3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics. Briefings, part VIII: Use of technology among law professionals

The Congress on Internet, Law and Politics has the aim of continuing the task of reflecting on, analyzing and discussing the main changes taking place in law and politics in the information society. This third congress focuses on the questions that currently represent the most important challenges and new developments in the fields of copyright, data protection, Internet security, problems of responsibility, electronic voting, and the new regulation of e-Administration, as well as dedicating a specific area to the current state of the use of new technologies by law professionals.

Lawyers and information technologies: uses and trends
Marta Poblet, researcher at IDT, the Law and Technology Institute, Autonomous University of Barcelona

Left to right: Pere Fabra, Marta Poblet
Left to right: Pere Fabra, Marta Poblet

The topic says that lawyers are technophobes, but really shows that (mostly) they are not. In Europe there is a strong interest in how lawyers in Spain are doing with ICTs. The reason for choosing Spain is that the ration of lawyers per person is the highest and, also, they mostly work autonomously outside of big firms. Hence, how they manage with ICTs is important because institution says that those tools help empower this individuals so they can interact in the market with ease.

A study shows that ICTs are quite well integrated in day-to-day lawyers’ activity, reaching for instance a 93% of e-mail use or web browsing. This technology adoption seems to back the fact that it is easier now to work from one’s workplace instead of having to commute to the clients’ place. On the other hand, handhelds and other mobile devices have also been quickly adopted as a means to set up one’s mobile office.

BTW, this arises the question of the sensibility of data transferred through e-mail and how the efficiency of e-mail management has become a must and a top priority among firms: knowledge management, e-mail content backup and filing, etc. And, indeed, should firms “monitor” the employees’ correspondence in order to reach quality standards, accomplish institutional discourse, etc. This would include the employees taking part into forums, blogs and virtual communities in general.

Pere Lluís Huguet, Dean of the Reus Guild of Lawyers,
President of CICAC, the Council of Catalan Lawyers’ Guilds

[Pere Lluís Huguet reinforces Marta Poblet’s observations about e-mail management and the leadership of spanish lawyers in the adoption of ICTs in Europe]

Left to right: Miquel Roca, Pere Lluís Huguet, Luis Fernández, Marta Poblet
Left to right: Miquel Roca, Pere Lluís Huguet, Luis Fernández, Marta Poblet

Notaries’ application of ICT
Miquel Roca Bermúdez de Castro, notary

Lawyers are both issuers and users of electronic signature. As users, e-signature is absolutely a need and a legal requirement for notaries. And the key of success is usefulness: if a new tool is useful for a notary’s client, the tool will last.

Electronic signature will enable all the notaries in Spain to work networked, using the same systems and data, and with the maximum guarantees of security. And security not only because systems are properly protected, but because of traceability of all actions performed within the network, which is quite an important issue in notaries’ work.

Uses of ICT in mercantile and property registers
Luis Fernández del Pozo, mercantile registrar

What the citizen wants is not doing the same procedures in the same places, but with the public servant noting them down on a computer, but doing less procedures and doing them online. One of the frustrations about e-Administration is that some duplicated procedures that could be either eliminated or automated do still have to be done by those citizens. There is a sort of leap from old fashioned procedures to state of the art e-Administrations with poor results while simple but effective ideas could be implanted without much buzz or budget and maximum satisfaction.

3rd Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2007)

3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics. Briefings, part VII: The Law on e-Administration

The Congress on Internet, Law and Politics has the aim of continuing the task of reflecting on, analyzing and discussing the main changes taking place in law and politics in the information society. This third congress focuses on the questions that currently represent the most important challenges and new developments in the fields of copyright, data protection, Internet security, problems of responsibility, electronic voting, and the new regulation of e-Administration, as well as dedicating a specific area to the current state of the use of new technologies by law professionals.

Law Project for the electronic access to Public Administration by the citizenship
Juan Miguel Márquez, Director General of Administrative Modernisation at the Spanish Public Administration Ministry

The aim of the new law is avoiding having to include tons of exceptions or specific cases on “analogue” law on the Public Administration. Thus, this new project provides a brand new framework that includes, on its ground basis, all kind of electronic approaches. Another big aim is to bring into this new framework absolutely all public services so they can be accessed digitally, not just a handful of them: the right to access the Administration, regardless of the platform or the means, is now the goal of this new law (actually in a draft/project version).

The e-Administration Law
Julián Valero, Professor of Administrative Law, University of Múrcia

Left to right: Agustí Cerrillo, Juan Miquel Márquez, Julián Valero
Left to right: Agustí Cerrillo, Juan Miquel Márquez, Julián Valero

Law, a barrier? There is a crisis in the scope of Law, but Law should come first, and then technology, not the other way egovbarriers.org is just doing a research in this field: in what measure Law is a barrier to technology and technological change.

In this sense, the new law puts some order in some things that were already happening in a somewhat existing “legal void” related to technology and law. This does not mean that we have to forget all guarantees, but evolution is now a need, and the statu quo does not anymore give most answers to nowadays’ reality.

On the other hand, the challenge is to avoid entering into “fashion regulation”, and regulate each and every case as e-Administration when (a) maybe it is already solved or (b) maybe it requires highest level regulation instead of case to case regulation.

One of the best improvements of this law project is that it does not detail each and every procedure (as it was usually done until now), but just set a framework, and quite a flexible one. This is, of course, a good asset, as technology is so quickly changing that, as it had long happened, it overrode or invalidated the regulation framework.

A lacking question in this new law is networking: it is not the same thing information or communication (i.e. data sharing, data transmission), that working with the same information (i.e. working with the same databases), which should be (if it not really is) the reality and not just a hypothesis.

A couple of interesting links:

Last but not least: on one hand, the new law enables brand new paths, but, on the other hand, it does not empower little (i.e. local) Administration neither with sufficient budget nor with applications to go on and implant the law in its full scope. This might generate a divide among those Administrations that can and the ones that cannot implant full e-Administration as the law sees it.

3rd Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2007)

3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics. Briefings, part VI: Electronic voting

The Congress on Internet, Law and Politics has the aim of continuing the task of reflecting on, analyzing and discussing the main changes taking place in law and politics in the information society. This third congress focuses on the questions that currently represent the most important challenges and new developments in the fields of copyright, data protection, Internet security, problems of responsibility, electronic voting, and the new regulation of e-Administration, as well as dedicating a specific area to the current state of the use of new technologies by law professionals.

Do we need e-voting?
Josep Maria Reniu, Professor of Political Sciences, University of Barcelona

Left to right: Rosa Borge, Gerard Cervelló, Josep Maria Reniu
Left to right: Rosa Borge, Gerard Cervelló, Josep Maria Reniu

The digital evolution in the public arena is, clearly, slowed down by what happens with voting. And what is happening is, besides lots of pilot projects, few things: electronic voting is still in very early stages.

Nevertheless, the problem is neither lack of (pilot) experiences nor lack of tools and approaches, but a decisive step to implant e-voting. And the question is: do we really need e-voting?

Doubts on:

  • Convenience + technooptimism: our actual system is simple [in Spain], thus there is “no need” to do it electronically in order to make it simpler. On the other hand, technological optimism needs reliability of the system, but it really is not that reliable.
  • Cutting down costs: DREs are expensive. There still is paper as a voting receipt. And open source software is still not a standard, so customization is still expensive.
  • More and better participation: experience have not demonstrated more or less participation. Pilot experiences replication causes weariness (“always experimenting, we want the real thing”). It is true that geographical distribution in participation has been improved.
  • Elimination of invalid votes: not a doubt, but a statement. But, there are some voters that do want to express a null vote, hence, we are
  • Democratic divide: due to digital divide.
  • Security and voting guarantees: not 100% secure. Uncontrolled environments that do not guarantee free voting. Anonymity not guaranteed.
  • Individual and collective verification: how to certify that one’s vote is there? And, on the other hand, free access to the source code is required to control the system… and one has to have the knowledge to understand it, so audits become non universal.
  • Citizenship acceptation: technophobia, insecurity, lack of interest, tradition/liturgy.

Certainties on:

  • Modernization of processes: flexibility of technology
  • Cutting down on costs: paper
  • increase of participation: some collectives such as expatriates. Appeal for youngest generations
  • Several participative applications: languages, colors, etc.
  • Need for an electronic ID card
  • Need for specific voting authorities: competent to give confidence
  • Coexistence of traditional voting and electronic voting: complementary, gradual

Conclusions: electronic voting does not solve anything; digital literacy is a need; a complementary solution; better participation will rely on better information of citizenship.

Secure Electronic Voting
Gerard Cervelló García, Public Administration Manager at SCYTL

What is not electronic voting: electronically managing votes at the backend system. By electronic voting we mean digitally expressing one’s vote.

[Gerard Cervelló gives an overview similar to Josep Maria Reniu’s. I’ll just add here the new topics, opinions, approaches]

Electronic voting offers fastest counting.

A smart option against the highest cost of DREs would be remote voting by means of personal computers, mobile phones or other devices that already exist in the hands (or in public centers such as libraries) of voters.

Requisites of electronic voting:

  • usable: easy to understand
  • accessible: for everyone
  • available: no “sorry, I’m rebooting”
  • reusable
  • gives confidence: both to the voter and to the Administration

(Not) surprisingly, one of the barriers e-voting has to face is legal framework: most regulations for voting do not allow e-voting, because the way voting is described usually leave out i.e. remote voting, non paper voting, etc.

3rd Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2007)

3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics. Briefings, part V: The new frontiers of copyright

The Congress on Internet, Law and Politics has the aim of continuing the task of reflecting on, analyzing and discussing the main changes taking place in law and politics in the information society. This third congress focuses on the questions that currently represent the most important challenges and new developments in the fields of copyright, data protection, Internet security, problems of responsibility, electronic voting, and the new regulation of e-Administration, as well as dedicating a specific area to the current state of the use of new technologies by law professionals.

John Palfrey, Executive Director Berkman Center of Internet and Society
Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford Internet Institute

John Palfrey
John Palfrey

[live simulation of somebody uploading copyrighted material to YouTube and the copyright holder’s lawyer and Google’s lawyer fighting one to each other. John Palfrey dynamizing the event and Jonathan Zittrain taking notes on a beamed PowerPoint presentation and putting all sort of things on a browser. Too good to describe it here in full detail ;D ]

Summing up: copyright has worked to distribute content under a scarcity model. Digital technologies have made scarcity an ancient thing, so we should be able to set up a new business model to get to people what they’re looking for without infringing the law, and by avoiding costly transaction costs (i.e. sues, punctual agreements, etc.)

3rd Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2007)

3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics. Briefings, part IV: Internet security

The Congress on Internet, Law and Politics has the aim of continuing the task of reflecting on, analyzing and discussing the main changes taking place in law and politics in the information society. This third congress focuses on the questions that currently represent the most important challenges and new developments in the fields of copyright, data protection, Internet security, problems of responsibility, electronic voting, and the new regulation of e-Administration, as well as dedicating a specific area to the current state of the use of new technologies by law professionals.

Ramón García Albero, University of Lleida

Ramón García Albero
Ramón García Albero

It looks like consensus on ethics is weakening and people more and more rely on penal law as a moral meeting core and generator of ethics. This, of course, makes law be stronger, and puts the last resource that should be penal law in the front row.

On the other hand, the Internet has broken the lapse between “thought” and “action”. Now action immediately follows thought as it is just one click away. Before the Internet, crime required time, exposure. No more now. And indeed: there are no witnesses when one commits crime at home, there’s no one blaming, no one moralizing. It’s easy to discover the beast on one’s inside.

Investigation in Internet: International police cooperation structures
Antonio López, National Police Force inspector, Europol liaison officer, Spanish Desk

Social reproach vs. penal reproach: some people tolerate some crime because, morally, it does not seem to be that bad.

In some types of crime (i.e. child pornography) the criminal not only performs the crime at home, (almost) anonymously, etc. but, also, he or she finds virtual communities, web pages, zillions of material that, somehow, legitimate his action and, hence, makes it look as non criminal.

The problem is that yes, monitoring each and everyone affects privacy and data security, but if there is no data retention, there is no Internet crime research and/or prosecution. On the other hand, we’re just talking about log retention, not content retention.

On the 3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics, see also:

3rd Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2007)

3rd IDP Congress on Internet, Law and Politics. Briefings, part III: The fundamental right to data protection: perspectives

The Congress on Internet, Law and Politics has the aim of continuing the task of reflecting on, analyzing and discussing the main changes taking place in law and politics in the information society. This third congress focuses on the questions that currently represent the most important challenges and new developments in the fields of copyright, data protection, Internet security, problems of responsibility, electronic voting, and the new regulation of e-Administration, as well as dedicating a specific area to the current state of the use of new technologies by law professionals.

Presentation of the session
Esther Mitjans i Perelló, Director of ACPD, the Catalan Data Protection Agency.

There is no more innocence assumption: everyone is potentially guilty, so everyone is watched at. And even worse: it is defended as a democratic action, as everyone is watched out equally.

Self determination in an Information Society
Yves Poullet, Director of the Centre de recherche informatique et droit (CRID), University of Namur.

Left to right: Ricard Martínez, Ester Mitjans, Lucas Murillo, Yves Poullet
Left to right: Ricard Martínez, Ester Mitjans, Lucas Murillo, Yves Poullet

Technological landscape: ability to store speech, data, images or any combination; with more capacity on transmission, processing and storage; with almost absolute mobility. It is, hence, becoming more and more possible to literally digitally record the whole life of an individual.

Behind the screen, one actually connects to a lot of servers, besides just the website one intended to visit. And this depends on the technology, which is not neutral: while Mozilla Firefox filters (refuses) most of the connections one would be not aware of, Microsoft Internet Explorer just lets each and everyone in.

Besides privacy: the human dignity and the support of other fundamental liberties such as freedom of choice, of information, of expression.

A shift on Data Protection: from Privacy as a right to opacity, towards Data Protection (beyond Privacy) as a way for ensuring a better equilibrium between the informational powers of Data Control and Data Security (a positive approach). Is there a need, now, for a third generation on data protection?

Personal data has been since long centered on personal data, but now there is a need for a specific regulation of anchorage points (permit correlations) and contact points (i.e. cookies, traffic data and RFID), because identity is no more a prerequisite for data processing afecting individuals. We no more need to know who one person is to contact him or her, even not personally, but i.e. offering him something to buy that he might be interested in (and we even don’t know his name).

And indeed, there are also new actors that need being regulated. We should maybe go towards a system of “products liability” in case of implementation of non privacy compliant terminals.

And new objectives: right not to be excessively controlled, continuously exposed to advertising, etc. and over all, the right to remain anonymous, based on a functional non identifiability (which now the Internet mainly does not allow), a privacy compliant communication terminal.

Lucas Murillo, Supreme Court magistrate, Professor of Constitutional Law.

In his opinion the issue is not privacy itself, but data security, with special stress on those who manage important amounts of data: the Administration and some big private actors (ISPs and so on).

And even if Governments have done (more or less) their homework, private corporations (in general) have not. Hence, he believes that a strong State is absolutely necessary to enforce the Law, and private initiative and/or self-regulation either does not work or it is not guaranteed in front of the user/citizen. Of course, punishing is just the other side of information and good practices fostering.

Ricard Martínez Martínez, Professor of Constitutional Law, UOC School of Law

There’s two options that one can deal with data: according to the law or with the owner’s consent. But consent is fragile: as data are priceless, data hunters set up procedures so tough that the user blindly accepts (consents) giving his data away.

On the other hand, the right of data protection can be understood so wide that maybe it could cover almost anything. It is now only related to communications, but some pressures (i.e. need of more data after 11S attacks to prevent terrorism) might make this constraints shift.

3rd Internet, Law and Politics Congress (2007)