Archive for the ‘Bright Ideas’ Category
posted by Deven Desai
Sometimes fortune smiles upon you. I met Mark Weiner when we started law school. My life and my work is much better for it. Mark is a scholar and more. He obtained his B.A. in American Studies from Stanford, his J.D. from Yale, and his PhD in American Studies from Yale.
His most recent project is his excellent book, The Rule of the Clan. Ambassadors, professors from all around the world, members of the 9/11 commission, and publishers have embraced the book. Mark argues, and I think rather well, that the state has a quite important role to play, and we ignore that to our peril. Publishers Weekly has said:
A nuanced view of clan-based societies … Weiner’s argument is a full-throated defense of the modern centralized state, which he sees as necessary to protect human rights: “In the face of well-intended but misguided criticism that the state is inimical to freedom, we must choose whether to maintain the state as our most basic political institution or to let it degrade.” An entertaining mix of anecdote and ethnography.
The New York Journal of Books has called the book “accessible, mesmerizing, and compelling.”
I wanted to get into how Mark came up with the project, why it matters, and, for the writers out there, the process of writing about such a complex subject but in a way that is accessible to a general audience. So I asked Mark whether we could do a Bright Ideas interview. He graciously agreed.
Mark, the book is great. I want to jump in and ask, What do you mean by “clan”?
Thanks, Deven. In my book, I consider clans both in their traditional form, as a subset of tribes, but also as a synecdoche for a pattern by which humans structure their social and legal lives: “the rule of the clan.” Clans are a natural form of social and legal organization. They certainly are more explicable in human terms than the modern liberal state and the liberal rule of law. Because of the natural fact of blood relationships, people tend to organize their communities on the basis of extended kinship in the absence of strong alternatives.
So why clans now?
Two reasons. First, the United States is involved militarily in parts of the world in which traditional tribal and clan relationships are critical, and if we don’t understand how those relationships work, including in legal terms, we have a major problem.
Let me give you an example from Guantanamo. In the book, I tell a story of a college friend who was in charge of the team there interrogating detainees from Saudi Arabia. (I should note that my friend finds torture morally repugnant and against the national interest, as do I, and that she has advocated for this view in meaningful ways.) Over the course of her work, my friend realized that because of the first-name/last-name structure of the detainee tracking system, basic information about detainee tribal affiliations hadn’t been gathered or had been lost. This meant, among other things, that we couldn’t fully appreciate the reason why some of these men had taken up arms against us in the first place—for instance, because the United States had become embroiled in their centuries-long, domestic tribal war with the House of Saud.
Our ignorance about these issues is what I call the contemporary “Fulda Gap.” Our lack of knowledge about more traditional societies hinders our ability to understand the motivations of those who oppose us and leaves us vulnerable—and, even more important, it diminishes our ability to cooperate with our friends and to assist liberal legal reformers abroad in ways that are both effective and ethical.
The second reason to study clans, and ultimately for me even more important than the first reason, has to do with our own political discourse here at home. You could say that I became interested in clans because of widespread ideological attacks against the state within liberal societies—that is, attacks on government. By this I mean not simply efforts to reduce the size of government or to make it more efficient. Instead, I mean broadside criticisms of the state itself, or efforts to starve government and render it anemic.
I think you are saying there is something about clans that helps us organize and understand our world. What is it?
It’s often said that individual freedom exists most powerfully in the absence of government. But I believe that studying the rule of the clan shows us that the reverse is true. Liberal personal freedom is inconceivable without the existence of a robust state dedicated to vindicating the public interest. That’s because the liberal state, at least in theory, treats persons as individuals rather than as members of ineluctable status or clan groups. So studying clans can help us imagine what our social and legal life would become if we allow the state to deteriorate through a lack of political will.
By the way, the idea that the state is somehow inimical to freedom—that we gain individual freedom outside the state, rather than through it—is hardly limited to the United States. It was a core component of Qaddafi’s revolutionary vision of Libya. Or consider Gandhi, who advocated for a largely stateless society for postcolonial India. Fortunately for India, his vision wasn’t realized. Instead, we owe the prospects for further liberal development there to the constitution drafted by B. R. Ambedkar.
Hold on. From Indian independence to Libyan revolution seems a long jump. Can you help me connect the dots?
March 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm Tags: clans, Constitutional Law, international law, rule of law, terrorism, War on Terror Posted in: Articles and Books, Bright Ideas, Constitutional Law, History of Law, International & Comparative Law, Jurisprudence Print This Post One Comment
posted by Danielle Citron
Professor Sonja B. Starr and Professor M. Marit Rehavi have posted a fascinating new study on SSRN entitled Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice Process: Prosecutors, Judges, and the Effects of United States v. Booker. It presents new empirical research on the effects of United States v. Booker on racial disparity in the federal criminal justice system (including in prosecutorial decision-making). The study challenges current thinking, finding that Booker has reduced –rather than exacerbated — racial disparity. Professor Starr, my brilliant former colleague and faculty member of the University of Michigan Law School, presented this research in August at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and in October at the National Sentencing Policy Institute, another federal judicial conference that also includes the US Sentencing Commission.
posted by Deven Desai
This Bright Ideas post looks at Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter’s new book, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. I have posted about it, but Kevin and Dan were gracious enough to answer some questions. We go into what is gamification, the differences between internal and external uses of the technique, how it relates to super-crunching, and the ethical and legal implications of the technique.
Kevin and Dan, you have drilled into an area, gamification, that seems almost arcane, a technique known to initiates. Why do it?
[KW] We actually think gamification is quite relevant for a broad range of audiences. First of all, video games have a huge impact on our culture. The games industry generates more revenue annually than Hollywood does at the box office. According to a Pew survey, 97% of American teeagers play video games, and it’s not just young people: the Entertainment Software Association reports that the average age of a gamer is 30, with almost half of them women. We can dismiss video games the way we used to dismiss social networking… and e-commerce before that… and the Internet before that… or we can look at why they are so powerful and apply those lessons in other contexts.
Second, the core goal of gamification is motivation. Think about all the situations where motivation matters: at work, at home, as consumers, in legal compliance, in social activism, and in collective action, to name a few. In all these cases, greater engagement drives material results. If there were motivational techniques that were proven in real-world businesses, consistent with decades of psychological research, and synergistic with big data and other leading-edge technology trends, wouldn’t you want to understand them?
And third, gamification is happening. It’s a rapidly growing business trend among startups, Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and even government agencies. It raises a host of significant legal, operational, and ethical issues, as well as a variety of practical business concerns. We felt that my work on emerging technology and policy trends through the Supernova conference, and Dan’s scholarship on virtual worlds and background in cognitive psychology, gave us a unique ability to tackle these questions in a serious way. That’s why we put together the first gamification course at Wharton, and wrote For the Win as business guide to this emerging field.
OK, so what is gamification?
[KW] Gamification means applying design techniques from video games to business and other problems. In other words, it’s the process of motivating customers, employees, and communities by thinking like a game designer. It doesn’t mean turning everything into a game. Quite the contrary! Gamification involves incorporating elements of games into existing activities, the way Nike weaves levels and awards into its Nike+ system, or Microsoft motivated employees to review half a million Windows 7 dialogue boxes for localization errors with a competition among offices.
When you look at it that way, the basic concept of gamification is pretty simple, but doing it well is hard. Even experienced game designers often create games that aren’t much fun. Executing gamification effectively requires a combination of skills and knowledge, which we describe in For the Win.
Right. I see games are important in that they are big business and a big part of many folks’ lives. Let’s talk a little more about motivation. Is this approach a sort of applied behavioral economic one? Someone identifies levers and then builds systems to nudge or indeed shift the way others engage and behave?
posted by Danielle Citron
Ever since the inception of the recession, we have been embroiled in a conversation about legal education–its costs, value, and flaws. There has been much controversy, some informed and some uninformed about the need for reforms in legal education and ways forward. Amidst this debate, legal historian Robert Kaczorowski has written a brilliant and engrossing history of Fordham Law School, one that highlights, among many issues, the struggles that law schools have with their universities about the funds they generate. As Kaczorowski’s book “Fordham University School of Law: A History” highlights, universities see their law schools as cash cows, siphoning away their funding for the main university and taking away those funds from the law school. Legal reform amidst that continuing state of affairs is a fraught enterprise, indeed. Of the book, esteemed legal historian William Nelson (NYU) writes:
One of the best books ever written on American legal education. Besides documenting the history of Fordham Law, Kaczorowski makes three major contributions to the knowledge of legal education’s history. First, the book documents why large numbers of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century immigrants and their children needed the founding of a Catholic law school. Second, it documents the factors that produce greatness in a law school. Third, it traces a conflict over the funding of law school. No other work has addressed these issues in depth. Kaczorowski has done a remarkable job.
Must Read: Professor Amanda Pustilnik’s “Pain as Fact and Heuristic: How Pain Neuroimaging Illuminates Moral Dimensions of Law”
posted by Danielle Citron
At Jotwell, Professor Angela Harris has a spot-on review of my colleague Amanda Pustilnik’s superb article Pain as Fact and Heuristic: How Pain Neuroimaging Illuminates Moral Dimensions of Law, 97 Cornell L. Rev. 801 (2012). In “The Pain of Others,” Professor Harris writes:
As Pustilnik explains, advances in neuroimaging techniques, including the fMRI and the positron emission tomography (PET) scan, have made pain objective, rendering obsolete Elaine Scarry’s famous declaration that pain is simultaneously the thing most existentially real (to the sufferer) and most existentially in doubt (to the observer). Observers can now look at the various areas of the brain activated by acute pain and tell, with relative certainty, whether the subject is experiencing pain or not. If fMRI measurements are repeated over time with various levels of stimulus, it should also be possible to tell what degree of pain the subject is experiencing.
These developments could, in theory, revolutionize a number of areas of law and policy. Pustilnik discusses two. First, in many states, homicide by means of “torture” – usually defined as the intentional infliction of “extreme” pain — is one basis for a first-degree murder charge. Could a defense attorney someday submit evidence that the pain caused the victim was not “extreme” enough to constitute torture? Could a prosecutor respond with fMRI evidence about the kind of pain experienced by the average (reasonable?) person in the defendant’s situation?
Second, Pustilnik suggests that neuroscientific evidence could be mobilized in order to draw the line between permissible and impermissible interrogation techniques. Many efforts to define torture in international conventions – as well as, Pustilnik notes, the infamous Bybee Memo justifying torture by U.S. officials in the detention center in Guantanamo Bay – turn on degrees of pain inflicted. Could science help set an objective standard for nations and their interrogators to abide by?
Ethicists fearing future unemployment will breathe a sigh of relief that Pustilnik’s answer is “no.” What’s so satisfying about her argument, however, is not her conclusion that ethics still matter, but the way in which Pustilnik uses these neuroscientific advances as a way to explore the moral import of pain and, more generally, the significance of the body to moral and ethical judgments. . . .
In recent years, neuroscience and cognitive science have appeared to be laying siege to substantive criminal law. New developments in science and technology are poised to help lawyers and their experts predict wrongdoing, assess the responsibility of juveniles, assess culpability, distinguish lies from truth on the witness stand, and decode memories – not to mention helping the police detect illegal activity from afar. At the same time, Stephen Morse has noted in a droll formulation, the excitement generated by new scientific discoveries can lead to “Brain Overclaim Syndrome.” Rather than seeing a competition between science and ethics or technology and law and weighing in on one side or the other, Pustilnik uses our increasing ability to see and manipulate the workings of the body as an occasion to deepen our insight into the links between body and mind, objective and subjective. The dimensions of the physical and the social, she shows, are the double strands of morality’s DNA. Criminal law necessarily must grapple with both.
posted by Danielle Citron
On Friday, I learned that Professor Barbara van Schewick would be releasing a ground-breaking white paper entitled Network Neutrality and Quality of Service: What a Non-Discrimination Rule Should Look Like. Lucky for us, Professor van Schewick agreed to come aboard to talk to us about her white paper, which she released on Monday, see her post here. Her paper provides the first detailed analysis of the Federal Communications Commissions’ non-discrimination rule and of its implications for network providers’ ability to manage their networks and offer Quality of Service. Crucially, it proposes a non-discrimination rule that policy makers can, and should, adopt around the world – a rule that the FCC adopted at least in part.
Professor van Schewick is an Associate Professor of Law and Helen L. Crocker Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School, an Associate Professor (by courtesy) of Electrical Engineering in Stanford University’s Department of Electrical Engineering, and Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
This post is a terrific prelude to our online symposium on van Schewick’s book Internet Architecture and Innovation (MIT Press 2010), which is considered the seminal work on the science, economics and policy of network neutrality. We will be holding our symposium in honor of the book’s paperback release in the early fall.
Thanks so much for coming aboard, and I hope this post gets you excited for our discussion in the fall.
H/T: Marvin Ammori and Elaine Adolfo
posted by Daniel Solove
Bruce Schneier has recently published a new book, Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive (Wiley 2012). Bruce is a renowned security expert, having written several great and influential books including Secrets and Lies and Beyond Fear.
Liars and Outliers is a fantastic book, and a very ambitious one — an attempt to conceptualize trust and security. The book is filled with great insights, and is a true achievement. And it’s a fun read too. I recently conducted a brief interview with Bruce about the book:
Q (Solove): What is the key idea of your book?
A (Schneier): Liars and Outliers is about trust in society, and how we induce it. Society requires trust to function; without it, society collapses. In order for people to have that trust, other people must be trustworthy. Basically, they have to conform to the social norms; they have to cooperate. However, within any cooperative system there is an alternative defection strategy, called defection: to be a parasite and take advantage of others’ cooperation.
Too many parasites can kill the cooperative system, so it is vital for society to keep defectors down to a minimum. Society has a variety of mechanisms to do this. It all sounds theoretical, but this model applies to terrorism, the financial crisis of 2008, Internet crime, the Mafia code of silence, market regulation…everything involving people, really.
Understanding the processes by which society induces trust, and how those processes fail, is essential to solving the major social and political problems of today. And that’s what the book is about. If I could tie policymakers to a chair and make them read my book, I would.
Okay, maybe I wouldn’t.
Q: What are a few of the conclusions from Liars and Outliers that you believe are the most important and/or provocative?
A: That 100% cooperation in society is impossible; there will always be defectors. Moreover, that more security isn’t always worth it. There are diminishing returns — spending twice as much on security doesn’t halve the risk — and the more security you have, the more innocents it accidentally ensnares. Also, society needs to trust those we entrust with enforcing trust; and the more power they have, the more easily they can abuse it. No one wants to live in a totalitarian society, even if it means there is no street crime.
More importantly, defectors — those who break social norms — are not always in the wrong. Sometimes they’re morally right, only it takes a generation before people realize it. Defectors are the vanguards of social change, and a society with too much security and too much cooperation is a stagnant one.
posted by Brett Frischmann
I am incredibly grateful to Danielle, Deven, and Frank for putting this symposium together, to Concurring Opinions for hosting, and to all of the participants for their time and engagement. It is an incredible honor to have my book discussed by such an esteemed group of experts.
Shared infrastructures shape our lives, our relationships with each other, the opportunities we enjoy, and the environment we share. Think for a moment about the basic supporting infrastructures that you rely on daily. Some obvious examples are roads, the Internet, water systems, and the electric power grid, to name just a few. In fact, there are many less obvious examples, such as our shared languages, legal institutions, ideas, and even the atmosphere. We depend heavily on shared infrastructures, yet it is difficult to appreciate how much these resources contribute to our lives because infrastructures are complex and the benefits provided are typically indirect.
The book devotes much-needed attention to understanding how society benefits from infrastructure resources and how management decisions affect a wide variety of private and public interests. It links infrastructure, a particular set of resources defined in terms of the manner in which they create value, with commons, a resource management principle by which a resource is shared within a community.
Infrastructure commons are ubiquitous and essential to our social and economic systems. Yet we take them for granted, and frankly, we are paying the price for our lack of vision and understanding. Our shared infrastructures—the lifeblood of our economy and modern society—are crumbling. We need a more systematic, long-term vision that better accounts for how infrastructure commons contribute to social welfare.
In this book, I try to provide such a vision. The first half of the book is general and not focused on any particular infrastructure resource. It cuts across different resource systems and develops a framework for understanding societal demand for infrastructure resources and the advantages and disadvantages of commons management (by which I mean, managing the infrastructure resource in manner that does not discriminate based on the identity of the user or use). The second half of the book applies the theoretical framework to different types of infrastructure—e.g., transportation, communications, environmental, and intellectual resources—and examines different institutional regimes that implement commons management. It then wades deeply into the contentious “network neutrality” debate and ends with a brief discussion of some other modern debates.
Throughout, I raise a host of ideas and arguments that probably deserve/require more sustained attention, but at 436 pages, I had to exercise some restraint, right? Many of the book’s ideas and arguments are bound to be controversial, and I hope some will inspire others. I look forward to your comments, criticisms, and questions.
April 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm Posted in: Administrative Law, Antitrust, Bright Ideas, Cyberlaw, Economic Analysis of Law, First Amendment, Google & Search Engines, Infrastructure Symposium, Innovation, Intellectual Property, Legal Theory, Media Law, Property Law, Technology, Uncategorized Print This Post No Comments
posted by Derek Bambauer
If you Google “Santorum,” you’ll find that two of the top three search results take an unusual angle on the Republican candidate, thanks to sex columnist Dan Savage. (I very nearly used “Santorum” as a Google example in class last semester, and only just thought better of it.) Santorum’s supporters want Google to push the, er, less conventional site further down the rankings, and allege that Google’s failure to do so is political biased. That claim is obviously a load of Santorum, but the situation has drawn more thoughtful responses. Danny Sullivan argues that Google should implement a disclaimer, because kids may search on “Santorum” and be disturbed by what they find, or because they may think Google has a political agenda. (The site has one for “jew,” for example. For a long time, the first result for that search term was to the odious and anti-Semitic JewWatch site.)
This suggestion is well-intentioned but flatly wrong. I’m not an absolutist: I like how Google handled the problem of having a bunch of skinheads show up as a top result for “jew.” But I don’t want Google as the Web police, though many disagree. Should the site implement a disclaimer if you search for “Tommy Lee Pamela Anderson”? (Warning: sex tape.) If you search for “flat earth theory,” should Google tell you that you are potentially a moron? I don’t think so. Disclaimers should be the nuclear option for Google – partly so they continue to attract attention, and partly because they move Google from a primarily passive role as filter to a more active one as commentator. I generally like my Web results without knowing what Google thinks about them.
Evgeny Morozov has made a similar suggestion, though along different lines: he wants Google to put up a banner or signal when someone searches for links between vaccines and autism, or proof that the Pentagon / Israelis / Santa Claus was behind the 9/11 attacks. I’m more sympathetic to Evgeny’s idea, but I would limit banners or disclaimers to situations that meet two criteria. First, the facts of the issue must be clear-cut: pi is not equal to three (and no one really thinks so), and the planet is indisputably getting warmer. And second, the issue must be one that is both currently relevant and with significant consequences. The flat earthers don’t count; the anti-vaccine nuts do. (People who fail to immunize their children not only put them at risk; they put their classmates and friends at risk, too.) Lastly, I think there’s importance to having both a sense of humor and a respect for discordant, even false speech. The Santorum thing is darn funny. And, in the political realm, we have a laudable history of tolerating false or inflammatory speech, because we know the perils of censorship. So, keeping spreading Santorum!
Danielle, Frank, and the other CoOp folks have kindly let me hang around their blog like a slovenly houseguest, and I’d like to thank them for it. See you soon!
Cross-posted at Info/Law.
February 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm Posted in: Advertising, Architecture, Bright Ideas, Culture, Current Events, Cyberlaw, Education, First Amendment, Google and Search Engines, Humor, Innovation, Just for Fun, Law Talk, Media Law, Politics, Psychology and Behavior, Technology, Web 2.0 Print This Post 7 Comments
posted by Derek Bambauer
(This post is based on a talk I gave at the Seton Hall Legislative Journal’s symposium on Bullying and the Social Media Generation. Many thanks to Frank Pasquale, Marisa Hourdajian, and Michelle Newton for the invitation, and to Jane Yakowitz and Will Creeley for a great discussion!)
New Jersey enacted the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (ABBR) in 2011, in part as a response to the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University. It is routinely lauded as the country’s broadest, most inclusive, and strongest anti-bullying law. That is not entirely a compliment. In this post, I make two core claims. First, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights has several aspects that are problematic from a First Amendment perspective – in particular, the overbreadth of its definition of prohibited conduct, the enforcement discretion afforded school personnel, and the risk of impingement upon religious and political freedoms. I argue that the legislation departs from established precedent on disruptions of the educational environment by regulating horizontal relations between students rather than vertical relations between students and the school as an institution / environment. Second, I believe we should be cautious about statutory regimes that enable government actors to sanction speech based on content. I suggest that it is difficult to distinguish, on a principled basis, between bullying (which is bad) and social sanctions that enforce norms (which are good). Moreover, anti-bullying laws risk displacing effective informal measures that emerge from peer production. Read the rest of this post »
February 21, 2012 at 10:20 pm Posted in: Anonymity, Blogging, Bright Ideas, Civil Rights, Conferences, Constitutional Law, Culture, Current Events, Cyber Civil Rights, Cyberlaw, Education, First Amendment, Media Law, Politics, Privacy (Gossip & Shaming), Psychology and Behavior, Race, Religion, Social Network Websites, Technology, Web 2.0 Print This Post 3 Comments
posted by Derek Bambauer
The American Bar Association is kicking off its 2012 tech show with an address by… Ben Stein. Yes, who better to celebrate the march of technological progress and innovation than a leading defender of intelligent design? Who better to celebrate rigorous intellectual discourse than a man who misquotes Darwin and fakes speeches to college audiences?
This is a pretty embarrassing misstep. The ABA is irrelevant in the IP / tech world, and this facepalm is a nice microcosm of why. (Wait, what is the ABA relevant to? Now that’s a hard question.) We geeks don’t like it when you dis science. Thanks anyway, ABA – maybe you should stick to having your judicial recommendations ignored.
Hat tip: health law expert Margo Kaplan.
Update: I found the perfect keynote speaker for ABA’s 2013 TechShow: Marshall Hall!
Cross-posted at Info/Law.
February 20, 2012 at 11:27 am Posted in: Blogging, Bright Ideas, Conferences, Culture, Current Events, Cyberlaw, Education, Humor, Innovation, Intellectual Property, Media Law, Movies & Television, Politics, Science Fiction, Technology Print This Post 8 Comments
posted by Danielle Citron
Lucky for CoOp readers, I had a chance to talk to Professor Anita Allen about her new book Unpopular Privacy, which Oxford University Press recently published. My co-blogger Dan Solove included Professor Allen’s new book on his must-read privacy books for the year. And rightly so: the book is insightful, important, and engrossing. Before I reproduce below my interview with Professor Allen, let me introduce her to you. She is a true renaissance person, just see her Wikipedia page. Professor Allen is the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is also a senior fellow in the bioethics department of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a collaborating faculty member in African studies, and an affiliated faculty member in the women’s studies program. In 2010, President Barack Obama named Professor Allen to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. She is a Hastings CenterFellow. Her publications are too numerous to list here: suffice it to say that she’s written several books, a casebook, and countless articles in law reviews and philosophy journals. She also writes for the Daily Beast and other popular media.
Question: You began writing about privacy in the 1980s, long before the Internet and long before many of the federal privacy statutes we take for granted. What has changed?
I started writing about privacy when I was a law student at Harvard in the early 1980s and have never stopped. Unpopular Privacy, What Must We Hide (Oxford University Press 2011) is my third book about privacy in addition to a privacy law casebook Privacy Law and Society (West Publishing 2011). My original impetus was to understand and explore the relationships of power and control among governments, individuals, groups, and families. In the 1970s and 1980s, the big privacy issues in the newspapers and the courts related to abortion, gay sex, and the right to die. Surveillance, search and seizure, and database issues were on the table, as they had been since the early 1960s, but they often seemed the special province of criminal lawyers and technocrats.
To use a cliché, it’s a brave new world. Since my early interest in privacy, times have indeed changed, the role of electronic communications and the pervasiveness of networked technologies in daily life has transformed how personal data flows and how we think about and prioritize our privacy. Terms like webcam, “text messaging,” “social networking,” and “cloud computing” have entered the lexicon, along with devices like mobile, personal digital assistants, and iPads.
The public is just beginning to grasp ways in which genetics and neuroscience will impact privacy in daily life—I have begun to reflect, write, and speak more about these matters recently, including in connection with my work as a member of President Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
Question: Your book coins the phrase “unpopular privacy.” In what way is privacy unpopular?
First let me say that I think of “popular privacy” as the privacy that people in the United States and similar developed nations tend to want, believe they have a right to, and expect government to secure. For example, typical adults very much want privacy protection for the content of their telephone calls, e-mail, tax filings, health records, academic transcripts, and bank transactions.
I wrote this book because I think we need to think more about “unpopular” privacy. “Unpopular” privacy is the kind that people reject, despise, or are indifferent to. My book focuses on the moral and political underpinnings of laws that promote, require, and enforce physical and informational privacy that is unpopular with the very people that those laws are supposed to help or control. (I call such people the beneficiaries and targets of privacy laws.) “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for instance, was an unpopular government mandated privacy for military service members. My book suggests that some types of privacy that should be popular aren’t and asks what, if anything, we should do about it.
Question: If people don’t want privacy or don’t care about it, why should we care?
We should care because privacy is important. I urge that we think of it as a “foundational” good like freedom and equality. Privacy is not a purely optional good like cookies and sports cars. Since the 1960s, when scholars first began to analyze privacy in earnest, philosophers and other theorists have rightly linked the experience of privacy with dignity, autonomy, civility, and intimacy. They have linked it to repose, self-expression, creativity, and reflection. They have tied it to the preservation of unique preferences and distinct traditions. I agree with moral, legal and political theorists who have argued that privacy is a right.
I go further to join a small group of theorists that includes Jean L. Cohen who have argued that privacy is also potentially a duty; and not only a duty to others, but a duty to one’s self. I believe we each have a duty to take into account the way in which one’s own personality and life enterprises could be affected by decisions to dispense with foundational goods that are lost when one decides to flaunt, expose, and share rather than to reserve, conceal, and keep.
If people are completely morally and legally free to pick and choose the degrees of privacy they will enter, they are potentially deprived of highly valued states that promote their vital interests, and those of their fellow human beings. For me, this suggests that we need to restrain choice—if not by law, then by ethics and other social norms. Respect for privacy rights and the ascription of privacy duties must comprise a part of a society’s formative project for shaping citizens. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Daniel Solove
Lior Strahilevitz, Deputy Dean and Sidley Austin Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School recently published a brilliant new book, Information and Exclusion (Yale University Press 2011). Like all of Lior’s work, the book is creative, thought-provoking, and compelling. There are books that make strong and convincing arguments, and these are good, but then there are the rare books that not only do this, but make you think in a different way. That’s what Lior achieves in his book, and that’s quite an achievement.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Lior about the book.
Daniel J. Solove (DJS): What drew you to the topic of exclusion?
Lior Jacob Strahilevitz (LJS): It was an observation I had as a college sophomore. I lived in the student housing cooperatives at Berkeley. Some of my friends who lived in the cooperatives told me they felt morally superior to people in the fraternities and sororities because the Greek system had an elaborate, exclusionary rush and pledge process. The cooperatives, by contrast, were open to any student. But as I visited friends who lived in the various cooperative houses, the individual houses often seemed no more heterogeneous than the fraternities and sororities. That made me curious. It was obvious that the pledging and rushing process – formal exclusion – created homogeneity in the Greek system. But what was it that was creating all this apparent homogeneity in a cooperative system that was open to everyone? That question was one I kept wondering about as a law student, lawyer, and professor.
That’s why page 1 of the book begins with a discussion of exclusion in the Greek system. I start with really accounts of the rush process by sociologists who studied the proxies that fraternity members used to evaluate pledges in the 1950s (attire, diction, grooming, firm handshakes, etc.) The book then brings us to the modern era, when fraternity members peruse Facebook profiles that provide far more granular information about the characteristics of each pledge. Proxies still matter, but the proxies are different, and those differences alter the ways in which rushing students behave and fraternities exclude.
DJS: What is the central idea in your book?
LJS: The core idea is that asymmetric information largely determines which mechanisms are used to exclude people from particular groups, collective resources, and services. When the person who controls a resource knows a lot about the people who wish to use it, she will make decisions about who gets to access it. Where she lacks that information, she’ll develop a strategy that forces particular groups to exclude themselves from the resource, based on some criteria. There’s a historical ebb and flow between these two sorts of strategies for exclusion, but we seem to be in a critical transition period right now thanks to the decline of practical obscurity in the information age.
posted by Kaimipono D. Wenger
Today’s Bright Idea comes from Martha Chamallas and Jenny Wriggins. Martha Chamallas is the Robert J. Lynn Chair in Law at the Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law and is the author of Introduction to Feminist Legal Theory, and Jenny Wriggins is the Sumner T. Bernstein Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law. Both Martha and Jenny have written extensively about some of the ways in which tort law fails to adequately respond to the experiences of marginalized groups such as women and racial minorities. In The Measure of Injury, published earlier
this last year by NYU Press, the authors draw on their expertise (and a stunning array of mind-boggling real-life examples) to systematically demonstrate that tort law undervalues women and racial minorities, both historically and into the present. It’s an incredibly valuable contribution which also makes for a fascinating read. For the Bright Ideas series, we asked the authors a few questions about the book and also about their larger project.
1. As a general observer it seems to me that there is a moderately widespread public perception that race and gender inequalities are largely a thing of the past. What would you say in response to that idea?
The conventional wisdom about tort law certainly is that the field is gender and race neutral. In that respect, our book’s emphasis on gender and race bias cuts against the grain. In writing this book, we had to confront the reality that few people realize that tort law was historically marked by sharp distinctions based on race and gender. This lack of awareness contrasts with general assumptions about other parts of the legal system. There is a widespread perception, for example, that at one time the criminal justice system was racist. Historical inequalities in tort law, however, are just as striking and also merit attention, particularly since their legacies are imprinted in contemporary law. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Danielle Citron
Legal scholarship had so many highlights in 2010. New articles and books seriously enriched discussions over the course of the year. Listing them all would of course be an impossible task, but my favorites include Jack M. Balkin’s The Reconstruction Power, Ann Bartow’s A Portrait of the Internet as a Young Man, Joseph Blocher’s Government Viewpoint and Government Speech, M. Ryan Calo’s The Boundaries of Privacy Harm, Jeanne Fromer’s Patentography, James Grimmelmann’s Privacy as Product Safety, Sonia Katyal’s The Dissident Citizen and Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates, and Protestors Improve the Law of Ownership (with Eduardo M. Peñalver), Deborah Hellman’s Money Talks But It Isn’t Speech, Orly Lobel’s The Incentives Matrix: The Comparative Effectiveness of Rewards, Liabilities, Duties and Protections for Reporting Illegality, Michael Madison, Brett Frischmann and Katharine Strandburg’s Constructing Commons in the Cultural Environment, Jon Michaels’s Privatization’s Pretensions, Helen Norton’s The Supreme Court’s Post-Racial Turn Towards a Zero-Sum Understanding of Equality, Martha Nussbaum’s From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law, Paul Ohm’s Broken Promises of Anonymity: Responding to the The Surprising Failure of Anonymization, Frank Pasquale’s Beyond Innovation and Competition: The Need for Qualified Transparency in Internet Intermediaries, Scott Peppet’s Unraveling Privacy: The Personal Prospectus and the Threat of a Full Disclosure Future, Neil Richards’s The Puzzle of Brandeis, Privacy, and Speech (see here as well), Daniel Solove’s Fourth Amendment Pragmatism, Barbara van Schewick’s Internet Architecture and Innovation, David Super’s Against Flexibility, Eugene Volokh’s Freedom of Speech and the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Tort, and Jeremy Waldron’s Dignity and Defamation: The Visibility of Hate.
posted by Joshua Fairfield
I have just posted a (rough) draft of my latest paper, entitled Avatar Experimentation: Human Subjects Research in Virtual Worlds to SSRN. Virtual worlds make such great research testbeds precisely because people act in a lot of ways (especially economic ways) as if the virtual world were real. But that complicates ethical research design: you can’t engage in activities that threaten the subject’s digital property or community, for example. This raises human subjects research issues that a lot of Institutional Review Boards may not immediately take into consideration. Here’s the abstract — but the important part is that this is still a work-in-progress (it’s coming out in a symposium issue of the U.C. Irvine Law Review next year), and I would love comments or suggestions.
Abstract: Researchers love virtual worlds. They are drawn to virtual worlds because of the opportunity to study real populations and real behavior in shared simulated environments. The growing number of virtual worlds and population growth within such worlds has led to a sizeable increase in the number of human subjects experiments taking place in such worlds.
Virtual world users care deeply about their avatars, their virtual property, their privacy, their relationships, their community, and their accounts. People within virtual worlds act much as they would in the physical world, because the experience of the virtual world is “real” to them. The very characteristics that make virtual worlds attractive to researchers complicate ethical and lawful research design. The same principles govern research in virtual worlds as the physical world. However, the change in context can cause researchers to lose sight of the fact that virtual world research subjects may suffer very real harm to property, reputation, or community as the result of flawed experimental design. Virtual world research methodologies that fail to consider the validity of users’ experiences risk harm to research subjects. This article argues that researchers who put subjects’ interests in danger run the risk of violating basic human subjects research principles.
Although hundreds of articles and studies examine virtual worlds, none has addressed the interplay between the law and best practices of human subjects research in those worlds. This article fills that gap.
posted by Joshua Fairfield
Professor Greg Lastowka, one of the top lawyers writing about virtual worlds, just published his book “Virtual Justice,” from Yale University Press. I have a more complete review of the book coming out in Jurimetrics pretty soon, but here’s the short version. Lastowka’s book stands apart from prior efforts in the field because it recognizes that the study of law in virtual worlds is not a niche, but is instead a compelling example of how communities produce law through their encounter with novel technologies. Lastowka’s core premise is that virtual worlds are cultural spaces that generate law. His insights reach beyond the technology to produce a narrative about the common law itself. Technology cases, he notes, are by definition common law cases, because they present novel questions, often fall outside statutes, and invite reasoning by analogy. Thus, development of law online tracks the path of the common law elsewhere. Communities generate norms, which are adopted by judges, and finally codified by legislatures. Lastowka’s book offers a compelling and foundational narrative of how law is currently being formed at the very edge of cyberspace.
However, it is important to properly understand the interface between virtual worlds and law precisely because virtual communities will have such a great impact on real law. Therefore, I do offer two critiques of Lastowka’s premises regarding virtual worlds as games. First, Lastowka argues that law defers to game rules because games lie outside of ordinary life. My response is that law defers to players’ consent to suspension of default rules, rather than to game rules. Consent, not the rulebook, is the important legal element for me. Lastowka’s second argument is that games ought to be exempt from law because they are not economic activity—that is, that games are “pure waste.” But it seems to me that both the designers who make games and the players who play them are in fact maximizing their social welfare: just as going to the opera creates value for both actors and audience, game designers and game players increase overall social utility by respectively creating and paying to play a game. Thus, while Lastowka has done a masterful job in writing a foundational document for the field, the conversation about how law should interface with virtual worlds is just beginning in earnest.
posted by Dave Hoffman
A few weeks ago I was on the train home, reading an old piece of scholarship from one of my favorite colleagues at Temple, Jane Baron. Jane is well-known for her work on law and literature, the rhetoric of property/T&E, and interdisciplinary studies more generally. The particular piece that I read on the train was “Interdisciplinary Scholarship as Guilty Pleasure: The Case of Law and Literature” (Law & Literature, 1999). Jane’s observations about law and literature were strikingly relevant to the blog debate this summer which Brian Leiter instigated in his post “So-Called ‘Empirical Legal Studies.” That debate was fierce, but no one made the precise point that Jane appears to have anticipated over a decade ago. So I asked her to comment for us on Leiter & ELS. Here’s what she had to say.
“I arrived late to the debate Brian Leiter stirred up in his summer post on “So-Called ‘Empirical Legal Studies,’” whose incendiary title alone probably irritated self-identified ELS scholars. Of course, I’m not an ELS scholar, and frankly I have my own share of axes to grind about ELS. All those annoying numbers, data points, p’s and n’s—no one writes prose well enough to make those methods sections interesting to read. And I have already had my fill of faculty candidates with inchoate and incoherent ideas for adding an unspecified “empirical” component to their research—meaning they would count something if they could think of something to count.
But even given my own frustrations with ELS, two things particularly struck me about Leiter’s post. One was his assertion that the skill level of ELS scholars was “low, or at least lower than the typical . . . law & philosophy interdisciplinary scholar of yesteryear.” Considering Leiter’s 1992 characterization of then-extant law and philosophy scholarship as “intellectual voyeurism,” the insult to contemporary ELS is perhaps even stronger than many current ELS scholars might have realized.
The second thing that struck me was Leiter’s assertion that the ELS “mutual-admiration society” might be “disconnected from the central normative and conceptual questions of legal scholarship and legal education.” I think the challenge here was intended to provoke ELS scholars to show that their work does connect to those questions. Josh Wright has written thoughtfully on this question and probably lots of other folks have as well.
But I think it’s worth asking some different questions: why are we to assume that there are “central normative and conceptual questions of legal scholarship and legal education”? And should we be sure, as Leiter seems to be, that “smarts on your feet, the ability to draw conceptual distinctions, [and] construct and deconstruct arguments . . . are the . . . intellectual skills . . . needed in law”?
As I explored in earlier work, the compare-and-contrast analysis of interdisciplinary work constructs the very fields being dissected. In the realm of law and literature, for example, the tendency is to contrast the (allegedly) rich, textured, emotional realm of the literary with the (allegedly) dry, abstract, logical realm of the legal. This formulation effectively defines law as a pure domain of rules—a domain in which Langdell himself would have been happy to dwell.
But of course not all literature is morally rich (pick your favorite noire novel). And not all law is dry or abstract (pick your favorite opinion). We can depict literature as a form of plenitude and law as a form emptiness, but do we really want to?
In his ELS post, Leiter employs the inside/outside trope, to similar effect. He puts the ability to react fast, analyze arguments, and address ‘normative and conceptual questions’ inside law, and the ability to crunch numbers and analyze data outside law. But we can all think of some number crunching that is clearly inside law (B=P x L anybody?) and surely someone as intellectually accomplished as Leiter can’t mean to assert that there are no normative or conceptual questions outside law.
I am not just quibbling over words here. The question whether (all or some of) ELS work is good legal scholarship implicates the important question of what counts as “legal.” We can define law as a realm composed entirely (or centrally) of conceptual and normative questions. But we don’t have to. Indeed, at least some ELS work is designed to demonstrate that the normative questions that are ostensibly central in legal analysis are not in practice determinative, so that the “law” we thought we knew is not the “law” with which judges and practitioners work. Maybe that work is persuasive, and maybe it’s not. But at least that work is sensitive to the problem of defining law’s realm, a problem Leiter’s post assumes away.”
October 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm Posted in: Articles and Books, Bright Ideas, Economic Analysis of Law, Empirical Analysis of Law, Law School, Law School (Scholarship), Sociology of Law Print This Post 4 Comments
posted by Danielle Citron
I have been advising the Maryland Law Review for some time now and this year’s Board has been particularly creative in their thinking about scholarship and its potential impact. They have an interesting idea for the future of legal scholarship, one that I believe worth sharing and discussing. The Maryland Law Review currently publishes in print and online professional and student pieces and would like to ensure that the pieces facilitate ongoing dialogue. In a turn that I will call Scholarship 2.0, the Maryland Law Review would like to harness interactive technologies on their website to permit readers to engage with the work and to post videos on the topic. As the Board has explained to me, they would like to to use technology “not only to spread the ideas expressed in the pieces, but also to provide an opportunity for the work to change, grow, and evolve as more people are exposed and have a chance to contribute to the conversation.”
To that end, the Maryland Law Review will soon begin to utilize technologies to begin that conversation, including posting videos of interviews with professor, or taped debates between them, regarding articles. Readers will have a chance to take part in the conversation through a Comment feature. As the Editor in Chief Maggie Grace and Senior Online Articles Editor Ted Reilly told me: “The best products of academia are not closed from debate or question, but rather are discussed, challenged, and strengthened by wider discourse. It is our hope that with the addition of these technologies we can foster dialogues that help viewers pose questions, challenge accepted notions, share novel ideas, and develop a greater understanding of law and its application.” How else might the Maryland Law Review put this idea into practice? Any thoughts or suggestions for my enterprising students?
posted by Dave Hoffman
Zachary Schrag, a professor of history at George Mason, has graciously agreed to join us today to talk about his fantastic book, Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965–2009 [buy your hard copy, or get a Kindle version]. Professor Schrag’s work came onto my radar when he wrote a good comment to my post about IRBs and caselaw research, and I’ve since become a regular reader of his Institutional Review Blog. In Ethical Imperialism, Schrag argues that the modern university IRB is the product of a series of historical accidents and reactive, bureaucratic, mission creep, coupled with a failure by academics and their professional organizations to push back against bad government policy. The book was persuasively argued, and provides a very nice and nuanced history of a modern bureaucracy & its attendant regulatory rules, quite apart from the importance of the subject for those of us who have to work with IRBs directly. After the jump, you’ll find a Q&A about the book, which I think is a must read for folks who want to understand the IRB system.