At the heart of current online consumer protection is the concept of informed consent where by the prospective consumer makes a conscious decision to sign up to a service with full knowledge and consent to the consequences of doing so. Even in the newly signed EU General Data Protection Regulation, which will go into effect in 2018, this will not fundamentally change. For anyone who has ever used a commercial internet service however, and this included policy makers, it is glaringly obvious that there is a fundamental flaw in this approach, namely the assumption that the consumer has a good understanding of the contract that is being entered into.
Cyberbullying is becoming an alarming problem among children and young people, not only because of its links to mental health and well-being but because it is so widespread that is becoming to be considered a worse problem among teenagers than drug abuse.
Not all news are disheartening though…
The Science and Technology Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into robotics and artificial intelligence (deadline for written submission was April 29th) as part of the continuing national strategy for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) innovation. In 2012 the UK Government identified RAS as one of the ‘Eight Great Technologies’, leading to the establishment of a ‘RAS Special Interest Group’ and the RAS national strategy in 2014. In 2015 the Special Interest Group published The UK Landscape for Robotics and Autonomous Systems and The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council also launched an UK-RAS network.
What follows is the response that was submitted by Ansgar Koene and Yohko Hatada.
This week saw the publication of the report on ‘Online platforms and the Digital Single Market’ by the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee. This reports presents the findings of the inquiry that was held from October 2015 till spring 2016, receiving 85 written responses and 20 oral evidence sessions. Included in the written responses were two from Horizon Digital Economy Research, one by Prof. Rodden and one by myself which we partially posted on this blog about in October 2015. The main driver for this inquiry was the publication in May 2015 by the European Commission (EC) of its ‘Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe’ (DSM), which drew attention to the growing role of online platforms as key players in social and economic interactions on the internet, and was followed on 24 September by the launch of an EC consultation ‘A fit for purpose regulatory environment for platforms and intermediaries’. For the purposes of both the EC consultation and the Lords’ inquiry online platforms were considered to ‘represent a broad category of digital businesses that provide a meeting place for two or more different groups of users over the Internet, examples of which include search engines, online marketplaces, the collaborative or sharing economy, and social networks’. What follows is an incomplete summary of the findings in the report, with a focus on the issues related to fundamental rights of platform users (e.g. privacy), the role of algorithms and user consent, which are most closely related to our work at CaSMa.
The second items, is a recently published set of guidelines for Networked Systems Ethics that was published online by Ben Zevenbergen with input from host of people who participated at various ethics workshops organized by Ben.
The European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology, a.k.a DG Connect recently launched a survey (deadline April 10th 2016) on the ‘future of the internet’ as part of its Net Futures agenda, which was established to “pioneer and coordinate research, innovation, and policy initiatives on what lies beyond the current internet architecture, software and services.” Below is a copy of my submission to the survey.
While exploring the Internet And Human Rights Resources Center at the Internet Society, I encountered a highly informative report from the Global Commission on Internet Governance (CIGI), which was published in January 2016, on the extent to which the management of individuals’ fundamental rights, e.g. privacy and free speech, is in the hands corporations.
The report presents an excellent overview of the various ways in which the dominance of a small set of companies that control the web platforms where most people spend the majority of their time online has produces a situation where these companies have become major actors in determining the state of human rights online.
Apple is not willing to weaken its hard-to-crack encryption protocols after being asked by a magistrate judge to build a weaker new version of its mobile operating system. This request comes from the FBI as an attempt to access the content of the iPhone used by one of the gunmen involved in the San Bernardino shooting. It has been argued that law enforcement officials wanted to use this high-profile act of terrorism as a way to create political pressure on Apple to comply with the FBI demands and set a dangerous precedent for future cases.
On March 1st I participated in a debate on Digital Ethics organized by the Digital Enlightenment Forum (DEF). The debate was a follow-up of previous discussions at the DEF in 2015 and brought together lawyers, engineers, economists, social scientists and philosophers to discuss challenges and possible framework for digital ethics that might help people, organizations, businesses and societies deal with the fast and complex ways in which digital technologies are impacting human lives. What follows is an abbreviated summary of the event. A more complete version is available from the DEF website.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Or would it? In his novel 1984, George Orwell introduces the idea of Newspeak whereby the Ministry of Truth reshapes language in order to make it impossible people to express, and hence think, concepts that go against the Party.