The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School is a leader in the study of the law and policy around the Internet and other emerging technologies.
Architecture and Public Policy
CIS explores how changes in the architecture of computer networks affect the economic environment for innovation and competition on the Internet, and how the law should react to those changes. This work has lead us to analyze the issue of network neutrality, perhaps the Internet's most debated policy issue, which concerns Internet user's ability to access the content and software of their choice without interference from network providers.
Social networks have gotten a lot of play in recent years. What about social devices? I've been thinking about whether/how the nature of computer interfaces is changing—specifically, becoming less passive and more “social.”
My conversations with academics in Stanford's Department of Communications, and the research they've guided me toward, leads me to believe that we are once again at the edge of a shift in the way we communicate. For a variety or reasons, PCs and other computers in cars, mobile devices, etc., are making increased use of voice-driven, natural language interfaces or avatars, moving computing away from the traditional mode of passive information processing toward a more social, "person to person" interaction.
Some quick examples. Google's VP of Search gave a recent interview at Le Web during which she said that Google was exploring a more conversational interface that would allow users to actually ask Google questions out loud as though conversing with a person. Although it has met with (comic) resistance in the past, a trail of Microsoft patents going back ten years shows how serious the company is about developing a social interface, complete with voice, expressions, and gestures. As much as twenty-five percent of Microsoft's research efforts reportedly involve artificial intelligence. Even the U.S. government has gotten into this game: the U.S. Army’s virtual recruiter, SGT Star, responds to questions out loud, changes moods, makes jokes, etc. According to developer statistics, SGT Star has responded to over two million questions since his debut in 2006. Read more about Devices As Themselves Social
ICANN’s recent initiative to open the generic domain names space to an application, register-your-favorite-gTLD process struck me as very problematic from the moment I had first heard about it. Ars technica has a great post on the topic, which marks the end of the period during which ICANN has been receiving comments concerning its ambitious plan. Read more about ICANN's Plan for New Top Level Domains
The United Press International reports that "[n]ewly released documents in Florida's Caylee Anthony case show ominous search words entered on the family computer prior to the child's disappearance." Some thoughts:
1. I've yet to see an investigation wherein the search terms at issue came from the service provider (e.g., Google or Yahoo!). Rather, they appear to be taken from the defendant's computer pursuant to a warrant.
2. I think the introduction of search terms into evidence presents a real danger in the context of inchoate crimes such as attempted murder. Searches can be snapshots of a person's mind, but no more than that. The concern is that a jury will see concrete intentions in Internet searches and not require a showing of a firm will to go through with the crime.
3. As Search Engine Watch points out, searches can lead to convictions in another way -- by allowing citizens to make connections and report them to the police. In one case, a Florida woman reported a man for practicing medicine without a license after an Internet search revealed that his license had been revoked.
4. Why is it always Florida? Read more about Search Terms May Bolster Case Against Casey Anthony