Personalization of Smart-Devices: Between Users, Operators, and Prime-Operators

63 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021

See all articles by Tomer Kenneth

Tomer Kenneth

New York University School of Law; New York University (NYU) - Information Law Institute

Date Written: January 6, 2021


Your relationships with smart-devices are about to get complicated. Remote operability of smart-devices allows new actors to overcome traditional physical barriers and participate in the operation of the devices. This technology also empowers operators to personalize the operation of smart-devices for specific users, that is, to operate the smart-device differently for different users, prompting specific users to act in a specific way by limiting their actions. These features of the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the relationships between users and devices. As such, remote operability and personalization bring forth a myriad of legal questions concerning the operation and regulations of smart-devices.

This article provides a comprehensive account of personalization in the context of smart-devices. It begins by exploring the concept of personalization of smart-devices and explaining how personalization is done. Next, it argues that the personalization of smart-devices combines personalization of code and physical space, and that it can enable greater personalization of market constraints on users. The article also explains how personalization of smart-devices extends law’s practical reach. In turn, this expansion affects the content of law: it facilitates the creation of more nuanced personalized law and invites legalization of spaces and actors that were previously unregulated.

The article highlights the possible operators of smart-devices – users, private companies, and the state. It then distinguishes between various mods of constraint that those actors can impose using smart-devices – notice, nudge, and prevention. By converging the actors and the possible constraints, the article normatively assesses the potential harms of different personalization schemes. Next, the article discusses the distribution of legal powers between operators and users. Drawing on those discussions, the article explores essential considerations for the regulation of smart-devices operators.

Finally, this article introduces the prime-operators of smart-devices. Prime-operators have informational, computational, and economic advantages over users and other operators. Those advantages enable only prime-operators to extract considerable social value from the operations of smart-devices. It also gives prime-operators unique moderation powers, enabling them to favor certain operators over others. This article identifies both desirable and troubling powers of prime-operators and sets the foundations for a much-needed legal scholarship about those overlooked players.

Keywords: smart-devices, personalization, Internet of things, IoT, users, operators, prime operators, law, power, law & tech, moderation

Suggested Citation

Kenneth, Tomer, Personalization of Smart-Devices: Between Users, Operators, and Prime-Operators (January 6, 2021). DePaul Law Review, Vol. 70 (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

New York University (NYU) - Information Law Institute ( email )

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