monday, December 10, 2007

Highlights of the LSPI Conference 2007

Having been absent for a week in Beijing to attend the LSPI Conference, there was the opportunity to visit the various "touristy" places including the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.

As for the conference, this was held at the Communications University, Beijing. The theme centred on "Cyberlaw, Security and Privacy". There were some very interesting papers given including (not exhaustive):

The European proposal concerning the structure of the Internet has offered a more international and rounded approach to the debate surrounding Internet Governance. Encouraging the formation of ‘alliances’ by a certain number of governments, who wish to proceed to specific policy decisions, ‘enhanced cooperation’ is viewed as the viable solution that would potentially remove the control of the Internet outside the United States Government. However, can ‘enhanced cooperation’ meet the democratic mandate of how the Internet should be governed?

With its future still undetermined, even within the confines of the European Union, ‘enhanced cooperation’ could work as the catalyst for either the unification or the segregation of the medium. The current structure of the Internet does not encourage the creation of a ‘Constitution’, due to its domination by a specific segment of governments and private entities. Due to this state of affairs, the setting of basic principles and policies with the active participation of all interested parties – Governments, the Private Sector, Civil Society and the International Corporation for Assigned and Numbers (ICANN,) is vital. Otherwise, if not used appropriately, ‘enhanced cooperation’ can “support” coalitions of specific groups, leaving outside actors, whose role is significant.

This proposal’s starting point is the notion that, before we proceed in any governance of the Internet, first we need to identify the principles that we need to secure and, based on that premise, shape the boundaries and effects of the European proposal. Otherwise ‘enhanced coopeartion’ or any other proposal for that matter will have a detrimental effect and might even cause more problems than solutions.

"The Global Positioning System (GPS) has slowly permeated into the civilian community and has become an essential accessory for the modern individual. Various commercial applications heavily rely on GPS technology. GPS has also started receiving attention in court cases, where it has been admissible as evidence leading to convictions or proving innocence. However, GPS is a radio-navigation system and is prone to vulnerabilities that may be introduced intentionally or unintentionally. The legal literature has not debated the possibility of human alteration of GPS data in judicial reasoning which raises the prospect of forged GPS data being presented to courts by individuals who have the motive and the technical knowledge to do so. By exposing the weaknesses present, this paper aims to draw the attention of the legal fraternity to these issues which may put the legal system in a dilemma as over-reliance on GPS technology may produce disastrous results, especially when innocence or guilt largely depends on GPS evidence."

"The EU has developed a comprehensive framework for Information Society law that spans various areas ranging from a liberal regulation of e-commerce to a stringent legislation in the area of copyrights in the Information Society. This article discusses the evolution of the EU approach to the regulation of e-commerce in the Single Market and demonstrates the most important aspects of the current regulations relevant to this area."

In Internet governance transparency issues merit more extensive consideration: The Internet offers valuable opportunities for transparent communication and for the achievement of open access to discussion topics, thereby enhancing communication and dialogue between the governance-related institutions and the interested parties concerned. Transparency could also promote the mobilisation of new actors and the participation of the civil society; such development would increase the level of democratic legitimization through active involvement. ICANN has recognized the need to improve the transparency framework with its structures; the ongoing attempts should be strengthened by scholar research supporting the effort of the ICANN bodies in the present consultation phase. Since a transparent methodology for rule-making processes based on revisable procedures reduces mistrust, transparency should become a persistent objective of governance mechanisms.

The dichotomy between personal privacy and free access to information, which has come increasingly to the fore with the advance of information technology, justifies a reconsideration of these traditional values and interests. In this article, it is contended that privacy, as a constitutional right, is subject to changing norms as a result of the advent of the information society. In today’s information society, citizens weigh the importance of protecting privacy against the advantages of free access to information. The criterion they use is a rational one: an evaluation of which option provides the individual with the most benefit. The protection of privacy is no longer an unconditional good. For state organisations to champion privacy at any cost is, therefore, out of step with this development. A new balance has to be established between the citizen’s right to privacy and their right to know, taking into account this shift in values. In order to prevent on the one hand overzealous protection and, on the other, the abuse of information, it is necessary to set up the monitoring function in a new way.

Although one's paper concentrated on the subject of network neutrality, a topic which has received less attention in the UK and Europe, the feedback was very useful.

I hope to follow up on the feedback received from the two panel discussions convened on social networking (with diverse opinions/perspectives given). Again, the feedback has been extremely useful - my thanks to the delegates for making this topic a lively discussion even if some of us did not manage to agree! - a topic which has been covered to a greater extent! For those interested in the privacy implications and social networking, see the Clip below as an example:

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