Chuck Cosson is Director, Legal Affairs, Privacy & Security, at T-Mobile US, based in Bellevue, WA. At T-Mobile, Chuck oversees privacy compliance programs and provides legal guidance on mobile Internet, location services, incident response, and other privacy, security, and business issues. Chuck spent 7 years at Microsoft leading that company’s public policy work on human rights, free expression, and child online safety. He has also worked in Washington, D.C. on telecommunications policy and regulation. His engagement with Stanford focuses on the role of metaphor as a guide for contemporary technology law and policy - a conception of the Internet not as a “place you go” but as a “tool you use.”
As I’ve been writing about networked information technologies as “tools,” it’s worth reiterating that metaphors of space are not entirely without value, including in areas of the law that derive from laws relating to real property. Having noted in multiple prior posts the weaknesses of spatial metaphors, here I discuss some of their common applications in ways that are productive. There are two particular applications of the physical space metaphor to online platforms and services that are interesting:
1) Content moderation questions - including vetting of advertisers and user-submitted content;
2) Data Rights questions - if content is posted is it free to copy? To commercialize? Read more about Tool Without A Handle: Taking Space Seriously
It’s difficult to recall an internal memo gone viral that has sparked as much commentary as James Damore’s statement on gender and engineering at Google. This post is not about that memo, although the volume of commentary on it did prompt the thoughts that follow. Nor is this post about workplace diversity, at least not directly. Instead, like many other “Tool Without a Handle” posts, it is about metaphor.
In particular, I wanted to test whether, in preferring the metaphor of “a tool you use” as distinct from “a place you go,” I’d unduly limited my thinking to an “androcentric” view of networked information technologies. In other words, is “tool” a masculine metaphor, implying a gendered orientation towards my preferred approach to thinking about technology?
I conclude the answer is “no,” in part because metaphor differs from gender, and in part because metaphor is a feature of language, while gender is a feature of persons. Moreover, I identify a general objection to dichotomizing and to gender metaphors. Read more about "Tool Without a Handle: Metaphors of Gender"
On 26 June 1997, in Reno v ACLU, the US Supreme Court decided the fate of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), insofar as it criminalized the intentional transmission of "obscene or indecent" messages or information. In doing so, the Court made not only a finding that this provision of the CDA violated the 1st Amendment, but applied an approach to Internet cases with clear implications for cases the Court faces today.
Reno established that it is essential the Court recognize differences between the measured pace of judge-made law and the blistering pace of technology’s evolution, a point that is still cited by the Court today. And, it identified that the capabilities and availability of the tools at issue have an important role to play in the constitutional analysis. As the Court continues to address Internet and technology-related constitutional cases, the importance of considering the capabilities of Internet tools may well be the most impactful legacy of Reno.
“Tool Without a Handle: Mutual Transparency in Social Media”
“I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you”
Bob Dylan – “Positively 4th Street”
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In my previous blog on propaganda, I noted private information, when stolen and published, can prove useful for propaganda efforts. This post develops that concept in more detail, with an emphasis on privacy considerations.
I agree with interpretations of the First Amendment finding important protections for publication of private information without consent. And I concur that, as a matter of principle, the public interest can justify such publication. But too often the “public interest” defense is rather often a post hoc rationalization rather than a reasoned justification.
Contemporary analyses give insufficient weight to privacy and information security interests. Such interests often outweigh the public interest value of making private information public without the consent of the owner or data subject, but that weight may not be recognized. Some reasons for this potentially include media business models that reward clicks and attention, increased partisan polarity (and the utility of such disclosures for propaganda), mistrust of government, and insufficient enforcement of laws on cybercrime. Read more about Tool Without a Handle: "Trustworthy Tools" - Part 2