IACL Younger Scholars Forum (Fukuoka, 25 July 2018) – A Brief Overview

Technology and Innovation: Challenges for Traditional Legal Boundaries’ Workshop

The 20th Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law (IACL) took place this year in Fukuoka, Japan, between 22-28 July. Apart from bringing together established comparative law scholars from different fields and jurisdictions, the Congress also hosted the first edition of the IACL Younger Scholars Forum, convened by Richard Albert(Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin), the former president of the Younger Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law.

With this occasion, 200 young scholars around the world had the opportunity to engage in an international academic debate and discuss their research through eight different workshops. Sofia Ranchordás (Professor of European and Comparative Public Law, University of Groningen), Andras Koltay (Associate Professor of Constitutional Law, Pázmány Péter Catholic University) and I had the pleasure of organizing one of the eight workshops, titled ‘Technology and Innovation: Challenges for Traditional Legal Boundaries’. The workshop covered discussions on 23 papers, which we grouped around 6 different themes: Privacy and Data Protection; Media Law and Free Speech; Challenges in Intellectual Property; Online Platforms; Business Law, Blockchain & RegTech, and AI Law. Young scholars from around the world were in attendance and their papers were commented upon by the Distinguished Provocateur-Discussant (Sofia Ranchordas), with the purpose of stimulating the consideration of new angles for their submissions.

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Summary of the conference: Main issues on consumer protection & sharing economy (UOC)

In June, I gave a presentation on “Main issues on consumer protection & sharing economy” at the 14th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics organized by Faculty of Law & Political Science at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Here’s a summary of my presentation:

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Summer Masterclass on Ethics, Research and the GDPR

On July 10, the LeD (Legal Data) community initiative is organising, in partnership with ECPC, the European Centre on Privacy and Cybersecurity, the Summer Masterclass on Ethics, Research and the GDPR, with the experts Cosimo Monda, Paolo Balboni and Christopher Kuner. The event is free and open to everyone who would like to attend. Please register at info-IDS@maastrichtuniversity.nl(limited seats available).

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Case C-20/17 Oberle on the EU Succession Regulation – The rise of a true European property law?

On 21 June 2018 the CJEU took its third decision after the EU Succession Regulation entered into force on 17 August 2015. The EU Succession Regulation is a revolutionary piece of EU legislation with very far reaching effect on national law. Although many authors have tried, both during the process of negotiations and after its adoption and entry into force, to limit the effects, the effects turn out to be far reaching indeed. In short, the EU Succession Regulation allows for a single legal system to apply to an entire succession estate and introduces a European certificate of succession that can serve as evidence throughout the EU of the rights and obligations arising under that succession regime, which is to be issued by a single competent authority.

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Facebook’s Data Sharing Practices under Unfair Competition Law

Crosspost from the Stanford Transatlantic Technology Law Forum Newsletter, Issue 2/2018 

This is a brief analysis of Facebook’s data sharing practices under unfair competition rules in the US and EU. A paper on this topic co-authored by myself and MEPLI research fellow Stephan Mulders will be available shortly, and it will be presented at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference in October 2018.

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2018 has so far not been easy on the tech world. The first months of the year brought a lot of bad news: two accidents with self-driving cars (Tesla and Uber) and the first human casualty [1],  another Initial Coin Offering (ICO) scam costing investors $660 million [2],  and Donald Trump promising to go after Amazon [3]. But the scandal that made the most waves had to do with Facebook data being used by Cambridge Analytica [4].

Data brokers and social media

In a nutshell, Cambridge Analytica was a UK-based company that claimed to use data to change audience behavior either in political or commercial contexts [5]. Without going too much into detail regarding the identity of the company, its ties, or political affiliations, one of the key points in the Cambridge Analytica whistleblowing conundrum is the fact that it shed light on Facebook data sharing practices which, unsurprisingly, have been around for a while. To create psychometric models which could influence voting behavior, Cambridge Analytica used the data of around 87 million users, obtained through Facebook’s Graph Application Programming Interface (API), a developer interface providing industrial-level access to personal information [6].

The Facebook Graph API

The first version of the API (v1.0), which was launched in 2010 and was up until 2015, could be used to not only gather public information about a given pool of users, but also about their friends, in addition to granting access to private messages sent on the platform (see Table 1 below). The amount of information belonging to user friends that Facebook allowed third parties to tap into is astonishing. The extended profile properties permission facilitated the extraction of information about: activities, birthdays, check-ins, education history, events, games activity, groups, interests, likes, location, notes, online presence, photo and video tags, photos, questions, relationships and relationships details, religion and politics, status, subscriptions, website and work history. Extended permissions changed in 2014, with the second version of the Graph API (v2.0), which suffered many other changes since (see Table 2) [7]. However, one interesting thing that stands out when comparing versions 1.0 and 2.0 is that less information is gathered from targeted users than from their friends, even if v2.0 withdrew the extended profile properties (but not the extended permissions relating to reading private messages).Table 1 – Facebook application permissions and availability to API v1 (x) and v2 (y) (Symeonidis et al, 2015)

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The first official Legal Data (LeD) community initiative

On 19 April 2018, professors, PhD researchers and students from more than four different faculties, departments and institutes at the Maastricht University gathered for the first official “Legal Data (LeD) community initiative”. The event consisted of a speed date, where all participants could introduce themselves and their fields of interest and research, and a roundtable discussion, where participants discussed four concrete projects in the fields of big data, legal analytics and trustworthy computation.

The LeD community initiative was launched following a remarkably successful think tank taking place at the Faculty of Law in November 2017, which resulted from the shared efforts of the Dean Jan Smits and Michel Dumontier from the then still to be born Institute of Data Science (IDS) working together on topics of common interest. The LeD is a discussion hub open to every UM member interested in the legal impact of data science. It is meant to be interdisciplinary, inclusive and impactful. The initiative was founded and is coordinated by Marta Santos Silva, M-EPLI member and lecturer at the private law department, and by Kody Moodley and Dorina Classens from IDS. The initiative has been sustained by the very valuable, volunteer input of European Law School students. The “Led Speed Date and Roundtable on Big Data, Legal Analytics and Trustworthy Computation” was supported by three European Law School bachelor students, one of which surprised all participants with a live and lively graphic representation of the take-away impressions and projects resulting from the event. Further initiatives are being prepared and everyone who is interested in joining the community is welcome to register (m.santossilva@maastrichtuniversity.nl).

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