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  • Author: Emily Taylor
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: The Internet enables the free flow of information on an unprecedented scale but to an increasing extent the management of individuals’ fundamental rights, such as privacy and the mediation of free expression, is being left in the hands of private actors. The popularity of a few web platforms across the globe confers on the providers both great power and heavy responsibilities. Free-to-use web platforms are founded on the sale of user data, and the standard terms give providers rights to intrude on every aspect of a user’s online life, while giving users the Hobson’s choice of either agreeing to those terms or not using the platform (the illusion of consent). Meanwhile, the same companies are steadily assuming responsibility for monitoring and censoring harmful content, either as a self-regulatory response to prevent conflicts with national regulatory environments, or to address inaction by states, which bear primary duty for upholding human rights. There is an underlying tension for those companies between self-regulation, on the one hand, and being held accountable for rights violations by states, on the other hand. The incongruity of this position might explain the secrecy surrounding the human systems that companies have developed to monitor content (the illusion of automation). Psychological experiments and opaque algorithms for defining what search results or friends’ updates users see highlight the power of today’s providers over their publics (the illusion of neutrality). Solutions could include provision of paid alternatives, more sophisticated definition and handling of different types of data — public, private, ephemeral, lasting — and the cooperation of all stakeholders in arriving at realistic and robust processes for content moderation that comply with the rule of law.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Human Welfare, Science and Technology, Governance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Nigel Shadbolt, Wendy Hall, Keiron O'Hara
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: In May 2014, the world of privacy regulation, data handling and the World Wide Web changed dramatically as a result of judgment C-131/12 in the CJEU. The so-called Google Spain decision confirmed that EU data protection legislation gives data subjects the right to request search engines to de-index webpages that appear in the search results on their names. The search engine is not obliged to agree to such requests — certain conditions have to be met and tests applied — but it is not free simply to ignore them. The decision drew on the 1995 DPD2 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and is consistent with a general direction toward more aggressive protection of privacy rights in Europe, as evidenced by the annulment of the Data Retention Directive, also in 2014 (CJEU 2014). Nevertheless, despite these antecedents, it has been seen as a major step in establishing a right to be forgotten.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Mass Media, Global Markets, Information Age, Digital Economy, Privacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Jorge L Contreras
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: In recent years, high-pro le lawsuits involving standards- essential patents (SEPs) have made headlines in the United States, Europe and Asia, leading to a heated public debate regarding the role and impact of patents covering key interoperability standards. Enforcement agencies around the world have investigated and prosecuted alleged violations of competition law and private licensing commitments in connection with SEPs. Yet, while the debate has focused broadly on standardization and patents in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, commentators have paid little attention to differences among technology layers within ICT. A review of case statistics shows that patent ling and assertion activity is substantially lower for Internet- related standards than for standards relating to telecommunications and other computing technologies. This paper analyzes historical and social factors that may have contributed to this divergence, focusing on the two principal Internet standards bodies: the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It offers a counternarrative to the dominant account portraying standards and SEPs as necessarily fraught with litigation and thereby in need of radical systemic change. Instead, it shows how standards policies that de-emphasize patent monetization have led to lower levels of disputes and litigation. It concludes by placing recent discussions of patenting and standards within the broader context of openness in network technologies and urges both industry participants and policy makers to look to the success of Internet standardization in a patent-light environment when considering the adoption of future rules and policies.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, International Security, Information Age
  • Political Geography: Global Focus