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
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
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
If you are a video game enthusiast, a fan of DC’s favourite parentless posterboy, or simply a person who has paid attention to Twitter, Facebook or one of the various platforms through which we crowd-source our real-time news, you may have heard that a little, hotly-anticipated game, entitled Batman: Arkham Knight was released this week… You may also have heard that a number of people were rather less than delighted with the quality of said game at release – particularly the PC gaming community, a difficult community to placate at the best of times. What seems to have happened is that Warner Bros, the publishers behind this game, have released a PC-port (meaning the game was primarily designed for console and then adapted for PC) which is laughably unfinished, riddled with graphical issues, and plagued by problems with stuttering and freezing (OK, I’m not quite out of Batman villain references, but this could go on for days). In the wake of this debacle, they have been quick to suspend sales of the PC version, pending further invesitgation. Continue reading Batman: Arkham Knight – The Video Game Refund You Deserve
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was recently lucky enough to be asked to give a short presentation at the 2014 Edinburgh Postgraduate Law Conference, entitled “Innovation in the Law: New Challenges, New Perspectives“. The organising committee, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Law School and the Institute for Academic Development put on a great two-day event, creating a brilliant opportunity for PhD students, early career researchers, established academics and interested parties to swap ideas, talk at length about their personal obsessions, bemoan the constant struggles that are funding, exercising the power to say “no”, and engage in ample usage of the term “interdisciplinary”. I’d like to thank again all involved in the organisation of a thoroughly enjoyable event, and of course the Forschungsstelle für Verbraucherrecht for continuing to finance my wanderings around Europe in the name of digital consumer protection.
The talk I gave in the panel on “Technology and Law: Confronting Uncertainty, Testing Promises“, was entitled “2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back: The Problematic Protection of Consumers of Digital Content“, the article and slideshow for which you can find below. Rather than the traditional (and oft beset by delays) practice of publishing conference proceedings in a printed version, the conference chose the novel approach of asking the speakers to present their ideas in a 1,000-word blog post, which was then made available on the conference website for anyone who wanted to read up on the topics in advance on the talks. I thought this was a particularly useful tool in preparing for the panels I attended. Continue reading 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back: The Problematic Protection of Consumers of Digital Content
Exactly one month ago, on the 29th of September 2014, I gave a talk in the LVR-LandesMuseum in Bonn at the International Conference on Consumer Research 2014 – “Challenges for Consumer Research and Consumer Policy in Europe”. This was also the event at which I had the pleasure of hearing Professor Armin Falk’s talk on mice, morals and marketplaces (which I wrote about in “Of Mice and Markets“). I would like to thank Dr. Christian Bala and the Kompetenzzentrum Verbraucherforschung NRW again for the opportunity to talk at this conference, and bore a captive audience with my thoughts on the future of net neutrality policy in Europe. Continue reading A More European Approach to Net Neutrality
As some of you might remember, a few months back I wrote about imminent reforms to UK copyright law exceptions, including finally allowing users to create backup copies and ‘personal copies for private use’ of their digital media (such as burning a CD onto your computer, or transferring music to your MP3 player or phone…. yes, up ’til now this wasn’t actually allowed), and all-importantly introducing a parody exception to copyright law in the UK. In March the UK Intellectual property Office (IPO) also issues a guidance paper on copyright exceptions, which can be viewed here. However, these changes were significantly delayed from their original implementation goal of June, as the Parliament continued to debate the exact scope, wording and effects of these changes. Continue reading Reforms to UK Copyright Exceptions FINALLY Come Into Effect
For those of you who feel that you simply don’t feel like a secret agent quite enough in your day-to-day life, I stumbled upon an article on Gizmodo on self-destructing SSDs. For those of you who might not know (and yes, some readers might not know; my mother reads this site… from time to time…. OK, when I specifically ask her to), SSD stands for “solid state drive“, and they are, and have been for quite some time, heralded as poised to finally do away with your clunky, overheating mechanical hard drive. This is old news to most, and the benefits of switching to SSDs, especially for gaming, have been discussed at length by others. But now there is one more reason to switch over and make yourself feel that little bit more futuristic and badass. Continue reading This Hard Drive Will Self-Destruct in 5 Seconds…
UPDATE 05/01/12: For those of you searching for information about the “Copyright Meme” hoax of January 2015, I have written a new post dealing more specifically with that incident, but also drawing heavily from the warnings and advice I give here regarding having a healthy level of skepticism when it comes to Facebook status updates, and how to actually protect your digital self, see “Digital Panic 2.0! Facebook Are Still Not Going To Steal Your Copyright / Identity / Soul!”
Just because the fourth instance of people reacting to the changes regarding the Facebook app and Facebook messenger app has come to my attention, I think I should make this clear; Articles and posts saying that Facebook can now spy on you and take pictures of you are sensationalist nonsense. There are a lot of people deleting the Facebook messenger app, and exhorting their comrades to do likewise in a fit of data-security-conscious zeal…. Perhaps missplaced zeal though, as to people like me, the “changes” in these app permissions don’t seem all that new or nearly as evil as they have been portrayed. If you already use the normal Facebook app, or even use Facebook at all, the permissions you are giving for the messenger app are really nothing new. If you’re truly worried about data protection and misuse of data, don’t use Facebook. My first piece of advice is that you read the Snopes.com page on this latest situation – “Facebook Messenger“. Indeed, any time you read something online which you think sounds a bit over the top, you should most definitely check Snopes to get a better idea of how well researched these ideas are. Continue reading Digital Panic! No, Facebook is Not Spying on You Through Their Messenger App
I just read this very interesting piece by one of my favourite IT Law experts, Andres Guadamuz, aka “Technollama“, about the recent confusion regarding copyright for monkey-selfies. Really there are few people as well able to discuss such a ridiculous but technically interesting legal question as Technollama. The piece makes some very interesting analogies between Infopaq and computer-generated work. Well worth your time, especially should you find your photographic equipment commandeered by artistically inclined primates at some point in the near future.
Read it at:
“Do Monkeys Dream of Electric Copyright” Technollama
This will be another post based on work I did during my time at the University of Edinburgh last year – this time covering the weird and wonderful topic of “augmented reality”. While it may sound like a rather sci-fi idea, augmented reality is posed to become more and more a part of our everyday life, especially in our interactions as consumers. I’d like to thank the excellently titled “Professor of Computational Legal Theory” Professor Burkhard Schafer for his fascinating, and at times bizarre, course on AI, Risk and the Law, in which we discussed sex robots, virtual reality courtrooms, penguins living on landmines and many other “you-had-to-be-there-to-understand-why-it’s-relevant” topics, and for giving me the chance to research this emerging and most likely problematic area of law.
Continue reading An Introduction to Augmented Reality and the Law
I read a very nice summary of the problems with undervaluing the importance of freedom of information and communication in the Google v Spain decision by Professor Niko Härting. Here’s just a snippet of the argument;
“Privacy by default” will encourage politicians, celebrities and other public figures to put their lawyers on track when they find inconvenient information online. And as the use of a search engine like Google is essential for finding information, the elimination from the results of search engines will provide a convenient and essential tool to suppress information.
I recommend you read the full article at;
Much rejoicing was had this week amongst fans of Data Privacy and Data Protection, as the European Court of Justice (ECJ – though officially now just the Court of Justice) in its capacity as one wing of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU; I know, the distinction is a bit confusing, and varies depending on who reports it) implied a “right to be forgotten” into European Data Protection Law. For example, the EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the decision, saying it was a victory for the protection of personal data in the EU; “The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world”. Whilst the idea of giving citizens more rights to control the processing and dissemination of their personal information is a commendable one, this already exists in the form of the Data Protection Directive which was found to be applicable in this case.
What really happened here is that the court extended, in my opinion rather widely unclearly, who can be designated as controllers or processors of personal data and what sorts of information should be considered objectionable personal information and remain completely within the control of the citizen. Continue reading Europe and The Right to Be Forgotten: A Memorable Victory for Privacy or Defeat for Free Speech?
Good news for European fans of “The Right to Be Forgotten”, as the European Court of Justice has backed the right to have “irrelevant” or out-dated information removed from online sources, and search results. Google is understandably unhappy, and this could also have troubling consequences regarding freedom of speech and information, but it is certainly interesting to see the ECJ backing this sort of very new “right” specifically as a response to developments in the online world.