Thursday, May 01, 2008

Justice Kirby on Regulating Technology

Greetings from the evening session of ET GOVICT2008 conference. The speaker is Justice Michael Kirby, High Court of Australia on The Challenge of Regulating Contemporary Technology. He started by addressing the issue of HIV/Aids. He argued you can't simply regulate on a technical level, separate from culture and this applies to ICT. Justice Kirby commented that most lawyers are not interested in technology and science. He has been involved in bioethics with UNESCO , TELOS at the University of London. He also cited Roger Brownsword's new book Rights, Regulation, and the Technological Revolution.

He then discussed the different viewpoints on privacy issues between Europeans and and Americans in the OECD Principles for the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data. He argued that consensus is possible, even in such contentious issues. One problem with such principles he pointed out is that not long after the principles were defined, along came networked public computer systems making data widely available with few limits. The technology moves fast and principles need to keep up. He quoted from Roger Brownsword's book on the relative priorities of regulation of different technologies.

I asked the Justice how Australian lawyers would cope with the type of online arbitration process used by WIPO. He joked that this might be a job for him next year when he retires from the bench and more seriously commented that lawyers should look to technology to help with processes but some serendipity may be lost in the process. One example of a happy accident he mentioned was that research on disease in monkeys had lead to an AIDS vaccine (the recent failure of a trial of the vaccine did not diminish from the value of the attempt).

There is a transcript and video of a talk by Justice Kirby to the IIA in February when he covered some of the same issues.

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