A Decade of Information Sharing


An impressive array of leading legal, corporate, government, and judicial experts shared their insights on the complex and rapidly changing relationships among technology, law, policy and the networked world during the Center on Law and Information Policy’s tenth Law and Information Society Symposium on May 13.

The symposium, titled “Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future of Law and the Information Society,” featured six panels on diverse topics such as “The Coexistence of Privacy and Security,” “Regulation and Freedom of Expression,” and “Market Regulation and Innovation.” Hon. Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also delivered the keynote speech on law and technology, with Joel Reidenberg, founding academic director of CLIP, serving as moderator for a conversation following the keynote.

The first Law and Information Society Symposium in 2005 highlighted the emergence of the information law field for the academic community. Today, the field permeates virtually every facet of daily life, whether through expanded private and public sector uses of the Internet, the explosion of mobile devices and applications, or the presence of data as a core commodity in the U.S. economy, among other key facets, panelists said.

The symposium revisited the themes from 2005, explored the landscape of today’s information society, and invited attendees to make their own bold predictions about what would shape the Internet in 2026.

Participants in the day’s final panel, “The Coexistence of Privacy and Security,” discussed the relationship between law enforcement and data, how law enforcement is responding to changing threats, and the role of tech companies to cooperate with law enforcement.

“This really is the issue of the day, and I think it’s going to be an issue we see really develop over the next 10 years,” said David O’Neil, who worked at the Department of Justice before becoming a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

The panel touched on the FBI’s recent encryption dispute with Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, as well as how social media giants interact with law enforcement.

“The reality is people make the decision what service to use in part by how safe they feel,” said Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer for Facebook. He noted that Facebook has provided some of its data in 80 percent of cases where the government requests it and has denied those requests in the other 20 percent.

The conversation about what information is shared, why it is shared, and with whom data is shared needs to happen not only in America but abroad, said Andrea Glorioso, counselor for the digital economy at the delegation of the European Union to the United States.

“What law enforcement doesn’t want is the burden to solve cases with one hand tied behind its back,” Glorioso said. “As citizens we need to have a conversation about data and law enforcement. I would prefer this conversation to be transatlantic.”

The day’s third panel featured just such a transatlantic discussion on information regulation and freedom of expression. The size of private companies and major content hosts such as Facebook and YouTube make such a conversation difficult, said David E. McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel for The New York Times Company.

“At some point our ideas of free expression come into contact with the scale of power,” McCraw said. “At this point, who decides the balance between privacy and expression, where’s the power to regulate, and who we trust remain to be answered.”

In Europe, the question over whether data protection law leaves room for freedom of expression is an unsettled one, said David Erdos, a law professor at the University of Cambridge.

“We are in a bit of a mess in Europe,” he noted, saying that the continent has not given up on the idea of regulation. “Some of the more reasonable people realize that the model of the Internet would break if we were to regulate it fully.”

Other items examined during the panel included Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 as a means of protecting freedom of expression in print and online, the right to be forgotten vis-a-vis Google v Spain, and how the vastly expanded percentage of Americans with personal Internet access has changed the conversation about federal regulations of online expression.


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