19 December 2017

Product Lifetimes

What is a lifetime in relation to a product warranty under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reminded people that 'lifetime' refers to the consumer - put simply, the human animal - rather than to the shorter period of flourishing of a snail, gnat or other non-human animal or to the lifetime of electronic kit.

The ACCC reports that it has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from consumer electronics manufacturer Belkin to honour claims under its lifetime warranty policies for the lifetime of the original purchaser.

It comments
 During 2016 and 2017, Belkin supplied certain products with a “lifetime warranty” or “limited lifetime warranty”. However, Belkin applied a policy of only repairing or replacing products under these warranties within the five years from the date of purchase.  
A disclaimer was not printed on product packaging but was referred to on Belkin’s website. Products affected by these “lifetime warranty” claims included wireless routers, switches and cables.
“Belkin has acknowledged that its lifetime warranty representations may have breached the Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations about the effect of a warranty or guarantee,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. “Manufacturers must ensure consumers are not misled by warranty representations. If a business makes a lifetime warranty claim, they must be very clear about what this means with their customers.” 
In addition, Belkin has admitted that some products with lifetime warranties were likely to be non-compliant with the Australian Consumer Law because they did not include the wording required for use in any warranty against defects. 
Belkin has undertaken to correct its website and packaging to comply with this requirement.
Belkin cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation and has taken steps to resolve the ACCC’s concerns.
The specific Undertaking notes
Between about July 2016 and July 2017, Belkin made representations on the packaging of more than 130 types of its products that those products were sold with a “lifetime warranty” or “limited lifetime warranty”.
In fact, Belkin had a policy on repairing or replacing those products pursuant to the warranty only within five years of the date of purchase.
On its website, Belkin stated that these warranties applied for the lifetime of the product, which Belkin had determined to be five years, not the lifetime of the consumer. However, there was no material on or in the packaging of Belkin’s products informing consumers of this.
The ACCC considers that some consumers may have understood that a “lifetime warranty” or “limited lifetime warranty” applied for the lifetime of the purchaser, or a period longer than five years.


Presumably in response to yesterday's report on the reidentification of health data noted here, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has released a statement that it is still investigating the 2016 health data breaches but is - of course - mindful of the importance of trust.

The delay is symptomatic of the OAIC's bureaucratic incapacity (regulatory capture exacerbated by under-resourcing after the year when Attorney-General George Brandis recurrently announced that the OAIC would be abolished but failed to get his legislation through the national legislature).

It adds weight to the UNSWLJ article by Burdon and Siganto on OAIC Own Motion Investigations.

That article - 'The Privacy Commissioner and Own-Motion Investigations into Serious Data Breaches: A Case of Going through the Motions?' in (2015) 38(3) University of New South Wales Law Journal 1145 - commented
If the OAIC does not have the technical knowledge or skills to analyse the causes or methods for prevention of security breaches, or to assess technical details about how security breaches occurred, then it is not clear how the OAIC is able to conduct these investigations or assure itself that third-party expert reports are accurate, complete and based on the use of an appropriate standard of care. It is therefore difficult to determine how the OAIC can adequately say whether there has been any failure to properly protect personal information. 
Our investigation of the six OMIs suggests that the OAIC’s decisions to commence the investigations were in response to media and were perhaps motivated by an interest in raising the profile of data breaches in Australia to support the introduction of a mandatory notification scheme. Whether this is in fact correct or not, there are clearly issues with the process followed in each investigation. In all of the OMIs, an ‘on the papers’ approach was used, based on written responses to largely generic requests for information. There was virtually no second-round questioning, independent evidence gathering or confirmation of the facts as asserted by the respondents, whether directly or via third-party investigation reports commissioned by the respondents. The decision-making process used is also not clear. The change in the outcome of the Medvet investigation, after the initial outcome was communicated to the respondent, in particular raises issues as to the basis for the OAIC’s decision-making in these cases. 
We assert that these issues arise, in part, as a consequence of the limited powers, skills and resources available to the OAIC at the time. Given the OAIC’s new powers and increased accountability, these issues may be addressed in future Commissioner-initiated investigations. However, without the allocation of significant additional resources, it seems unlikely that there would be any significant change in process. Reliance on third-party investigation reports commissioned by the respondent in a future investigation may not be an appropriate resolution. 
The OAIC is right to emphasise that the problem of data breaches is likely to remain. However, the examination of the six OMIs reveals that the investigatory approach adopted can lead to the situation where the OAIC investigators are simply going through the motions. On that note, given the issues we highlight in this article, the OAIC’s data breach investigations as a body of work are unlikely to be of assistance in regulatory efforts to prevent data breaches, unless significant changes are undertaken. Such changes would herald a major policy shift regarding the role of the OAIC, characterised by the need for a supported, adequately resourced and thus proactive Australian privacy regulator. In that regard, our examination of six relatively recent OMIs sounds a warning not just as to what has happened, but also for the future.
Alas, what was past is present. The OAIC's statement yesterday reads
The Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner is currently investigating the publication of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) datasets on data.gov.au. The investigation was opened under section 40(2) of the Australian Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) in late September 2016 when the Department of Health notified the OAIC that the datasets were potentially vulnerable to re-identification. 
Given the investigation into the MBS and PBS datasets is ongoing, we are unable to comment on it further at this time. However, the Commissioner will make a public statement at the conclusion of the investigation. 
Realising the value of public data to innovations that benefit the community at large is dependent on the public’s confidence that privacy is protected. The OAIC continues to work with Australian Government agencies to enhance privacy protection in published datasets.
A different perspective is provided in the US World Privacy Forum report by Pam Dixon and John Emerson on The Geography of Medical Identity Theft, presented at the Federal Trade Commission Workshop on Informational Injury

The report comments
Medical identity theft has existed in various forms for decades, but it was in 2006 that World Privacy Forum published the first major report about the crime. The report called for medical data breach notification laws and more research about medical identity theft and its impacts. Since that time, medical data breach notification laws have been enacted, and other progress has been made, particularly in the quality of consumer complaint datasets gathered around identity theft, including medical forms of the crime. This report uses new data arising from consumer medical identity theft complaint reporting and medical data breach reporting to analyze and document the geography of medical identity theft and its growth patterns. The report also discusses new aspects of consumer harm resulting from the crime that the data has brought to light.
The authors ague
medical identity theft is growing overall in the United States, however, there’s a catch. The consumer complaint data suggests that the crime is growing at different rates in different states and regions of the US, creating medical identity theft “hotspots.” Populous states such as California, Florida, Texas, New York, and to a lesser degree, Illinois, often have high consumer complaint counts, which can result from population effects. Based on data analysis of “rate per million” so as to equalize for population, strong additional patterns emerge from the complaint data. Notably, a large cluster of southeastern states emerge as a regional hotspot for medical identity theft, with steady growth patterns. Medical identity theft hotspots have also occurred in a dispersed mix of less populous states. 
In addition to documenting geographic and growth patterns, the complaint data also documented significant and heretofore largely unreported patterns of harm related to debt collection resulting from medical identity theft, including debt collections documented to be one to three years in duration. 
The documentation of debt collection impacts on victims of medical identity theft is new information, and needs to be added to the understanding of how medical identity theft impacts victims of the crime. Although impacts and modalities will be discussed in detail in Part 3 of this report series, this report touches on this research as it represents a significant adjacent finding.
Their  recommendations include:
• The Department of Health and Human Services should facilitate the collection of follow up information from those affected by medical data breaches, specifically including data to document medical debt collection activity post-breach. 
• Policymakers and law enforcement agencies should take regional and state hot spots suggested by the data into account when planning resources for medical identity theft deterrence, prevention, and remedies. 
• Healthcare providers and related stakeholders need comprehensive risk assessments focused on preventing medical identity theft while protecting patient privacy. These risk assessments need to include specific plans for handling patient debt collection practices, and specific procedures that will prevent debt arising from medical identity theft to be passed to a collection agency. 
• Patients, medical data breach victims, and other identity theft victims should be aware of states where medical identity theft is more active. 
• The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should monitor medical debt collection practices more closely and address abuses.

18 December 2017

Reidentification of Australian Health Data

Recalling past items on health data sharing (eg here and here) and restrictions on reidentification (eg here) it is interesting to see a solid Australian study of reidentification.

 'Health Data in an Open World' by Chris Culnane, Benjamin I. P. Rubinstein and Vanessa Teague comments
With the aim of informing sound policy about data sharing and privacy, we describe successful re-identification of patients in an Australian de-identified open health dataset. As in prior studies of similar datasets, a few mundane facts often suffice to isolate an individual. Some people can be identified by name based on publicly available information. Decreasing the precision of the unit-record level data, or perturbing it statistically, makes re-identification gradually harder at a substantial cost to utility. We also examine the value of related datasets in improving the accuracy and confidence of re-identification. Our re-identifications were performed on a 10% sample dataset, but a related open Australian dataset allows us to infer with high confidence that some individuals in the sample have been correctly re-identified. Finally, we examine the combination of the open datasets with some commercial datasets that are known to exist but are not in our possession. We show that they would further increase the ease of re-identification.
The authors note
In August 2016, pursuing the Australian government’s policy of open government data, the federal Department of Health published online the de-identified longitudinal medical billing records of 10% of Australians, about 2.9 million people. For each selected patient, all publicly-reimbursed medical and pharmaceutical bills for the years 1984 to 2014 were included. Suppliers' and patients' IDs were encrypted, though it was obvious which bills belonged to the same person.
In September 2016 we decrypted IDs of suppliers (doctors, midwives etc) and informed the department. The dataset was then taken offline. In this paper we show that patients can also be re-identified, without decryption, by linking the unencrypted parts of the record with known information about the individual. Our aim is to inform policy about data sharing and privacy with a scientific demonstration of the ease of re-identification of this kind of data. We notified the Department of Health of these findings in December 2016.
Access to high quality, and at times sensitive, data is a modern necessity for many areas of research. The challenge we face is in how to deliver that access, whilst still protecting the privacy of the individuals in the associated datasets. There is a misconception that this is either a solved problem, or an easy problem to solve. Whilst there are a number of proposals (Australian Government Productivity Commission, 2017), they need further research, development, and analysis. 
One thing is certain: open publication of de-identified data is not a secure solution for sensitive unit-record level data.
Our motivation in this work is to highlight the challenges and demonstrate the surprising ease with which de-identification can fail. Conquering this challenge will require open and transparent discussion and research, in advance of any future releases. This report concludes with some specific alternative suggestions, including the use of differential privacy for published data, and secure, controlled access to sensitive data for researchers.
Our findings replicate those of similar studies of other de-identified datasets:
• A few mundane facts taken together often suffice to isolate an individual. 
• Some patients can be identified by name from publicly available information. 
• Decreasing the precision of the data, or perturbing it statistically, makes re-identification gradually harder at a substantial cost to utility.
We first examine uniqueness according to basic medical procedures such as childbirth. We show that some individuals are unique given public information, and show also that many patients are unique given a few basic facts such as year of birth and dates of childbirth.
Although the data is only a 10% sample, we can quantify the confidence of re-identifications, which can be high. We use a second dataset of population-wide billing frequencies, which sometimes shows that the person is unique in the whole population.
We then examine uniqueness according to the characteristics of commercial datasets we know of but do not have. We find high uniqueness rates that would allow linking with a commercial pharmaceutical dataset. We also explain that, consistent with the ``Unique in the shopping mall,” (de Montjoye, Radaelli, Singh, & Pentland, 2015) financial transactions in the dataset are sufficient for easy re-identification by the patient’s bank.

14 December 2017


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released the final report from its market study into Australia’s new car retailing industry.

The report follows 18 months of research and consultation with industry and consumer groups, with  three key observations
  • car manufacturers need to update their complaint handling systems and improve their approach to the handling of consumer guarantee claims
  •  a mandatory scheme should be introduced for car manufacturers to share technical information with independent repairers 
  • new car buyers need more accurate information about their cars’ fuel consumption and emissions. 
Salient features of the report are -
Commercial arrangements between manufacturers and dealers
After review of a range of ‘dealer agreements’ (commercial arrangements between car manufacturers and dealers) the ACCC  concludes that dealers respond to consumer guarantee claims within the framework of the policies and procedures set by manufacturers.
ACCC Chair Sims comments
If manufacturers' policies and procedures don’t adequately recognise consumer guarantee rights, this can influence the behaviour of dealers in responding to complaints. ... We recommend that car manufacturers update their complaint handling systems to ensure consumer law is front and centre of relevant systems, policies and procedures. Conditions or obligations under the manufacturer’s warranty must not exclude or limit consumers’ rights.. We are concerned that some manufacturers impose unnecessarily complex warranty claim processes, leaving dealers inadequately compensated for repairs or remedies provided to consumers
Sims noted that  dealers have direct responsibility to provide remedies to consumers but they also have a right under the Australian Consumer Law to recover the reasonable costs of providing these from the car manufacturers when the manufacturer is at fault, with the ACCC foreshadowing action "if a manufacturer prevents a dealer from fulfilling their legal obligations under consumer law".
Sharing of technical information
 Independent repairers continue to have problems accessing technical information to repair and service new cars. The ACCC accordingly recommends introduction of a mandatory scheme requiring car manufacturers to share  technical information needed to repair and service new cars with independent repairers. Sims comments that "Any mandatory scheme must be available on commercially ‘fair and reasonable terms’, and have safeguards that enable environmental, safety and security-related technical information to be shared with the independent sector".
Fuel consumption and emissions
The ACCC recommends that the Federal Government introduce more realistic laboratory tests for fuel consumption and emissions, and an on-road ‘real driving emissions’ test to give new car buyers more accurate information. Research from the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) found that real-world fuel consumption is on average 23%  higher than official laboratory test results.
Sims commented
Our research shows fuel consumption is the third most significant purchasing factor for consumers after price and model. We are concerned that new car buyers are not receiving accurate information about fuel consumption or emissions performance.
The ACCC considers that there may be additional benefits to consumers from an Australian real-driving emissions test. It accordingly recommends that the Government’s Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions consider the costs and benefits of an Australian real driving emissions testing program.

Privacy Publics

'The Public Information Fallacy' by Woodrow Hartzog comments 
The concept of privacy in “public” information or acts is a perennial topic for debate. It has given privacy law fits. People struggle to reconcile the notion of protecting information that has been made public with traditional accounts of privacy. As a result, successfully labeling information as public often functions as a permission slip for surveillance and personal data practices. It has also given birth to a significant and persistent misconception — that public information is an established and objective concept.
In this article, I argue that the “no privacy in public” justification is misguided because nobody even knows what “public” even means. It has no set definition in law or policy. This means that appeals to the public nature of information and contexts in order to justify data and surveillance practices is often just guesswork. There are at least three different ways to conceptualize public information: descriptively, negatively, or by designation. For example, is the criteria for determining publicness whether it was hypothetically accessible to anyone? Or is public information anything that’s controlled, designated, or released by state actors? Or maybe what’s public is simply everything that’s “not private?”
If the concept of “public” is going to shape people’s social and legal obligations, its meaning should not be assumed. Law and society must recognize that labeling something as public is both consequential and value-laden. To move forward, we should focus the values we want to serve, the relationships and outcomes we want to foster, and the problems we want to avoid.

Digital Rights Advocacy

'The Israeli Digital Rights Movement's campaign for privacy' by Efrat Daskal in (2017) 6(3) Internet Policy Review [PDF]
explores the persuasion techniques used by the Israeli Digital Rights Movement in its campaign against Israel’s biometric database. The research was based on analysing the movement's official publications and announcements and the journalistic discourse that surrounded their campaign within the political, judicial, and public arenas in 2009-2017. The results demonstrate how the organisation navigated three persuasion frames to achieve its goals: the unnecessity of a biometric database in democracy; the database’s ineffectiveness; and governmental incompetence in securing it. I conclude by discussing how analysing civil society privacy campaigns can shed light over different regimes of privacy governance.
Daskal comments
The digital era has expanded the boundaries and meanings of basic human rights such as freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and the right to information. These changes have triggered constant deliberations between national governments, global internet corporations, inter- and nongovernmental entities over the scope of these rights (Benedek, 2008; Kay, 2014). This paper focuses on one of these actors: civil society organisations which advocate for digital rights, also known as digital rights advocates. These organisations advocate for computer and internet-related civil liberties on parallel tracks: on the one hand, they confront governments and internet corporations in the constitutional, political, and judicial arenas, and on the other, educate the public about their rights. Thus, they are among the few social actors with the potential to challenge and sometimes even change the rules decided upon by powerful social actors (Breindl, 2011; Postigo, 2008).
In order for them to achieve their goals, digital rights advocates have to persuade other stakeholders, including the public. Yet such persuasion is not easy and usually requires them to reframe issues to their advantage. This is why, for example, the American Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) frames copyright issues as issues of fair use in order to legitimize expanding consumer privileges in copyrighted works (Postigo, 2008). This is also why, when dealing with net neutrality digital rights advocates worldwide have recently framed their campaigns as essential to saving the internet (Fernández Pérez, 2015; Kosoff, 2017; Panwar, 2015). Yet, only few studies explored in depth the persuasion techniques used by digital rights advocates, especially concerning the right for privacy (Bennett, 2008). This study wishes to contribute to the literature in the field by asking: “what are the persuasion techniques employed by Israel’s Digital Rights Movement organisation (DRM) in its campaign for privacy and against the biometric database in Israel?”
To do so, I have analysed the organisation’s textual products and involvement in legislation initiatives, judicial rulings, and public discourse in 2009-2017. This research sheds light on the role civil society organisations can play in constructing the boundaries of digital rights. Second, it contributes to the literature dealing with the right to privacy in a specific sociocultural context. Finally, it deepens our understanding of the global issue of privacy governance. In what follows, I will elaborate on the role civil society organisations play in protecting digital rights, especially the right to privacy. I will then address the Israeli case, and present the research questions and methods. My findings will describe the main activities of the DRM against the biometric database, as well as the persuasion techniques employed thereby. I will conclude by discussing how the study of civil society privacy campaigns can assist in conceptualising and understanding issues of privacy governance


'Judging the Judiciary by the Numbers: Empirical Research on Judges' by  Jeffrey J. Rachlinski and Andrew J. Wistrich in (2017) 13 Annual Review of Law and Social Science asks
Do judges make decisions that are truly impartial? A wide range of experimental and field studies reveal that several extra-legal factors influence judicial decision making. Demographic characteristics of judges and litigants affect judges’ decisions. Judges also rely heavily on intuitive reasoning in deciding cases, making them vulnerable to the use of mental shortcuts that can lead to mistakes. Furthermore, judges sometimes rely on facts outside the record and rule more favorably towards litigants who are more sympathetic or with whom they share demographic characteristics. On the whole, judges are excellent decision makers, and sometimes resist common errors of judgment that influence ordinary adults. The weight of the evidence, however, suggests that judges are vulnerable to systematic deviations from the ideal of judicial impartiality.
The authors comment
Judges are the axle on which the wheels of justice turn. They manage pretrial proceedings, mediate settlement conferences, rule on motions, conduct bench trials, supervise jury trials, take guilty pleas, impose criminal sentences, and resolve appeals. In the process, they find facts, make or apply law, and exercise discretion. Judges wield enormous power and society therefore rightly expects much of them. Judges must be fair minded, impartial, patient, wise, efficient, and intelligent (Wistrich, 2010). They must set aside their politics and their prejudices, make rational decisions, and follow the law. (See, e.g., American Bar Association, Model Code of Judicial Conduct, 2011, Rules 1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.8). But is it possible for judges to perform as we expect?
The answer to this question remains somewhat uncertain. Twenty years ago, Lawrence Baum (1997, p. 149) concluded, “Despite all the progress that scholars have made, progress that is accelerating today, we are a long way from achieving truly satisfying explanations of judicial behavior.” Much more research has been conducted since then, but judicial behavior still remains something of a mystery. Some scholars argue that judges behave rationally but make decisions that further their self-interest ( Epstein et al. 2013). That assertion, however, raises as many questions as it answers: What do judges see as their self-interest? Are fairness and impartiality their primary goals? What incentives do judges really face? After all, they rarely lose their positions and seldom get promoted. And even if judges primarily strive for fairness and impartiality, do they achieve these goals?
Research on human judgment and choice indicates that most people face cognitive limitations that lead them to make choices that do not consistently further their own ends (Ariely 2009). People commonly rely on intuition and simple shortcuts (or  heuristics) to make choices (Kahneman 2011). Heuristics can be effective and surprisingly accurate (Gigerenzer and Todd 1999), but can also lead to predictable mistakes when over-applied or misused. These problems plague professionals as well. Research on doctors, dentists, accountants, futures traders, and others shows that they all fail to live up to an idealized standard of judgment in many settings ( Ariely 2009). It would be surprising if judges are any different.
The available research on judges suggests that they sometimes f all short of the lofty ideal to which society holds them. A growing body of research supports the conclusion that although judges are often excellent decision makers, they have vulnerabilities. At the outset, we know that in some areas of law, judicial decisions are too chaotic. A study of immigration asylum decisions, for example, reveals that some judges grant asylum in a high percentage of cases while others almost never grant asylum (Ramji-Nogales et al. 2007). Asylum outcomes thus turn on the random assignment of a case to one judge or another. Decisions concerning whether to grant leave to appeal or to allow release on bond in immigration cases are similarly erratic ( Rehaag 2012; Ryo, 2016). Concerns about variation in conviction rates have also long haunted criminal law (Weisselberg and Dunworth, 1993). Even in criminal sentencing decisions in federal court, in which a highly structured set of guidelines cons trains judges, variation remains robust ( Scott 2011). Judges do not seem to decide as reliably as might be hoped or expected. Worse still, the variation does not just arise from chaos or a lack of meaningful standards, it arises from systematic vulnerabilities in how judges think.
This article surveys the empirical research that assesses whether judges live up to the standards of their profession. The evidence accumulated to date reveals that judges fall short in predictable ways. First, as the legal realists feared, judges’ personal characteristics influence their decision making. Specifically, the research indicates that when cases raise issues that are salient to judges’ personal characteristics, they do not consistently put their characteristics aside. Second, judges overreact to mechanisms of accountability, such as appellate review, retention, and promotion. Third, judges rely too heavily on intuitive ways of thinking that can be misleading. Fourth, in making decisions, judges sometimes rely on factors outside the record, including inadmissible evidence, their emotional reactions, and prejudices.
To be fair to judges, they labor under a great deal of academic scrutiny. The existing research on judicial decision making probably focuses too heavily on judicial failings. Scholars conduct their research with an eye towards showing that judges are politically motivated or biased. This is understandable, given the ideal of neutral judging that society expects from judges, but the emphasis on deviations likely makes judges seem worse than they are. The research includes several studies in which judges adhere to an ideal norm of neutrality, and we certainly include these in our review. No studies really provide usable estimates of how many cases are skewed by politics, prejudice, or other misjudgment, and the research does not support a means of making a reasonable estimate. The circumstances under which judges deviate from the norm are nevertheless worth exploring, not to make judges look bad, but to identify potential ways they might improve.
In reaching our conclusions, we review a diverse array of both experimental and field studies of judicial decision making. We set aside judges’ autobiographies and biographies, interviews of judges, careful parsing of individual opinions, and judges’ own accounts of how they make decisions. Such undertakings can provide valuable insights, but our focus lies on systematic empirical accounts of judicial decision making. These include archival studies of actual decisions and experiments or simulations using hypothetical cases. Although most research on judges emphasizes decisions of the US Supreme Court (especially since the Second World War), our focus lies with the state courts, lower federal courts, and a handful of international studies. Although the US Supreme Court is important, of course, it resolves few cases and represents only a tiny window into the judicial decision-making process. Each of the studies we incorporate into our analysis involves vastly more judges than the 39 people who have served on the Supreme Court in the last 70 years. The focus on the Supreme Court also tends to emphasize the role of politics in judging. Political influence is only one way judges can fail to meet the demands of their roles. We discuss this concern but expand upon it.


'Geographical Indications and Environmental Protection' by Michael Blakeney in (2017) 12(2) Frontiers of Law In China 162 comments
The protection of Geographical Indications (hereinafter "GIs") is required by all members of the World Trade Organization (hereinafter "WTO"), as this is mandated by the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (hereinafter "TRIPS"). Among the primary justifications for the protection of GIs is to enable producers to secure the premium prices which are attracted by products which have a unique quality that is attributable to their place of production. As this article points out, one reason for this premium price, in the case of agricultural products is that traditionally produced goods are often free from contaminants, such as herbicides and pesticides. Not previously discussed in the literature is the fact that from an environmental protect perspective, GIs applied to agricultural products provides some consumer confidence in their purity, as well as in their traceability. In securing higher returns for agricultural producers, GIs play an important role in securing rural development and the maintenance of rural landscapes. Finally, the article points out that the international GIs regime provides an important means of protecting the traditional knowledge of agricutlural producers.

13 December 2017

CCTV in EU teaching spaces

In Antovic and Mirkovic v Montenegro [2017] ECHR 1068 the European Court of Human Rights has held that CCTV in a public lecture theatre at the University of Montenegro breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. CCTV networks are a feature of teaching spaces in many Australian universities.

Article 8 of the Convention protects the right to respect for private and family life. The Dean of the School of Mathematics installed video surveillance in a public lecture theatre at the university to "protect safety of property, people and students". It also recorded lectures. The data was protected by codes known only to the Dean and kept for one year. A decision articulated by the Dean specified that the introduction of CCTV was intended to ensure the safety of property and people, including students, and the surveillance of teaching.

In March 2011 academics Ms Nevenka Antović and Mr Jovan Mirkovic complained to the state Personal Data Protection Agency about the video surveillance and the collection of data on them without consent. They relied on Montenegro's Personal Data Protection Act. In particular, they argued that the amphitheatre where they taught was locked both before and after the classes, that the only property there was fixed desks and chairs and a blackboard, that they knew of no reason to fear for anybody’s safety and that, in any event, there were other methods for protecting people and property and monitoring classes. They requested that the cameras be removed and the data erased.

Antović and Mirkovic  challenged the assessment. The Montenegrin Personal Data Protection Agency ordered the removal of the cameras. There was no evidence safety was an issue and therefore no legitimate grounds for data collection. The Agency ordered the School of Mathematics to remove the cameras from the auditoriums within fifteen days, as the video surveillance was not in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act. In particular, the reasons for the introduction of video surveillance provided for by s 36 of that Act had not been met, given that there was no evidence that there was any danger to the safety of people and property in the auditoriums, still less to confidential data, and that the surveillance of teaching was not among the legitimate grounds for video surveillance. In January 2012 the cameras were removed.

Ms Antovic and Mr Mirkovic brought compensation claims against the University of Montenegro, the Personal Data Protection Agency and the State of Montenegro, for a violation of their right to a private life, notably by the unauthorised collection and processing of data on them.
They submitted in particular that such an interference with their private lives, without any possibility to control that process, was not provided for by any piece of legislation and that therefore it had not been in accordance with the law, within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 of the Convention. They also maintained that it had not pursued any legitimate aim and had not been necessary in a democratic society. They relied on the relevant provisions of the Personal Data Protection Act, Article 8 of the Convention and the relevant case-law of the Court.
Domestic courts held that Article 8 had not been violated. The Court of First Instance for example found that the notion of private life certainly included activities in the business and professional spheres. However, the university was a public institution performing activities of public interest (inc teaching), and that it was thus not possible for video surveillance of the auditoriums as public places to violate the applicants’ right to respect for their private life. The lecture space was a working area, akin to  a courtroom or parliament, where professors were never alone, and therefore they could not invoke any right to privacy that could be violated. The data that had been collected could thereby also not be considered as personal data.

The Court further held that monitoring of actions taking place in public (in accord with the Court’s case-law) >was not an interference with a person’s private life when those means just recorded what others could see if they happened to be in the same place at the same time. The monitoring of the actions of an individual in a public place by the use of photographic equipment which just instantaneously recorded visual data did not give rise to an interference with that individual’s private life, which could arise once any footage of such material became publicly available. The Court  concluded that the installation and use of video surveillance and the collection of data thereby had not violated the applicants’ right to privacy and had therefore not caused them any mental anguish.

On appeal the European Court (by four votes to three) ruled that although the University is a public sphere, private life encompasses business and professional activities. Article 8 had been breached.

The compensation awarded was, from an Australian perspective, symbolic.

Antović and Mirkovic were awarded one thousand euros each in respect of non-pecuniary damage. They were awarded 1,669.50 euros jointly in respect of costs and expenses.

Plumbers and the French Disease

From Cynthia L. Haven's Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard (Michigan State University Press, 2018) -
The theatrics of Baltimore raise another important point, and one that’s emerged since. To put it bluntly: How much was pure sham, pure preening and ego jousting? At times, the mimetic rivalries and derivative desires seemed to be a showcase for the very principles Girard’s Deceit, Desire, and the Novel describes.
The American philosopher John Searle excoriated Derrida, insisting, 
You can hardly misread him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, “He says so and so,” he always says, “You misunderstood me.” But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that’s not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste . . . And I said, “What the hell do you mean by that?” And he said, “He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part.”
Not everyone, of course, agrees with this reading—though many have criticized Derrida for his byzantine writing, with its italics, its phrases in phantom quotation marks, and its dizzying wordplay. Girard himself clearly felt respect, as well as dismay, for his colleague. Girard himself, although dismayed by the deconstructive frenzy Derrida wrought, clearly had respect for his colleague as well. In particular, he wrote and spoke admiringly of Derrida’s early essay, “Plato’s Pharmacy,” which anticipated his own insights in some respects.
To some extent, Searle’s criticism reflects the porous divide between analytic and continental philosophy, and the former still dominates the American intellectual landscape and our public discourse. Speaking very roughly, analytic philosophy focuses on analysis—of thought, language, logic, knowledge, mind; continental philosophy focuses on synthesis—synthesis of modernity with history, individuals with society, and speculation with application. Anglo-American philosophy has emphasized the former; mainland Europe the latter. Searle is aligned with the analytic camp; so is linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, one of America’s leading public intellectuals.
Chomsky called Lacan a “total charlatan” posturing for the television cameras, charging that “there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t,” he said.
Searle’s and Chomsky’s critique is part of the American opposition that began in the 1980s, continuing the philosophical school of “American pragmatism” that looks for ideas to deliver some intellectual payoff. American pragmatists have been called “the plumbers of philosophy”—they attempt to solve problems, not provide elegant and clever descriptions of problems.
Perhaps questions should be practical, too. Sometimes a single naive question can bring down an entire edifice of thought. Let me extend a few naive questions, then, in that spirit: How is a philosophy embodied in the man who espouses it? What is a philosophy that does not change a man—not only what he says, but how he lives? How does a man’s being—the sum of his knowledge, experience, and will—“prove” his knowledge? Can we ever devise a philosophy, even a theory, wholly apart from who we are, and what we must justify? These questions were raised in earnest when Heidegger’s affiliation with the Nazis, and later Paul de Man’s complicity with them, were revealed. What does the test of time show us about the merits of an idea? However heated the arguments in the Parisian coffee shops, in the end, decades later, they would become systems of thought characterized by wordplay, mind games, and a noncombatant’s flexibility, charm, and elasticity—all delivered with an ironic wink.


Draft Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, headed by former HCA justice Kenneth Hayne, are -
Australia has one of the strongest and most stable banking, superannuation and financial services industries in the world, performing a critical role in underpinning the Australian economy. Our banking system is systemically strong with internationally recognised, world’s best prudential regulation and oversight. 
Most Australians are consumers of banking, superannuation and other financial services. The superannuation system alone in Australia has created more than a $2 trillion retirement savings pool, which continues to grow rapidly, and which compels all working Australians to defer income today for their retirement. 
All Australians have the right to be treated honestly and fairly in their dealings with banking, superannuation and financial services providers. The highest standards of conduct are critical to the good governance and corporate culture of those providers. 
These standards should continue to be complemented by strong regulatory and supervisory frameworks that ensure that all Australian consumers and businesses have confidence and trust in the financial system. 
The Government will appoint a distinguished serving or former judicial officer to lead a Royal Commission into the banking, superannuation and financial services industries. 
The Commission’s inquiry will not defer, delay or limit, in any way, any proposed and announced policy, legislation or regulation of the Government. 
Terms of Reference 
1. The Commission must inquire into the following matters;
a) the nature, extent and effect of misconduct by a financial services entity (including by its directors, officers or employees, or by anyone acting on its behalf); 
b) any conduct, practices, behaviour or business activity by a financial services entity that falls below community standards and expectations; 
c) the use by a financial services entity of superannuation members’ retirement savings for any purpose that does not meet community standards and expectations or is otherwise not in the best interest of members; 
d) whether any findings in respect of paragraphs 1(a), (b) and (c): i. are attributable to the particular culture and governance practices of a financial services entity or broader cultural or governance practices in the industry or relevant subsector; and ii. result from other practices, including risk management, recruitment and remuneration practices; 
e) the effectiveness of mechanisms for redress for consumers of financial services who suffer detriment as a result of misconduct by a financial service entity; 
f) the adequacy of: i. existing laws and policies of the Commonwealth (taking into account law reforms announced by the Government) relating to the provision of financial services; ii. the internal systems of financial services entities; and iii. forms of industry self-regulation, including industry codes of conduct; to identify, regulate and address misconduct in the industry, to meet community standards and expectations and to provide appropriate redress to consumers and businesses; 
g) the effectiveness and ability of regulators of a financial services entity to identify and address misconduct by those entities; 
h) whether any further changes to: i. the legal framework; ii. practices within financial services entities; and ii. the financial regulators, are necessary to minimise the likelihood of misconduct by financial services entities in future (taking into account any law reforms announced by the Government); and 
i). any matter reasonably incidental to a matter mentioned in the above paragraphs, 1(a) – 1(h). 
2. In conducting its inquiry the Commission should give priority to matters which in its opinion, have greater potential for harm if not addressed expeditiously. 
3. Inquiring into the matters set out in paragraph (1)(f), the Commission:
a) must have regard to the implications of any changes to laws, that the Commission proposes to recommend, for the economy generally, for access to and the cost of financial services for consumers, for competition in the financial sector, and for financial system stability; and 
b) may have regard to comparable international experience, practices and reforms. 
4. However, the Commission is not required to inquire, or to continue to inquire, into a particular matter to the extent that to do so might prejudice, compromise or duplicate: 
a) another inquiry or investigation; or 
b) a criminal or civil proceeding. 
And, the Commission may choose not to inquire into certain matters otherwise within the scope of this Inquiry, but any such decision will be the Commission’s, alone. 
5. The Commission is not required to inquire into, and may not make recommendations in relation to macro-prudential policy, regulation or oversight. 
6. The Commission may submit to the Government an interim report no later than September 2018 and must submit a final report within 12 months. The final report is to contain: a) its findings; and b) any recommendations relevant to the inquiry that the Commission thinks fit. 
financial service entity means an entity (other than a Commonwealth entity or company) that is:
a) an ADI (authorised deposit-taking institution) within the meaning of the Banking Act 1959
b) an entity that carries on the business of undertaking liability, by way of insurance (including reinsurance), in respect of any loss or damage, including liability to pay damages or compensation, contingent upon the happening of a specified event, including: i. a general insurer within the meaning of the Insurance Act 1973; and ii. an entity undertaking life insurance business within the meaning of the Life Insurance Act 1995
c) a person or entity required by section 911A of the Corporations Act 2001 to hold an Australian financial services licence or who is exempt from the requirement to hold a licence by virtue of being an authorised representative; or 
d) an RSE licensee of a registrable superannuation entity (as that term is defined in the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993) and any entity that has any connection (other than an incidental connection) to the RSE licensee of a registrable superannuation entity. 
Macro-prudential policy and regulation means policy and regulation, including as to the structure, role and purpose of financial regulators, that is concerned with containing systemic risk, which can have widespread implications for the financial system as a whole, beyond simply the banking system. 
misconduct includes conduct that 
a) constitutes an offence against a Commonwealth, State or Territory law in relation to the provision of a financial service, as existed at the time of the alleged misconduct; or 
b) is misleading and/or deceptive; or 
c) indicates a breach of trust or duty or unconscionable conduct; or 
d) breaches a professional standard or a recognised and widely adopted (conduct) benchmark.

States and Secret Treaties

'The Survival of the Secret Treaty: Publicity, Secrecy and Legality in the International Order' (University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 56/2017) by Megan Donaldson comments
This article offers the first detailed history of the norm of treaty publication as it has evolved over the last century. Drawing on both public debates and archives of foreign ministries, it traces how, and why, secret treaties have persisted, even in liberal democracies. It challenges assumptions of ever-greater transparency over time, and complicates the associations made — by interwar reformers and international lawyers today — between the norm of treaty publication and ideals of legality in the international order.
Clark states
Concern about “secret diplomacy” in the wake of World War I found its clearest expression in opposition to “secret treaties.” Left-leaning and internationalist groups believed that “publicity” of treaties1 would advance the control of foreign policy by legislatures and citizens, and help construct a more peaceful international order, governed by law rather than power politics. Article 18 of the Covenant of the League of Nations gave expression to these ideals, by purporting to render the binding force of treaties entered into by any member of the League conditional on their registration by the League Secretariat. Registration in turn entailed publication to the world at large.  Article 18 was thus the first instantiation of a norm of treaty publication in international law (with “treaty” here understood in the general international law sense). Admittedly, this norm was a relatively narrow one. It guaranteed only the publication of treaties once made, and did not address the secrecy of the negotiation phase. Nevertheless, it was a major change to law and diplomatic practice. Aspects of Article 18 were carried over into Article 102 of the UN Charter, which in turn was echoed in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). 
This article offers the first detailed history of the norm of treaty publication. It traces the emergence of the norm, and struggles over its interpretation and application, through the practice of the United States, Britain, and France. While these three states are not representative of the international community as a whole (neither in the interwar period nor today), their commitment to greater publicity, and influence over modes of diplomacy, makes them a revealing lens on the norm and its limits. The article draws on public debates in legislatures, international organizations, and legal scholarship, but also discussions within foreign ministries and the League of Nations Secretariat. Analysis from these diverse sources offers a clearer picture of the true legal architecture of publicity and secrecy in treaty practice. It suggests how, and why, margins for secrecy have persisted, even in liberal democracies, and draws out for critical scrutiny the relationship between the norm of treaty publication and legality in the international order.  
The article challenges the liberal democratic trajectory some might expect, namely ever- greater publicity over time. It shows that, while statesmen and officials made real efforts to uphold the publication norm, they also fought to preserve some avenue for making commitments that were both legally binding and secret. In international law, the radical potential of Article 18 of the Covenant—the connection it forged between registration and publication, on one hand, and binding force, on the other—was undone in the early years of the League. Article 102 of the Charter is less ambitious than its predecessor. Domestic law requirements, which arguably play as great a role in driving publication as international requirements, have also left avenues for secrecy, although these have been narrowed and systematized. 
Within liberal democracies, the article shows that general attitudes to the norm of publication were driven not only by factors like perceived geopolitical vulnerability, but also national political and legal cultures, and even the bureaucratic organization of the treaty apparatus. Specific efforts to carve out exceptions to the norm of publication, or decisions to flout it, were motivated by diverse considerations: perceived needs to preserve some concrete advantage over military or commercial rivals, to stabilize markets or currencies, and to prevent political opposition from national populations, colonies, or allies; but also to conceal markers of inferiority or subordination in interstate relations, and thus shore up a symbolic economy of interstate equality. For bodies charged with upholding the norm, like the League Secretariat, maintaining the force of Article 18 was important for credibility with internationalist constituencies, but there were countervailing incentives to interpret the provision narrowly in order to avoid confronting—and being seen to be defeated by—powerful member states. 
Many motivations for secrecy on the part of governments and institutions were self- interested and instrumental. However, officials and reformists also thought about secrecy in principled terms. On occasion, they reconsidered the normative case against secrecy that had been seen as persuasive in 1919. Some came to doubt whether secrecy was always inimical, for example, to peaceful ordering. In some instances, it seemed vital to preserve peaceful relations.
The doubts of contemporaries suggest enduring questions about whether and how the norm of treaty publication favors ends like democracy, peace, and legality. This article probes, in particular, the relationship between publicity and legality in the international order. In doing so, it gives a sense of the complex empirical terrain in which questions about democracy and peace, too, would have to be pursued. Actors concerned with publicity articulated different dimensions of the relationship between publicity and legality. Simplified for the sake of analysis, much of the discussion about publicity posited, first, a basic conceptual or normative connection to legality. This could take the form of assertions that legal relations and obligations were inherently public, or that they ought to be public. Second, there was an expectation that the norm of treaty publication would strengthen the role of law in the international order more generally (for example, by improving the dissemination and coherence of the law itself, fostering a commitment on the part of governments to following the law, or levelling out power imbalances between states and vindicating sovereign equality). This combined a general normative sensibility with a number of very condensed assumptions about the effects of publication or secrecy in particular contexts. Finally, there was confidence in law as a means of entrenching the norm of publication. This article shows that each of these stylized dimensions of the relationship between publicity and legality proved more complex—empirically and conceptually—than it had seemed in 1919.
The article intersects with doctrinal scholarship on the law of treaties and emergent research on why states craft interstate commitments in particular ways. However, doctrinal scholarship—cited very sparingly here—often concentrates on problems of classification, like the definition of a treaty6 and distinctions between legally binding “treaties” and “gentlemen’s” or “non-binding” agreements;  or on questions which flow from classification of texts, like the role of ancillary texts in interpretation.  By contrast, emergent research on why states make agreements in the form they do largely brackets these questions. This article puts the law at the heart of the inquiry. Unlike doctrinal scholarship, though, it is not aimed at reaching its own classification of the texts considered. Rather, it probes what interlocutors understood themselves to be doing in drafting or handling texts in particular ways.
Attention to these features of treaty practice, often side-lined in doctrinal accounts, gives a much richer picture of the true architecture of publicity and secrecy. It reveals the possibilities created by the interplay of the law of treaties with diplomatic crafts of drafting, and the management of texts within foreign ministry bureaucracies. It suggests a more expansive canvas for states crafting their commitments than can be captured in many studies of state behavior. Governments are not only choosing between treaties and non-binding agreements, for example, but crafting complexes of different texts, making choices about presentation and emphasis which are difficult to capture in quantitative ways. Officials are sometimes uncertain about the status of particular texts, in disagreement with each other, or consciously shaping textual forms to preserve ambiguity about legal status. Finally, close attention to the crafting of texts and the negotiation of the bounds of the category of treaty brings to the fore some paradoxical aspects of secrecy in the international legal order. Secret treaties, by their nature, will never enjoy many avenues for rhetorical or institutional enforcement typically associated with legally binding commitments. They might even thus reflect a faith in legal obligation alone to shape state behavior. Conversely, however, some secret treaties purport to commit states to actions which may violate international law, calling broader commitments to legality into question. 
The article begins with a brief overview of the pre-World War I (WWI) landscape (Part I). It then traces the emergence of Article 18, and the tacit qualification of this provision in the early years of the League’s existence (Part II), before addressing interwar confrontations with a comprehensive publication norm in national public law and practice (Part III). While interwar developments are considered in detail, as they shaped approaches taken after World War II (WWII), the treatment of national practice is necessarily selective, focusing on examples which illustrate the range of areas in which secrecy was sought, the repertoire of techniques used, and particular turning points in national approaches. The article then considers the transformation of the treaty publication norm after WWII, a period for which the archival material becomes scarcer (Part IV). It sketches the evolution of techniques of secrecy, and changing legal approaches to its management, from WWII to the present (Part V), before offering a snapshot of the secret treaty today (Part VI). Finally, it summarizes developments over the last century, and what they reveal about the empirical landscape in which to consider the relationship of publicity to democracy, peace and legality in future (Part VII).
'The Future of State Sovereignty' (King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 2017-42) by Joseph Raz comments
Advances in the legalisation of international relations, and the growing number of international organisations raise the question whether state sovereignty had its day. The paper defines sovereignty in a way that allows for degrees of sovereignty. Its analysis assumes that while sovereignty has become more limited, a trend which may continue, there is no sign that it is likely to disappear. The paper offers thoughts towards a normative analysis of these developments and the prospects they offer. Advocates of progress towards world government, while wise to many of current defects, are blind to the evils that a world government will breed, and to the advantages of relatively sovereign political societies. The paper identifies the advantages of the legalisation of international relations, and the growth of international bodies. The dilemma of internationalisation is that its advantages can be obtained only if international organs acquire some of the characteristics of successful sovereign political societies, in attracting the loyalty and shaping the sense of identity of their members – a faraway prospect. The best we can hope for is a mix international regime of relatively sovereign states subject to extensive regulation by international organisations and laws. That requires a pluralistic jurisprudence of international organisations, allowing for great local diversity, of which we have so far seen only small beginnings.


'The Construction of Homosexuality in New Zealand Judicial Writing' by Edward Clark in (2006) 37 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 199 comments
This article examines the language used by New Zealand judges to describe homosexuality. It analyses the use of such language in judgments delivered after the decriminalisation of homosexual intercourse in 1986, examining the effect that judicial language has on rights claims made by homosexuals. 
The article argues that a significant number of judges are careless or ill-­informed in the language they use to refer to homosexuality and that the language used reinforces and repeats a number of negative stereotypes about homosexuality, constructing it as inferior to a heterosexual norm. This article criticises such careless or prejudiced language as incompatible with New Zealand’s human rights commitments and argues that this language constitutes a barrier to the full enjoyment of citizenship by homosexual New Zealanders.

12 December 2017

Digital Rights

Last month's Digital Rights in Australia report by Gerard Goggin, Ariadne Vromen, Kimberlee Weatherall, Fiona Martin, Adele Webb, Lucy Sunman, and Francesco Bailo at the University of Sydney comments that
Australians are some of the world’s greatest users of social media and mobile broadband, and our nation is in the top ten globally for internet use. At a time when our use of these technologies is increasingly redefining aspects of our personal and professional lives, Digital Rights in Australia explores urgent questions about the nature of our rights now and into the future. 
 The report covers
rights issues in four areas: privacy, profiling and analytics; government data matching and surveillance; workplace change; and freedom of expression and speech regulation. It explores the ethical and legal challenges we face in using digital, networked technologies and the debates we are having about how to best manage their transformative impacts. 
Crucially this study examines the major role of private, transnational digital platforms in reshaping the way we work, study and conduct business, our interactions with government and with each other. 
This report draws on three sources of data: a national survey of the attitudes and opinions of 1600 Australians on key rights issues; focus group discussion of related rights scenarios; and analysis of legal, policy and governance issues, illustrated by case studies. 
It's core findings are -
 Privacy, Profiling, Data Analytics
  • Australians are concerned about their online privacy. While two thirds of our respondents believe they personally have nothing to hide, only a small group (18%) think that more general concerns about online privacy are exaggerated. 
  • A majority of our respondents do not feel in control of their privacy online. While a majority take active steps to protect their privacy (67%), and have changed settings on the social media they use most often (61%), a minority (38%) felt that they can control their privacy online. 
  • Women experience the online world differently from men: they are more likely to agree that they actively protect their privacy online (71%, compared with 63% of men) and change their social media settings (63%, compared with 58% of men), but feel no more in control of their privacy (39%, compared with 38% of men). 
  • There may be a significant group for whom the answer to questions relating to privacy online are: “it depends” (this contrasts with answers about governments and privacy). 
  • Corporations were the major source of concern: 57% were concerned about their privacy being violated by corporations, although a substantial number were also concerned about privacy violations by government (47%) and other people (47%). 
  • A large majority (78%) want to know what social media companies do with their personal data. 
  • In the online focus group, participants’ views were mixed on the use of data in targeted advertising and price discrimination. But there was a consensus that content targeting for political purposes is different: for example, paying a social media platform to boost a negative opinion article about a rival party to users in marginal seats was seen as crossing a line.
Government Data Matching and Surveillance
  • Nearly half of our respondents were concerned about government violating their privacy (47%). 
  • A majority are opposed to government programs for phone companies and internet service providers to keep metadata on phone calls and web use. 79% of respondents considered retention of information about phone calls to be a privacy breach. A majority (58%) were also opposed to a policy for government-mandated retention of information about internet communications. 
  • But a change in frame altered these numbers. When asked whether they favour law enforcement and security agencies being able to access metadata, the number in favour jumped up to 42% (47% opposed). Once framed as an anti-terrorism measure, government data-gathering about internet is supported by a majority of respondents (57%), while only 31% oppose a program described this way. 
  • Our findings highlight the critical importance of the framing of questions when assessing public support for data collection and sharing, and interpreting survey results. 
  • Respondents’ attitudes towards both government collection of communications data, and government data matching programs, varied significantly depending on political identification. Respondents who identified with the Coalition were significantly more likely to support programs; identification with the Greens made a respondent more likely to oppose such programs. 
  • There is considerable ambivalence among the survey participants towards online government data matching programs. We found that 42% are in favour and 45% are opposed to a program that tracks citizen use of public services and benefits. Our online focus group was also sharply divided on a range of data matching scenarios put to them.
  • Digital privacy at work matters. Most Australians do not think employers should look at their employees’ social media pages. While 37% agreed that it was acceptable for either prospective or current employers to look at public social media posts; only 20% agreed that it was ok for either current or prospective employers to look at private posts. 
  • High school educated, those not working in professional/skilled work, and respondents over 40, were most concerned about employers accessing their social media posts. 
  • Only 16% of people agreed that using social media was an important part of their job, but most workplaces (72%) they were in had a policy about using social media while at work. Most workplaces seem to recognize the everyday ubiquity of social media use and are attempting to govern it, though only 46% of respondents said their workplace had a policy on what they post online. 
  • In this terrain of unclear directions over social media at work and employers’ rights to access posts, our online discussion groups reinforced that privacy boundaries are important, but also that employees needed to use their own “common sense”. 
  • The encroachment of some new policy agendas, such as that seen in the case study of the Public Service Commission, needs to better reflect citizens’ desires for digital privacy at, and from, work. 
  • The app driven, online gig economy presents a new space for digital rights analysis. Most respondents have heard of, but not used, a platform such as Uber, Airtasker or Deliveroo; and use is skewed towards those under 40 and the university educated. 
  • Australians see gig work as providing workers with more flexibility, but at the same time a majority are also concerned about the financial insecurity of this kind of work. Over 60% believe that these new forms of work need new government regulations. Yet, as shown in the case study, institutionalising fairer regulations is fraught.
  • Australians are not strongly wedded to the North American ideal of absolute speech freedom online. Just over a third (37%) of those surveyed agreed that they should “be free to say and do what I want online”, but 30% disagreed and a third expressed reservations about the idea. People were also less supportive of others having that absolute freedom than themselves. 
  • 50% of Australians agreed that everyone should have the right to online anonymity or pseudonymity, a figure that increases to 57% for those under 40 years. Around a third of younger Australians said it was more likely that they would make honest and open comment on the news, talk about sensitive topics like sexuality or question others’ opinions if they had the opportunity to comment anonymously. 
  • Men are more likely to assert their right to free expression than women, reflecting the male dominance of everyday speech online as much as of offline. 
  • Gender is a key variable in understanding attitudes to social media regulation. Men were less likely than women to agree with the need to remove within 24 hours instances of sexual harassment, abuse targeted at an individual, or hate speech that encourages violence against others. Women were less supportive than men of the right to anonymity. 
  • While most Australians had not experienced negative impacts from risky or harmful online speech, 39% have been affected by mean or abusive remarks and 27% have had personal content posted without consent. Our case study on image-based abuse emphasises the need for law reform and educational strategies to address new privacy and speech rights breaches. 
  • More than was the case for either work or privacy issues, Australians agreed on the need for more regulation of online discussion environments. They flagged the need for increased involvement by social media platforms in content moderation and ‘easy’ complaints reporting. 
  • There was a perception gap between people’s belief that harmful social media content was easy to get taken down, and the procedural reality that it is not always straightforward and may require regulatory intervention to persuade the host company to act, as the European Commission hate speech case study suggests.

Citizenship Shopping

'State Inc.' by Tsilly Dagan and Talia Fisher in (2018) Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy comments
 Conventional wisdom holds that citizenship is not a consumer good and that the goods that the state confers upon its constituents - e.g., economic and social rights, access to its publicly provided goods, political voice and identity - are not for sale. In fact the relationships between states and actual or potential citizens is ideally conceptualized as standing in stark contrast to a seller-buyer relationship. The ideal type of state-citizen relationship is based in an entirely political sphere disconnected from the market. In accordance with this ideal conceptualization of the state-citizen relationship, the state is depicted as the legal guardian of citizenship entrusted with authority to determine who its members are and to exercise its powers in a manner that is compatible with the underlying normative values shared by its political members. It has an obligation to reinforce and represent the politically pronounced collective will. Being a citizen, according to this view, translates into being a member of a political community, participating in its deliberative process and as such bearing rights vis a vis the state and being entitled to the benefits it confers.
This ideal depiction of the relationship between the state and its actual or potential citizens is not, however, fully aligned with current reality where we are witness to gradual erosion of various dimensions of state-citizen relationship and an infiltration of market logic into this interaction. States seemingly desert their role as trustees of citizenship and assume a market player position, recruiting human capital and investments by putting their real and political assets up for grabs. They engage in the sale and barter of various aspects of membership in their polities and at times even in the sale or barter of full-fledged citizenship. Individuals as well, shop for citizenship, residency, work and other permits as well as for additional goods that states provide.
We argue that in order to fully account for this process of market infiltration into the realm of citizenship both on a descriptive and a normative level, one needs to widen the perspective through which state-citizen interaction is viewed. The ideal depiction of a distinct separation between the political sphere and the market realm fails to take into account the fact that the state-citizen relationship does not stand in a vacuum. Rather, it is part of a greater market order plagued with democratic and political deficits. In this decentralized order states themselves inevitably participate and function as market players vis a vis other states. They compete for capital and human resources by offering their public goods and political participation for sale. This market thus conflates monetary and political currency, and puts a price tag on political membership. At the same time, individuals and corporations compete for state-provided membership, rights, and public goods.
Competition does not only change the strategic positions of states and citizens in pursuing their goals. It percolates into the interaction between states and their subjects (their current citizenry as well as potential constituents) altering traditional roles of both states and citizens; it changes the kinds and quantities of public goods and entitlements being offered, it alters modes of democratic participation, schemes of distribution as well as the meanings and values underlying the state-citizen interaction.
The purpose of this Article is twofold: first, on a descriptive level we wish to uncover existing manifestations of the market infiltration into the state-citizen interaction. We will discuss how globalization reshapes this interaction’s phenomenology as well as the strategic goals of both states and citizens. Second, on the normative plane we explore and evaluate the marketization and fragmentation of the state-citizen relationship in light of central normative criteria--efficiency, distributive justice, autonomy identity and political participation.
Part A will focus on the descriptive dimension and unravel real world practices where state-citizen relationships are being marketized in full or in part. These examples of selling citizenship a-la carte will demonstrate the infiltration of the market into the political sphere and how market forces shape both the identity of the polity, and the formation of the collective will.
Against the backdrop of these markets for citizenship induced by state competition, part B will turn to the normative discussion evaluating the desirability of markets for citizenship.


'Privacy As Protection of the Incomputable Self: Agonistic Machine Learning' by Mireille Hildebrandt comments
This paper takes the perspective of law and philosophy, integrating insights from computer science. First, I will argue that in the era of big data analytics we need an understanding of privacy that is capable of protecting what is uncountable, incalculable or incomputable about individual persons. To instigate this new dimension of the right to privacy I expand previous work on the relational and ecological nature of privacy and the productive indeterminacy of human identity. Second, I will explain that this does not imply a rejection of machine learning, based on a more in-depth study of the assumptions, operations and implications of the practice of machine learning – highlighting its alignment with purpose limitation as core to its methodological integrity. Instead of rejecting machine learning, I advocate a practice of ‘agonistic machine learning’ as core to scientifically viable integration of data-driven applications into our environments while simultaneously bringing them under the Rule of Law. This should also provide the best means to achieve effective protection against overdetermination of individuals by machine inferences.

11 December 2017

Nudges and Capabilities

'The Folly of Categorization: Why Nudges are Even More Defensible than Their Advocates Suppose' by Douglas Husak in (2016) 14 The Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy comments
Count me among those philosophers who believe that most of the normative controversies about nudging or so-called libertarian paternalism are vastly overblown. I hope we are many, but it is hard to be sure. Nearly all of the worries brought against nudges qua nudges expressed by or attributed to moral philosophers are misdirected and/or exaggerated. My modest goal is to support this claim by attempting to show that Cass R. Sunstein—who almost certainly is the most well-known champion of nudges or libertarian paternalism—takes several of the philosophical objections to his proposals too seriously and responds to them less forcefully than he might.
'Working With And For Animals: Getting The Theoretical Framework Right’ by Martha Nussbaum in (2017) 94(4) Denver Law Review 609 comments
Friends of animals have lots to complain about and lots of work to do. To the familiar list of horrors—torture of animals in the meat industry, misery inflicted on puppies by puppy mills, the damages of research using animals, the manifold harms endemic to the confinement of apes and elephants in zoos, we have some further issues that have only become issues in the past few decades: depletion of whale stocks by harpooning, the confinement of orcas and dolphins in marine theme parks, the poaching of elephants and rhinos for the international black market, the illicit trafficking of elephants from Africa into U.S. zoos, the devastation of habitat for many large mammals through climate change. New issues arise all the time. The world needs an ethical revolution, a consciousness raising movement of truly international proportions. 
But bad behavior also needs law. No major crimes against sentient beings have been curbed by ethics alone, without the coercive force of law—although it typically takes an ethical movement to goad law into action. And so far, both in the U.S. and in the international community, law has been lagging behind the evolving ethical consciousness of humanity. Animals still lack standing under both U.S. and international law. They also lack any rights of ethical consideration. All human animals are treated as persons and ends (no matter how immature the human is), but all non-human animals are treated as mere things, as property. Law must find ways to make animals legal subjects and not mere objects. We need to move toward a world in which human beings are truly Friends of Animals, not exploiters or users. 
To make progress, we need theoretical approaches that are sound in terms of reality, grappling with what we know about animals, and that also direct law in a useful fashion. In this Article I will examine two extremely influential approaches to animal entitlements in philosophy, both of which have implications for law and policy: the “So Like Us” approach and the “Least Common Denominator” approach. I shall argue that both are defective intellectually, and also in terms of strategy. A version of the Capabilities Approach, an approach to justice for both humans and other animals that I have developed over the years, does far better in directing ethical attention. Does it also do better in directing legal strategy?
‘The Legal Status of Whales: capabilities, entitlements and culture’ by Rachel Nussbaum Wichert and Martha C. Nussbaum in (2016) 72 Sequência (Florianópolis) comments
Whales, among our planet's most majestic, mysterious, powerful, and intelligent beings, are profoundly endangered. International law has for some time attempted to protect them from extinction. Our paper addresses the legal status of whales and argues that they should be regarded as creatures with rights, not simply as commodities. Currently, international law does not recognize whales as creatures with rights. International organizations, particularly the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its founding document, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), have focused on the issue of overfishing and have allowed exceptions to usual standards based both on the alleged needs of scientific research (in the case of Japan) and on the alleged claims of culture (in the case of aboriginal groups in the Arctic).
 The authors state
In a related paper, we have explored the moral basis of animal entitlements, in the context of evolving legal debates about whether animals can be granted "standing" to approach a court of law (through an advocate, as is now the case with human with severe disabilities)1. Many animal rights activists have urged that the best basis for legal (and moral) standing for animals is suffering, an approach that can be traced to Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism. While we support Bentham's radical extension of moral concern to all sentient beings, we argue that suffering is not the only relevant notion. Intelligence and the ability to be social are qualities that are at least as important. Indeed, there is a strong case for considering cetaceans "non-human persons" and according them legal rights, most importantly standing to sue in their own right. Whales cannot be said to be "like" humans in terms of DNA, but they have their own form of intelligence and deserve protection under the law. 
On the other hand, we reject as misguidedly anthropocentric the form of this argument that exalts intelligence above physical suffering. Each animal species has its own form of life, and each deserves opportunities to flourish in its own way. We argue that ultimately the best philosophical approach to these issues is an analysis of animal lives in terms of a range of distinct but related capabilities, intertwined into a form of life. This approach, however, has never been accepted in either domestic or international law, despite years of argument by environmental groups urging courts to treat marine mammals as creatures with moral and legal rights.
They conclude
If environmentalism and conservation are an important part of the IWC's mission, it is well placed to take action on the specific question of whale protection. It is the major organization specifically focused on whales. In the process, it should also consider the threat posed by climate change. If significant portions of the Arctic open up for commercial oil and gas drilling in the future, this will pose further dangers for the marine mammals who live there and for their entire ecosystem. 
The issue, then, ultimately comes back to the moral and legal question of standing. By now most of the international community agrees that the harms done by cultural traditions must be limited in the name of human rights. But they don't reach the same conclusion about marine mammals, because they do not grant them legal or moral standing. The international community must decide: are whales person-like beings with legal entitlements, or are they not? At present, they are not, under customary international law. But customary international law is at odds, here, with moral reasoning grounded on empirical fact, and at odds with the moral judgments of a growing proportion of the international community. The romanticization of traditional whaling is no more morally defensible than the romanticization of domestic violence and child prostitution. Whales are person-like beings with intelligence, social interactions, and the capacity for not just suffering but a wide range of experiences and activities. The time has come for international law in general, and the IWC in particular, to recognize this.

Witches and Institutional Capacity

'Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France' (GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-47, 2012) by Noel D. Johnson and Mark Koyama comments
 How is rule of law established? We address this question by exploring the causal effect of increases in fiscal capacity on the establishment of well enforced, formal, legal standards in a pre-industrial economy. Between 1550 and 1700 there were over 2,000 witch trials in France. Prosecuting a witch required a significant deviation from formal rules of evidence by local judges. Hence we exploit the significant variation across time and space in witch trials and fiscal capacity across French regions between 1550 and 1700 to show that increases in fiscal capacity caused increased adherence to the formal rule of law. As fiscal capacity increased, local judges increasingly upheld de jure rules and the frequency of witch trials declined.

Markets and Corporate Personhood

'The Institutions of Roman Markets' by Benito Arruñada in Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci (ed.), Roman Law and Economics vol. 2 (Oxford University Press, 2018) comments
I analyze the basis of the market economy in classical Rome, from the perspective of personal-versus-impersonal exchange and focusing on the role of the state in providing market-enabling institutions. I start by reviewing the central conflict in all exchanges between those holding and those acquiring property rights, and how solving it requires reducing information asymmetry without endangering the security of property. Relying on a model of the social choice of institutions, I identify the demand and supply factors driving the institutional choices made by the Romans, and examine the economic circumstances that influenced these factors in the classical period of Roman law. Comparing the predictions of the model with the main solutions used by Roman law in the areas of property, business exchange and the enforcement of personal obligations allows me to propose alternative interpretations for some salient institutions that have been subject to controversy in the literature, and to conclude with an overall positive assessment of the market-enabling role of the Roman state.
'Brexit and Corporate Citizenship' by John Armour, Holger Fleischer, Vanessa Jane Knapp and Martin Winner  in (2017) 19(2) European Business Organization Law Review 225-249 comments 
The UK’s recent vote for Brexit has sparked a fierce debate over the implications for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the rest of the EU. So far, however, there has been relatively little discussion of the implications of Brexit for legal persons – that is, corporate citizens of the EU, which may also be profoundly affected by consequent changes. The ECJ’s 1999 decision in Centros made clear that the freedom of establishment protects the entitlement of corporate persons formed in one EU Member State to carry on their business in another Member State. Since then, many entrepreneurs in continental European countries have chosen to form companies in the UK, while still carrying on their business in their home country. What will the consequences of Brexit be for such companies? 
'Designing Against Discrimination in Online Markets' by Karen EC Levy and Solon Barocas (2018) 32 Berkeley Technology Law Journal comments
 Platforms that connect users to one another have flourished online in domains as diverse as transportation, employment, dating, and housing. When users interact on these platforms, their behavior may be influenced by preexisting biases, including tendencies to discriminate along the lines of race, gender, and other protected characteristics. In aggregate, such user behavior may result in systematic inequities in the treatment of different groups. While there is uncertainty about whether platforms bear legal liability for the discriminatory conduct of their users, platforms necessarily exercise a great deal of control over how users’ encounters are structured—including who is matched with whom for various forms of exchange, what information users have about one another during their interactions, and how indicators of reliability and reputation are made salient, among many other features. Platforms cannot divest themselves of this power; even choices made without explicit regard for discrimination can affect how vulnerable users are to bias. This Article analyzes ten categories of design and policy choices through which platforms may make themselves more or less conducive to discrimination by users. In so doing, it offers a comprehensive account of the complex ways platforms’ design choices might perpetuate, exacerbate, or alleviate discrimination in the contemporary economy.