Fri 2nd Dec, 2pm: User-centric Regulation for the Domestic Internet of Things (Lachlan Urquhart, University of Nottingham)

We are delighted to announce another discussion group event which will take place on Friday 2 December at 2pm in the Neil MacCormick Room (9.01) of David Hume Tower. Our speaker, Lachlan Urquhart, previously studied at Edinburgh and is now a Research Fellow in Information Technology Law at the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (University of Nottingham). He will present on the following topic:

User-centric Regulation for the Domestic Internet of Things

Increasingly, technology designers are being called upon to address regulatory challenges posed by emerging technologies. However, their role in regulation is not settled and needs to be situated both conceptually and practically. We present a multidisciplinary response through examining what the field of human computer interaction (HCI) can offer. We do this by presenting a number of conceptual, empirical and design led perspectives from the interface between IT law and HCI. We ground these within the case study of doing information privacy by design for the domestic internet of things. HCI focuses on how users interact with technologies in practice. In designing user experiences, HCI practice draws on a range of approaches and concepts to develop a rich picture of the social context of technology use. By reframing these to consider regulatory and ethical dimensions, we argue the role of technology designers in regulation can be better understood. 

The talk will be followed by a Q&A section and refreshments will be provided. All students and staff are welcome and no registration is required.

Understanding the Legal Issues of IANA Transition: What Next for ICANN after the End of US Control of the Internet? – upcoming talk by Dr Humberto Carrasco Blanc (Universidad Católica del Norte)

We are delighted to co-host this event with the Europa Research Group. It will take place on Wednesday 23 November 2016 at 5pm in Room 7.01 of the David Hume Tower. Our speaker will be Dr Humberto Carrasco Blanc (Universidad Católica del Norte), who will present on the following topic:

Understanding the Legal Issues of IANA Transition: What Next for ICANN after the End of US Control of the Internet?

This presentation aims to explain what ICANN is and its relationship with internet governance. It seeks to emphasise that ICANN does not govern the Internet, but it is one aspect of Internet governance. In this way, this presentation briefly explains its functions and its multi-stakeholder model.

In particular, the presentation develops the rationale behind the IANA transition process. For this purpose, the presentation reviews some of the arguments put forward by the US Senator Ted Cruz against the transition process. In the same vein, this work examines the federal case State of Arizona v. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that sought to halt the transition process.

Finally, the post-transition challenges faced by ICANN are reviewed.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A section and refreshments will be provided. All students and staff are welcome and no registration is required.

Understanding Cryptocurrencies as Political Devices – Pablo Velasco (University of Warwick)

We are delighted to announce another discussion group event, taking place on Monday 14 November 2016 at 2pm in Room 11.01 of the David Hume Tower. Our speaker will be Pablo Velasco (University of Warwick), who will present on the following topic:

Understanding Cryptocurrencies as Political Devices

My dissertation project is concerned to understand Bitcoin (and hence Blockchain technology) from a critical perspective. I seek to identify the particular power dynamics performed by and through this technology. In order to do this, I systematically question what and where is Bitcoin, and how and which entities are involved in its transformations. I broadly refer to these transformations as the morphology of Bitcoin, and I consistently observe this morphology through a political and ontological prism. Each chapter of the dissertation adopts a different methodology and approach to answer the following broad questions:

1. Which politics were involved in the emergence of blockchains as new ‘organisms’ (and what is Bitcoin as a specific instance)? Why is bitcoin associated with money? What kind of knowledges, discourses and practices molded it as an economic instrument?

In the first part of the dissertation I argue that the emergence of Bitcoin was made possible by an assemblage of 1. An interest in secure communications through technology, 2. A subsequent addendum of political concerns to new comm tech, and 3. An intention to produce natively digital financial assets.

2. Which politics define the (material but elusive) space where this organism evolved? Which are the geopolitics of Bitcoin? In what kind of territorial or non-territorial space Bitcoin dwells?

In my second chapter I argue against the strong notions of immateriality and universality associated with the device by empirically describing the geographical distribution of its infrastructural network. However, I also claim that the political notion of territory is unfitting for a theoretical and critical approach to the object.

3. How these political changes take place, specifically in the socio-technical order shaping the technology? Is it possible to locate authority entities within it?

The third chapter observes decision making processes in the current configuration of Bitcoin, and identifies opposing vectors of action with their respective rationales. In this chapter I argue that its money properties challenge the traditional and key open source characteristic of forking. I also claim that due to its particular open, distributed, and headless (unlike other OSS projects) nature, there is an authority void that atypically transforms power performance among open projects.

4. How do forces in this non-territorial space claim control, or enact power, if authority is elusive? How are parties benefited by the enactment of device-specific power relations?

The fourth chapter is a work in progress. In it I expect to frame the Bitcoin blockchain within a political economy framework. The chapter will locate and reflect on the generation of native actors of this contested and non-territorial space, and how power is exercised between its stakeholers despite the lack of traditional authoritarian structures. It will observe the practices of production and regulation of money (practices traditionally managed by the state institutions) in Bitcoin, with the open question of how power is enacted in them and their contexts.

In this chapter I argue that even though the Bitcoin system is populated with an empowerment discourse, it’s unique affordance is not to restructure balance in relations of domination, but to grasp a much desired accountability and control in an inherently fluid and open system. Following the work of Michel Foucault, Scott Lash, Hardt and Negri, and the recent work of Benjamin Bratton I follow the shift from sovereign, institutional authority, and other forms of performance of power (both in state and corporation-like institutions), into non-territorial, open, and controlled communications systems.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A section and refreshments will be provided. All students and staff are welcome and no registration is required.

A Bridge Too Far? The Investigatory Powers Bill, Oversight and Human Rights – upcoming talk by Dr Nóra Ni Loideain (University of Cambridge)

We are delighted to announce our third event of the Semester will take place on 11 November 2016 at 5pm in the Neil MacCormick Room (Room 9.01) in David Hume Tower. Our speaker will be Dr Nóra Ni Loideain (Cambridge University), who will present on the following topic:

A Bridge Too Far? The Investigatory Powers Bill, Oversight and Human Rights

Unquestionably, the depth and breath of information concerning an individual’s private life that modern communications reveal has made its monitoring an essential and important tool for national security and law enforcement authorities around the world. One striking example of this fact has been provided by General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, when he confirmed the high value placed on communications surveillance by such public authorities with the following statement: “We kill people based on metadata”.

However, while the major opportunities provided by technological advances for public safety are welcome, they should not be adopted without the fundamental human rights principles and oversight requirements that exist to prevent measures that pose to destroy democracy on the ground of defending it. Accordingly, the need to ensure that the role played by human rights law in the oversight of covert surveillance and data processing frameworks by the State will only grow with the rise of datadriven and artificial intelligence systems that will underpin our future smart cars, homes and cities. This paper examines the compliance of the imminent reform to the current oversight regime governing the use of covert investigatory powers by public authorities within the UK under the Investigatory Powers Bill with the rights to respect for private life and data protection. In particular, the reform of this increasingly complex area of law and technology is examined in light of the bold commitment made by the then Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, that the Bill will establish a “world-leading oversight regime”.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A section and refreshments will be provided. All students and staff are welcome and no registration is required.