The Virtual Currency Gold Rush and the Regulatory Wild West

Since my departure from the world of full-time academia, I have dedicated noticeably less time to writing new content for this site – however, not for want of subject matter. In the course of my recent work on AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and CFT (Countering the Financing of Terrorism) I have been deeply engaged with an old favourite topic of mine – digital payment methods. Specifically, both e-money and virtual currencies have cropped up on numerous occasions as innovative, though oft ill-understood, developments, which are raising a number of issues for AML/CFT and regulation more broadly. In this post, I will attempt to give a quick overview of virtual currencies from a prospective regulatory angle, focusing on the importance of clear and logical definitions (where possible), but leaving any more technical analysis of individual virtual currencies or underlying blockchain or distributed ledger technologies to another day. Continue reading The Virtual Currency Gold Rush and the Regulatory Wild West

The State of the (European) Union – Technology Law

I’ll start the year off with a bit of a general overview of some interesting developments in the area of technology law – specifically in Europe, but with wide-ranging effect – and there certainly have been some in both the closing months of 2015 and already in 2016. I’m hoping I’ll get around to writing about these issues in more depth in the coming months. There have been developments in the realm of employer surveillance of employees; the fallout from the disintegration of the Safe Harbour program continues to plague multinational data-driven companies; and these developments, along with others, such as the future of the so-called ‘Right to be Forgotten’, remains to be seen, with the final touches being put on large scale reform of data protection law in the EU. Continue reading The State of the (European) Union – Technology Law

Aspiring Simian Photographer Loses Copyright Case

A while back I drew attention to a rather excellent piece by Technollama entitled “Do Monkeys Dream of Electric Copyright?“, which, right when the saga of Naruto the aspiring simian photographer was just kicking off, analysed the various issues the human photographer, David Slater, would have when trying to claim copyright from a selfie which Naruto the crested black macaque monkey took with his camera back in 2011. The piece made some interesting analogies between Infopaq and computer-generated work, and how Slater could still perhaps claim copyright, despite the intervention of the monkey. Later, in 2015, PETA filed a lawsuit, Naruto v Slater, in the name of the monkey,claiming copyright for Naruto. After much speculation by academics and amused onlookers US District Judge William Orrick ruled this week, on Wednesday 6th January 2016, that the monkey sadly cannot own the intellectual property rights to the photos which were taken. So let us take a quick look back at the saga of Naruto the simian selfie-star, and the most recent developments. Continue reading Aspiring Simian Photographer Loses Copyright Case

Do Cyborgs Dream of Electric Lawsuits? – Gikii 2015

I recently had the pleasure to be invited to give a talk at the wonderfully niche Gikii conference, organised by Andres Guadamuz (aka Technollama) and Lillian Edwards in Berlin this year. The event was hosted by the Alexander von Humboldt Centre for Internet and Society (HIIG), and covered topics such as monetising celebrity gut flora, monkeys as copyright holders, privacy in the Marvel universe and a number of questions about the urge to connect everything to the Internet of Things. Below you will find a brief overview of my paper, as well as the slides from the presentation. Continue reading Do Cyborgs Dream of Electric Lawsuits? – Gikii 2015

Human-Animal Hybrids and Chimeras: What’s in a Name?

Things on the website have been rather quiet of late, though not for lack of interesting science and tech news. But rather I have been tied up with work projects for the last while, and am endeavoring to find some time to take a more in depth look at some recent developments. I do have some new reading material however for anyone with the dubious interest in human-animal genetic research; my piece entitled “Human-Animal  Hybrids  and  Chimeras:  What’s  in  a  Name?”,  was recently published by JAHR  –  the European  Journal  of Bioethics. You will find the abstract below: Continue reading Human-Animal Hybrids and Chimeras: What’s in a Name?

Citibank Is Working On Its Own Digital Currency, Citicoin

TechCrunch

In a move that should be of no surprise to anyone familiar with the space, Citibank has admitted to running a test platform for digital currencies and is pondering its own solution, CitiCoin.

According to the International Business Times, Citigroup has built its own digital currency based on bitcoin and the blockchain. This, in itself, isn’t very difficult – anyone can create a cryptocurrency in a few seconds with a bit of programming knowledge. But the fact that Citibank, at least in its R&D arm, is looking into the technology is promising.

The IBT quoted Kenneth Moore, head of Citigroup Innovations Lab:

Moore said: “We have up and running three separate systems withinCiti now that actually deployblockchain distributed ledger technologies. They are all within the labs just now so there is no real money passing through these systems yet, they are at a pre-production level to be clear.”We also…

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Uber France Leaders Arrested For Running Illegal Taxi Company

Certainly an interesting development for the “sharing-economy”, where strict regulatory structures for the likes of taxis and hotels are circumvented by legally questionable – albeit often welcome – business models introduced to the market

TechCrunch

Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal and Uber Europe GM Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty were both taken into custody today in Paris. The news was first broken by the AFP. The police started investigating on Uber in November 2014 and raided Uber’s office in Paris in March 2015.

The police charged the two executives with two different charges. First, according to them, Uber is running an illegal taxi company. Uber has been struggling with this charge in many countries, starting with the U.S. In 2010, the company had to changed its original name from UberCab to Uber as taxi companies didn’t want any confusion.

Second, the police said that Uber France is concealing digital documents. It’s hard to tell what the police was looking for when they raided the French office. But apparently, some documents are missing…

The transportation company executives weren’t taken into custody because of the violent protests that…

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Call For Google To Show Its Right To Be Forgotten Workings

TechCrunch’s coverage of the RTBF Transparency Open Letter and Google’s response so far

TechCrunch

A group of Internet scholars and legal academics has called on Google to be more transparent about its decision-making process in regards to its implementation of Europe’s so-called ‘Right to be forgotten‘ ruling.

It’s one year since Europe’s top court handed down a legal ruling that requires search engines to process private individuals’ requests for the delisting inaccurate, outdated or irrelevant data returned by a search result for their name.

In that time, Google has processed around 250,000 individual requests, granting delisting to individual requesters in around 40 per cent of cases.

In making these delisting decisions, Google and other search engines are required to weigh up any public interest in knowing the information. It’s more transparency about how Google is making those value judgements that the group is essentially calling for.

They are focusing on Google specifically because it is by far the dominant search engine in Europe (with a circa 90 per cent share of…

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The War of the Forget-Me-Nots: Google and the Right to be Forgotten – One Year On

You may remember that around this time last year I wrote a rather critical analysis of the newly established Right to be Forgotten which resulted from the Google Spain decision. You may also remember that Julia Powles and Rebekah Larsen collected a great deal of commentary (available here) from all sides of the debate on this topic, including, I am flattered to say, mine. Apart from anything else, this collection of commentary from all perspectives helped me re-analyse my own position on the Right to be Forgotten (RTBF), and perhaps move away from being staunchly against it, to being critical of how it was implemented. A year down the line, Julia Powles and Ellen Goodman managed to round up signatures from the lot of us, and composed an excellent Open Letter to Google, asking them for more transparency in how exactly they handle RTBF requests. Continue reading The War of the Forget-Me-Nots: Google and the Right to be Forgotten – One Year On

Fire-Foxes and Privacy-Badgers

Good afternoon one and all. I know it’s been rather quiet on here the last month of so, but I’ve been tied up with a number of projects, in addition to the fact that the glorious Bavarian summer is playing havoc with my hibernian homeostatic balance. But I’ve decided to give you a quick update on the latest in a line (previous additions to your online privacy arsenal can be found here, here and here) of handy online tools for protection of your personal data – Privacy Badger. Privacy Badger is the excellently-named brainchild of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). If you’re not familiar with the EFF, I suggest you become so, as they are a particularly laudable digital rights non-profit who get up to such activities as; defending individuals and new technologies from misdirected legal threats, organising political action and mass mailings (on issues such as net neutrality), supporting new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms, whilst exposing technologies and companies who encroach on such freedoms, supporting fair and open copyright policies, keeping an eye on patent trolls, and much, much more. Continue reading Fire-Foxes and Privacy-Badgers

Internet Privacy Is The Wrong Conversation

A very interesting, perhaps more practical take on the European data privacy debate

TechCrunch

Editor’s note: Rami Essaid is CEO and co-founder of Distil Networks, a bot detection and mitigation company.

On April 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is in hot water with government regulators in six European countries over its practice of tracking users’ movements across the web to sell targeted advertising. The kerfuffle illustrates the bind that the world finds itself in over tracking — the collection and sharing of data on users’ browsing habits to help sites offer personalized content such as ads or recommendations.

On one hand, tracking has become a backbone of the Internet’s advertising ecosystem and is understood by most Internet users to be a necessary evil in exchange for a richer, more convenient online experience. (Do people really want to fill out purchasing forms on Amazon.com every time they order a book?)

On the other hand, cookies and other tracking mechanisms continue to raise…

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Google Launches Its Own Wireless Service, Project Fi

TechCrunch

google fi

As rumored for months, Google has just announced plans to offer its own wireless cellular service.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • It’s called “Project Fi”
  • It’s for Nexus 6 owners only, at first.
  • It’s invite only right now. You can sign up for an invite here.
  • It’s built on top of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks
  • No contracts
  • Subscribers pay $20 for unlimited talk/text, and then pay $10 per gig of data. So a 3GB plan would be $30 on top of that $20, coming out to a total of $50.
  • You only pay for what you use, but in sort of a strange way: if you pay for 3GB of data per month ($30) but only use 1.5GB, you’ll get $15 back at the end of the month.
  • It’s all tied into Google Hangouts, which will allow you to place calls from your number on any Hangouts-enabled…

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No Victory in Europe for Net Neutrality

So far 2015 had been looking like a good year for proponents of net neutrality, with the somewhat unexpected victory in the US that came with the FCC passing new regulations, strictly enforcing net neutrality on a 3-2 vote. However, there was a bit of an upset last week in the European battle over net neutrality when some of the widely-praised and popular proposals for telecommunications reforms were back-tracked upon by the European Commission and the majority of the national representatives of the Member States in the European Council. As WIRED UK puts it;

Less than a year after the European Parliament voted to enshrine net neutrality in law, the principle has come under attack by the European Commission.

Continue reading No Victory in Europe for Net Neutrality

The Future (of Banking) Is Now! Number26 – The Online Bank

I admit it, from the title, and most likely from my excited writing style in the rest of this post, it will very much seem like I’ve been paid to write this by the bank. But the truth of the matter is much more mundane: I’m simply childishly excited by new toys, and my newest toy at the moment is the bank account I just opened with the new completely-online bank NUMBER26. At the moment, the service is only available to customers in Germany and Austria, but there are plans to roll out to other countries relatively soon.

Continue reading The Future (of Banking) Is Now! Number26 – The Online Bank

FCC Passes Strict Net Neutrality Regulations On 3-2 Vote

A big victory for Net Neutrality proponents in the US. This decision has been a long time coming, but was far from a sure thing, with a number of serious fluctuations in FCC policy and proposals since the landmark rulings in Comcast Corp. v. FCC (2010) and Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC (2014).

TechCrunch

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed new net neutrality regulations today on a vote of 3-2, with the Commission’s two Democratic appointees joining Chairman Tom Wheeler in voting yes. The Commission’s two Republican-appointed members both voted no.

Notably, the FCC’s plan is now known to have undergone a last-minute revision to remove a potential weakness in its formation, pointed out by Google, that might have allowed for some paid prioritization. If you were curious about Google’s take on net neutrality, that fact should settle the question.

The CEO of Etsy, an online marketplace, spoke before the commission voted to “applaud” the FCC for putting into place “bright line” rules, and “voting to protect the Internet.”

Up first from the commission, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in her remarks that the “framers” of America “would be pleased” with the FCC’s plan. The commissioner went on to call today’s vote the FCC’s “third bite…

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The Underappreciated Guide to Protecting Your Online Consumer Identity

While it has come across my radar before, a colleague of mine at the Forschungsstelle für Verbraucherrecht reminded me today of a pretty handy, though perhaps under-utilised, tool for digital consumers, namely the website www.YourOnlineChoices.com “A Guide to Behavioural Advertising”. The front page offers a wide range of different countries and languages to choose from (including Romansch, though not Irish… even though the latter is an official language of the EU, but the former not), and this cheery message:

Welcome to a guide to online behavioural advertising and online privacy.

On this website you’ll find information about how behavioural advertising works, further information about cookies and the steps you can take to protect your privacy on the internet.

This website is written and funded by the internet advertising industry and supports a pan-European industry initiative to enhance transparency and control for online behavioural advertising.

Continue reading The Underappreciated Guide to Protecting Your Online Consumer Identity

The Pirate Bay Is Back After Nearly Two Months Of Downtime

And so it continues…

TechCrunch

One of the Internet’s most targeted, and yet also most hard-to-kill sites is back again following a raid on its servers over seven weeks ago: The Pirate Bay resides once again at its familiar “.se” URL, offering a database that appears to be fairly intact, with torrents mostly in place up to its closure on December 9. The website, a famed destination for those seeking pirated material (but which also seeks simply to provide a portal for sharing of information via bit torrent technology, and ascribes content choice to users), went down after its servers were raided at a data center in Nacka station near Stockholm, Sweden.

This looked like one of the most serious threats yet to The Pirate Bay, which has been in operation since 2003, and which saw its founders found guilty of assisting copy right infringement in Sweden in 2009. A raid in 2006 ordered by…

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NIPL: New IP Lawyers

NIP(p)L(e), ostensibly standing for “New IP Lawyers” is a new network for those involved in the various fields of intellectual property law (and questionable acronyms), in particular for early career researchers and newly qualified lawyers. The initiative was co-founded by Mathilde Pavis and Hasan Kadir Yilmaztekin at the University of Exeter, with Joshua Wabwire as network representative at the University of Oxford, and since has been joined by members from a number of academic institutions around the UK. The mission of the network is to encourage and facilitate discussion of the issues surrounding IP Law both by lawyers and non-lawyers: Continue reading NIPL: New IP Lawyers

Digital Panic 2.0! Facebook Are Still Not Going to Steal Your Copyright / Identity / Soul!

Happy New Year ladies, gentlemen, all in between, and none of the above! As always a new year brings new resolutions to be broken, new goals to be abandoned, and, of course, new hoaxes to be unmasked like a particularly tiresome episode of Scooby-Doo. Once again, and while 2015 is still knee-high to a grasshopper, our latest digital hoax and viral spread of legal misrepresentation comes to us from the realm of The Facebook. Much as with our last round of myth-busting, “Digital Panic! No, Facebook Is Not Spying on You Through Their Messenger App“, this time my, and no doubt your, Facebook news feed is a blaze with well-intentioned warnings about the depths to which Facebook has descended in its quest to steal Copyright, identities, souls and more than likely candy from babies. As much as this makes fascinating, if somewhat depressing reading, and as much as it pains me to take on the role of spoilsport in this micro-drama of the Erin Brockovich-esque user who first uncovered and took a stand against Facebook’s perceived changes in its Terms of Service, I must sadly inform you that this is once again nothing more than a not-particularly-elaborate-but-worryingly-effective hoax.

Continue reading Digital Panic 2.0! Facebook Are Still Not Going to Steal Your Copyright / Identity / Soul!

Why Sony is way out on a limb with legal threats against Twitter

Gigaom

The ripple effects of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack continue to spread, and one of the latest — and also arguably the least plausible — is Sony’s attempt to threaten Twitter with legal action if it doesn’t remove tweets that contain content from the company’s hacked emails. Sony may have hired superstar attorney David Boies, who led the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s, but the consensus in the legal community is that the company’s blustering is all sound and fury, signifying little.

The full extent of Sony’s claims can be read in the letter that Boies sent the company, but in a nutshell the movie studio is asking Twitter to suspend the account of anyone who posts information from the hacked emails, and it specifically mentions the account @bikinirobotarmy — which belongs to rock singer Val Broeksmit, who has a band of the same name —…

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An undisciplined, multidisciplinary repository for thoughts on Law, Ethics, Science, Technology, Gaming, and Various Other Words

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