01 September 2015

Affordances

'Can Americans Resist Surveillance?' by Ryan Calo in University of Chicago Law Review (Forthcoming) analyses
the ability of everyday Americans to resist and alter the conditions of government surveillance. Americans appear to have several avenues of resistance or reform. We can vote for privacy-friendly politicians, challenge surveillance in court, adopt encryption or other technology, and put market pressure on companies not to cooperate with law enforcement. 
In practice, however, many of these avenues turn out to be limited. Reform-minded officials lack the capacity for real oversight. Litigants lack standing to invoke the Constitution in court. Encryption is not usable and can turn the citizen into a target. Citizens can extract promises from companies to push back against government surveillance on their behalf but have no recourse if these promises are not enforced. 
By way of method, this essay adopts James Gibson's influential theory of affordances. Originating in psychology, and famous everywhere but law, affordance theory has evolved into a general method of inquiry with its own useful vocabulary and commitments. This essay hopes to leverage these concepts to lend structure to an otherwise haphazard inquiry into the capability of citizens to perceive and affect surveillance. The essay meanwhile contributes to affordance theory by insisting that law itself represents an important affordance.
'Online Price Discrimination and Data Protection Law' (Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-32) by Frederik J. Zuiderveen Borgesius comments
Online shops can offer each website customer a different price – a practice called first degree price discrimination, or personalised pricing. An online shop can recognise a customer, for instance through a cookie, and categorise the customer as a rich or a poor person. The shop could, for instance, charge rich people higher prices. From an economic perspective, there are good arguments in favour of price discrimination. But many regard price discrimination as unfair or manipulative. This paper examines whether European data protection law applies to personalised pricing. Data protection law applies if personal data are processed. This paper argues that personalised pricing generally entails the processing of personal data. Therefore, data protection law generally applies to personalised pricing. That conclusion has several implications. For instance, data protection law requires a company to inform people about the purpose of processing their personal data. A company must inform customers if it personalises prices.