New Zealand Law Society - New project to prepare NZ for technology change impacts

New project to prepare NZ for technology change impacts

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Technology affects virtually every area of our daily lives, and the pace of change has law-makers and bureaucrats struggling to keep up.

Now the Law Foundation has launched an important project that tackles the challenges and opportunities of technology change head-on.

Our Information Law and Policy Project, launched at Parliament last month by Justice and Communications Minister Amy Adams, provides an independent $2 million fund to develop law and policy around IT, data, information and cyber security.

All countries are dealing with the incursion of technology into more and more aspects of our lives, but the challenges couldn’t be more critical for our small, trade-dependent nation.

For example, the global nature of information poses threats and opportunities for New Zealand – how we manage it, and trade in it. How can our law and regulation help our best and brightest to succeed on the world stage? How can New Zealand’s predominantly small businesses, lacking expertise and scale, unlock the economic value of their data?

What capabilities do we need to deal with cyber crime, now a $400 billion global industry believed to be bigger than the drug trade? How can citizens control use of their data – how can they “follow” it, and know who is using it? And how do we adapt to the impact of technology on our democracy, as seen, for example, with the rapid addition of the “Red Peak” flag design to the flag referendum following a short, high-profile social media campaign?

These are just some of the big challenges that the information age has thrown at us. The Information Law and Policy Project seeks to focus New Zealand’s best experts on solutions that are right for us and inspire research into future-focused areas.

We have launched this project with input from relevant public and private interests. It will bring together teams of experts to examine challenges and opportunities in areas like global information, cyber security, data exploitation, and technology-driven social change. Seven broad themes of enquiry have been identified and research projects will align with these:

  • The global nature of information – how we manage it and trade in it.
  • Cyber security and crime – what capabilities are needed to protect against this?
  • Social change following technological change – how is technology affecting society and how can the law keep up?
  • Ownership/exploitation of data – how can citizens control use of their data?
  • Philosophical notions – looking at the impact of technology on the state and what that means for democracy and other constitutional issues.
  • The ethics of inference – algorithmic decision-making and its implications for society.
  • The exclusionary effect of technology – catering for citizens and business lacking the ability to access and unlock the benefits of technology.

The fund will be open for around three years and several projects should be completed during this timeframe.

University law schools are working closely with the Law Foundation on the project. A special feature of this project will be its collaborative approach to research. Law faculty deans will help develop cross-institutional research proposals and bring together the best available multi-disciplinary teams from New Zealand’s talent pool. We expect the quality of the research to be much higher as a result. The Law Foundation will be sponsor, funder and administrator of research.

In addition to legal experts, potential research collaborators include computer scientists, economists, sociologists, philosophers, IT and data specialists, business, cyber security experts, government/public sector, crown research institutes, civil society and users.

As New Zealand’s major funder of independent legal research, the Law Foundation is uniquely placed to run this project. We will work collaboratively with government and private interests, but the research outcomes must serve the wider public rather than any particular vested interest.

We expect the projects to have practical outcomes, in particular on how New Zealand can gain commercially, and be protected, through technology developments.

While the rapidly-evolving information landscape makes the development of lasting law and policy solutions especially challenging, we expect the projects to identify ongoing issues and propose solution frameworks.

The project scope has been developed in consultation with many interests including experts from the law schools, the Government’s 2015 cyber security strategy, InternetNZ, the Innovation Partnership, the Data Futures Partnership, Google New Zealand, Spark, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, to name a few. This input has been incredibly valuable in bringing the Information Law and Policy Project together.

The NZ Law Foundation Information Law and Policy Project will be assisted by an independent specialist advisory review committee. The committee will help assess and finalise aspects of research projects being supported.

Confirmed advisory review committee members include:

  • Sarah Auva’a, Head of Group Compliance and Privacy, Spark NZ;
  • Paul Ash, Director National Cyber Policy Office, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet;
  • Lillian Grace, CEO, ;
  • Peter Hausmann, health sector consultant;
  • Justice Forrie Miller, Court of Appeal;
  • Dame Diane Robertson, Chair, Data Futures Partnership;
  • James Ting-Edwards, Issues Advisor, InternetNZ;
  • Ross Young, Senior Manager Public Policy and Government Relations, Google NZ; and
  • Professor Joseph Cannataci, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

For more information, including how to submit applications or expressions of interest, go to the Foundation’s website and click the Information Law & Policy Project tab on the home page.

Lynda Hagen is the Executive Director of the New Zealand Law Foundation.

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