Why I didn’t sign the Fundingmatters.tech petition

Thoughts on ethics at the intersection of academic research on law & tech and industry involvement

In 2018, academic storms start on Twitter. One of them has been the public concern surrounding the sponsors accepted by this year’s Amsterdam Privacy Conference. The Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University was hosting one of the panels at the conference until they withdrew. The reason? Data analytics company Palantir was one of the Platinum Sponsors at APC. Palantir has faced a lot of public backlash after different allegations, such as having collaborated with Cambridge Analytica on the Facebook data acquired by the latter, doing commercial data profiling or helping the US government on surveilling its citizens. In a nutshell, Palantir has a bad reputation. This is why a petition was created, fundingmatters.tech, now signed by over 60 academics from around the world, publicly asking for the removal of Palantir from the sponsor list.

As co-authors who have successfully submitted a paper (‘Moving fast and breaking things: Social media, data brokers and unfair commercial practices’) for the ‘Regulation of the information society’ panel, Stephan Mulders and I decided not to sign this petition, and in what follows I will defend this choice and take this opportunity to address some related ethical questions which any academic currently working on law and technology should reflect on.

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Influencers on Social media – Between Law and Ethics

25 September 2018, Brown Bag Lunch
12.15-13.45, MakerSpace (room beside Mensa), University of St. Gallen

Social media has been changing the way in which people communicate, and that is nothing new. The emergence of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or – more recently –Musical.ly has transformed social interaction in peer-networks. This transformation can be noticed by anyone participating in or observing such networks. What is less noticeable, though, is how business models have changed to benefit from these shifts in social trends.

One industry where business practices have been fundamentally impacted is the advertising industry. While in the early days of social media marketing, social networks were used to establish online brand identity, since 2015 a new advertising concept has been sweeping the online space: influencer marketing. Based on peer empowerment – anyone with a camera and internet connection can start producing content for an online social media platform, influencer marketing is to social media what native advertising is to the news world. Persons with well- followed social media accounts lend their brand image for the endorsement of goods or services, while rarely – if at all – disclosing that their support does not necessarily entail genuine appreciation for the endorsed things, but that such support is paid or bartered for.

This event aims to discuss influencer marketing using insights from private law, ethics as well as journalistic practice. Register by sending an e-mail to isabel.ebert@unisg.ch by 23 September. Exceptionally, Skype connections may also be available for streaming.

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The ‘Private’ in Private International Law – 2018 Maastricht Private Law Lecture by Prof. dr. Symeon C. Symeonides

The Maastricht Private Law Lecture, hosted by the Maastricht Department of Private Law, is an annual event at which a most distinguished scholar is invited to give a lecture on a topic related to the wide field of private law. An interactive seminar with PhD-researchers will follow on the next day.

The 2018 Maastricht Private Law Lecture will be given by Prof. dr. Symeon C. Symeonides.

Symeon C. Symeonides is the Alex L. Parks Distinguished Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at Willamette University, in Oregon, USA. He has drafted three private international law codifications (for Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and Oregon), participated in drafting some EU Regulations and two international conventions, and provided legislative advice to five foreign governments. He has published 27 books and more than 120 articles, some of which have been cited by the Supreme Courts of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel. He is the recipient of six academic prizes and a Lifetime Achievement Award. He has taught at Thessaloniki, Louisiana State University, Loyola, Tulane, NYU, Paris-I, Paris-V, Louvain-la-Neuve, and The Hague Academy of International Law. He is past president of the International Association of Legal Science and the American Society of Comparative Law. He holds two degrees summa cum laude in private and public law from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, an LL.M and an S.J.D from Harvard, and three honorary doctorates.

This event is open to all the community, but registration is required. Register here free of charge.

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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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