Posted: 31 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 31, 2015
For over two decades, information policy-making for human society has been increasingly supplemented, supplanted, and/or superceded by machinic decision-making; over three decades since legal decision-making has been explicitly put in place to serve machinic rather than social systems; and over four decades since designers of the Internet took the position that they were serving non-human (machinic, or daemon) users in addition to humans. As the "Internet of Things" becomes more and more of a reality, these developments increasingly shape the nature of governance itself. This paper's discussion of contemporary trends in these diverse modes of human-computer interaction at the system level -- interactions between social systems and technological systems -- introduces the changing nature of the law as a sociotechnical problem in itself. In such an environment, technological innovations are often also legal innovations, and legal developments require socio-technical analysis as well as social, legal, political, and cultural approaches.
Examples of areas in which sensors are already receiving legal attention are rife. A non-comprehensive listing includes privacy concerns beginning but not ending with those raised by sensors embedded in phones and geolocation devices, which are the most widely discussed and those of which the public is most aware. Sensor issues arise in environmental law, health law, marine law, intellectual property law, and as they are raised by new technologies in use for national security purposes that include those confidence- and security-building measures intended for peacekeeping. They are raised by liability issues for objects that range from cars to ovens. And sensor issues are at the core of concerns about "telemetric policing," as that is coming into use not only in North America and Europe, but in societies such as that of Brazil as well.
Sensors are involved in every stage of legal processes, from identification of persons of interest to determination of judgments and consequences of judgments. Their use significantly alters the historically-developed distinction among types of decision-making meant to come into use at different stages of the process, raising new questions about when, and how, human decision-making needs to dominate and when, and how, technological innovation might need to be shaped by the needs of social rather than human systems.
This paper will focus on the legal dimensions of sensors used in ubiquitous embedded computing. It will include an examination of the extent to which, and how, legal issues arise in the technical literature on sensors, analyzing court cases involving sensors, exploring the extent to which sensor issues arise in diverse types of telecommunications policy, and providing an overview of the range of arguments available to date in legal scholarship regarding the value and dangers of the incorporation of sensors into legal processes and the use of sensor-derived data as evidence for legal purposes.
Keywords: sensors, Internet of Things, ubiquitous embedded computing, legal decision-making
JEL Classification: K10, K04, Z01
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation