The legal and political issues involved in the so-called Big Data will be the main thematic focus of the Ninth International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics (IDP 2013), to be held in Barcelona on 25 and 26 June 2013.
The term Big Data usually designates the phenomenon of exponential growth in data generation and storage and the problems associated with its processing, analysis and use. These data come mainly from the web and social networks in particular, as many other sources, both public and private, where data are continuously captured in the field of weather reporting, finances, scientific research, public health, consumers’ habits, or location, to name just a few. The generation of this overwhelming amount of data is facilitated by mobile devices, satellites, distributed sensor networks, connectivity of objects in the so-called Internet of Things, RFID tags, or online behaviour tracking.
This avalanche of data poses challenges to adequately identify and select relevant information and requires new systems of structuring and visualization. At the same time, there have been huge improvements in decision-making processes, identifying patterns and trends in the market, preventing epidemics and natural disasters, early warning systems, optimizing business processes, etc. Along with the increasing storage capacity, data systems to cross and create profiles, facial recognition technology, the possibilities of Internet browsing tracking, major opportunities as long as major risks arise.
From a legal standpoint the Big Data phenomenon raises many issues in terms of privacy and the right to be forgotten, behavioural advertising, security and data retention, criminal uses, intellectual property rights, anti-competitive strategies of information control, anonymity protection and freedom of expression, intermediary liability, warranties of computing systems in the cloud, the environmental problems of huge data centers, etc.
From the approach of politics, Big Data analysis provides new strategic opportunities for political actors (government, social movements, political intermediaries such as parties or unions, etc.), while adding new perspectives and new methods for the academic analysis of social and political behaviour. It also raises policy issues in the field of government and democratic participation related to transparency, citizens’ access to information, re-use of public sector information, new mechanisms of accountability and democratic control, digital divide, appropriation of information by public authorities, etc.
These and related issues will be analyzed and discussed by national and international researchers in the two days of the Conference, which will also address other legal and political aspects relevant to the present and future of the Internet.
The eight editions that have already been held have established the IDP Conference as the annual meeting place for researchers, scholars and professionals interested in the consequences of the use of information and communication technologies in the different fields of law and politics. A proof of the international character of the conference is the participation of leading international academics and researchers in previous editions, among others, Benjamin Barber, Lilian Edwards, Jane Ginsburg, James Grimmelmann, Greg Lastowka, Fred von Lohmann, Ronald Leenes, Helen Margetts, Chris Marsden, Eben Moglen, Evgeny Morozov, John Palfrey, Yves Poullet, Stefano Rodotà, Alain Strowel, Cécile de Terwangne or Jonathan Zittrain.
In addition to invited keynote speakers and panellists, the core of the Conference is the scholarly papers submitted by researchers, which undergo a strict process of peer review, according to what is stated in the call for papers. Accepted papers are included in the electronic proceedings of the papers. The Proceedings of the Internet, Law & Politics Conference 2012 are already available.
The Conference is developed and organised by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) Law and Political Sciences department under the auspices of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) – the institute that brings together the research activity carried out at the UOC which focuses, for the most part, on the study of the effects of technology on people, organisations and society in general.
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