On May 30 and 31 I attended a meeting in Washington, the Rights and Bytes: Law and Big Data Workshop. The workshop explored progress in developing effective, legally sound, software-based solutions for the management of digital identities and for the protection and sharing of sensitive data. It was sponsored by ID³, a recently organized multidisciplinary non-profit institution with close ties to MIT’s Media Lab. ID³’s principal focus is to develop architectural frameworks and open source software solutions that embody the necessary policy principles for managing critical personal information so that it can be tested, verified, improved and scaled.
For the past few hundred years, governments around the world have developed laws, policies and practices to help us better get along with each other as we conduct the many transactions and interactions that are part of our everyday lives. But, as as Internet and digital technologies are increasingly integrated into just about all aspects of our lives, the laws, policies and institutions we developed for the physical world are way too impractical for our fast moving, fast changing digital world. We must somehow bring with us and adapt our policies and regulations from the physical to the digital world.
Is this even feasible? Yes, argues John Clippinger, ID³’s Executive Director and CEO, and policy strategist and writer David Bollier in an excellent working paper Digital Common Law: Brief on Trust Frameworks and Self-Governance which they wrote for the workshop.