Should a robot enjoy any legal status independent of its human creators? If so, what kind of legal status would that be? Should the robot enjoy its/her/his “rights”? One’s answers to these futuristic questions might in part depend on whether one’s image of autonomous robots comes from the film Bicentennial Man (1999) based on Isaac Asimov’s novel or a more recent movie Ex Machina (2014). In the film version of Bicentennial Man, a highly autonomous robot played by Robin Williams exhibits humorous, friendly, and warm-hearted characteristics that co-exist with human communities. By contrast, in Ex Machina, a beautiful human-looking robot ended up deceiving a man and achieving freedom by taking advantage of the trust that the man developed towards the robot. While we cannot tell if such a self-governing robotic machine could ever be built, these two movies depict diametrically opposed scenarios that robots can have both beneficial and disturbing consequences to human beings. Continue reading
On 11 April 2018, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at the US congressional hearings. At the heart of the testimony was the Cambridge Analytica fallout on the misuse of Facebook users’ data, which continues to reveal the vulnerabilities of social media companies and their impact on politics. The business model of social media companies is based on the sale of advertisements and the provision of apps which allow the social media platforms to make the most of users’ data. Their businesses’ unique strength resides in the “targeted advertising” of potential consumers — and voters. While Facebook and other similar social media generate an enormous benefit of sharing information, the companies’ reliance on users’ data triggers an unprecedented risk of information misuse, not only in a commercial sense, but also for political campaigns.
On 10 April, Al Jazeera revealed how “surprisingly simple” it can be to circumvent sanctions and export control on cyber surveillance technologies. Al Jazeera’s four-month undercover investigation exposed the practices of merchants who sell spyware technologies as a “wi-fi router” and thereby readily escape from authorities’ export control radar. The investigation brought to light, for instance, an Italian communications company’s readiness to execute a 20-million euro deal to export to Iran an IP-intercept system which could be used for spying citizens. The company may be able to evade the EU’s export control by labelling the intercept Continue reading
On 31 January, the Japanese Supreme Court, for the first time in its history, handed down a decision regarding a so-called “right to be forgotten” case. The right to be forgotten—whose development the EU helped shape—entails an individual having the right to ask that a search engine remove search results linking to a specific result about him- or herself. The Japanese Supreme Court decided in favor of the search engine giant, Google, without referring to this emerging yet still contested right to be separated from one’s past online. Noteworthy, nonetheless, is that the Japanese Supreme Court laid down certain criteria with which to mandate the removal of search results. (The decision in Japanese is available here.) Continue reading