Twenty years after the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was signed into law, please join us for a half-day conference on COPPA's implementation, the challenges posed by new technologies, and lessons to be learned in protecting children's online privacy. The event will feature Senator Ed Markey, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, and a host of distinguished panelists. All are welcome: view the agenda and RSVP at www.georgetowntech.org/coppa.
On Wednesday, the Institute hosted the University of San Diego’s Orly Lobel for a talk on her book “You Don’t Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side.”
The book is an exploration of the 10-year drag out fight between Mattel and the makers of Bratz Dolls, initially conceived of and designed by a Mattel employee on his personal time. The book covers complex issues of creativity and IP ownership, employee mobility, competition, gender norms, and the business approaches and personalities that drive litigation decisions. You can read more about the book below.
On Wednesday October 10th, the Privacy Center’s Executive Director Laura Moy testified before the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing on '“Consumer Data Privacy: Examining Lessons From the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act.”
In her prepared remarks, Moy stated:
“It feels significant to come before this institution in such an electrically charged time, and it feels important to speak truth in that context. So I wanted to start by explaining why I am here.
I am not here today because I am worried about private information being made public. This is not, for me, just about the classic “right to be left alone.” This is about our country—and the world—grappling with the implications of unbridled data collection, storage, and use—things that give the holders and users of data more power to influence society than we could have imagined before the digital era.
This is about confronting the ways in which the data-driven economy is contributing to extreme wealth disparity, extreme political polarization, extreme race- and class-based tension, and extreme information manipulation. We need to come together to rein in the problematic ways in which Americans’ data is being collected and stored without meaningful limitations, and used in ways that harm not only individuals, but our broader society.”
She went on to give a series of thoughtful recommendations for approaches to consumer privacy, including thoughts on strong enforcement by a federal agency, the role of states attorneys general, the need for forward-looking, flexible approaches to regulation, and the notion that “baseline obligations should attach to all collections and uses of consumer data. And some applications for Americans’ data should simply be off-limits.”
CoinDesk, a news site specializing in digital currencies, today named Georgetown one of the nation’s top universities developing curriculums and resources around blockchain technology. The publication wrote:
“Georgetown University, a school known for political science and business programs rather than its engineering prowess, finds its niche in the blockchain ecosystem by taking advantage of its connection to policy-making circles in Washington DC. The majority of Georgetown’s blockchain courses come courtesy of its law school, where students can register for courses like the “Cryptocurrencies, Initial Coin Offerings and the Law Seminar.” Chris Brummer, who was twice nominated to serve as Commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Patrick J. McCarty, who has served on four different financial regulators and was a senior staff member on several congressional committees, teach the course.
Perianne Boring, founder and president of the Chamber for Digital Commerce, jointly teaches a course for undergraduate business students.”
Professor Chris Brummer and the Law School’s Institute for International Economic Law (IIIEL) are hosts of Georgetown’s annual FinTech Week, which will take place November 5-8 at the Law School, the IMF and on Capitol Hill. Professor Brummer’s class is one of fifty classes Georgetown Law now offers in the technology law and policy space—a full list of which is here.
Congratulations to Professor Brummer, IIEL and all who are making Georgetown a leader in this space.
Yesterday, Tech Institute Fellow Deloris Wilson (L’16) spoke at The Atlantic Festival on AI and the Future of Work. The panel featured Kelly Trindel, Head of Industrial Organizational Science and Diversity Analytics at Pymetrics and Sean Gourley, Founder and CEO of Primer, in a wide-ranging discussion about how cross-sector collaborations can better prepare our workforce to expand alongside new and changing technologies.
Machine learning is creating breakthroughs across disciplines – automating medical procedures, expediting legal analyses, and informing our understanding of society. However, machines must be taught to recognize patterns and solve the problems we face – and, as a result, their products or outcomes are not immune to bias, ethical concerns or disparate impact. In her remarks, Deloris discussed diversity and inclusion in both the build and deployment of artificial intelligence.
One of the greatest challenges produced by machine learning is its integration into the workforce. While the skills gap is exacerbated by an education system that too commonly deprioritizes STEM curriculum, existing workers may become displaced if they cannot adapt to changing technologies and roles. Deloris noted that women and people of color are specifically vulnerable to this industrial shift, since the industries and roles in which these groups are most strongly represented have a higher likelihood of automation.
But not all AI is “bad AI,” or even exclusionary in its approach: Kelly Trindel of Pymetrics spoke about how her company uses AI to employ a wide-lens approach in assessing employees’ potential over pedigree. Another platform, Alice, uses AI to better understand the needs of diverse small business owners and connect them to the resources, networks and opportunities they need.
Reimagining the end-product of machine learning algorithms also requires prioritizing diversity and inclusion at the onset: specifically, building diverse teams to design platforms, select data sets and define variables and processes, rather than assuming a reactionary approach to disparate impact, discrimination and ethical concerns. This is where policymakers could and should come in – first by ensuring that as individuals (and their staffers) are well-versed on emerging technologies (a goal of the Tech Institute’s Tech Foundations Program), and second, by aligning with technology companies and advocacy organizations that are in the field every day.
Deloris noted that regulation has to be imagined differently for AI, but exposure to performance mandates, a review of the applicability of existing regulatory models, and new regulations around inclusive data sets could be a helpful start. However, this technology is rapidly changing and we don’t yet know where we will end up. To that end, flexibility, forward-thinking and consistent touchpoints with experts and the community are key to ensuring that technological innovations continue to grow, inclusively.
For a full recap of the day’s session, including this panel, click here. This conversation begins at the 1:33:00 mark.
On September 13, Georgetown hosted the first of the FTC's hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century. Among a range of distinguished speakers, the event included Georgetown Professors David Vladeck, former Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Howard Shelanski, former Head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and former Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics.
The hearing was the first in a series the FTC will hold in the coming months to examine how changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, and international developments impact enforcement priorities and the landscape for competition and consumer protection law.
The session’s agenda included:
The current landscape of competition and consumer protection law and policy
Whether the U.S. economy has become more concentrated and less competitive
The regulation of consumer data
Antitrust law and the consumer welfare standard
The analysis of vertical mergers
In opening remarks, Chairman Joe Simons explained his hope that the hearings, among other goals, will improve consensus on antitrust. Professor Vladeck stressed the need to strengthen the FTC's expertise and tools to better address the challenges presented by new technologies.
You can see coverage from the hearing on Twitter at #FTChearings, and the video recording of the event is available here.
The Tech Institute today is hosting 150 women entrepreneurs from the D.C. area for an all-day workshop on "Start-Up Law 101". The program, hosted through our work on BEACON: The D.C. Women Founders' Initiative, brings together over 30 speakers on topics ranging from business formation, to protecting your unique idea, to partnerships and contracts and privacy concerns.
This is our second year hosting StartUp Law 101 in partnership with ChIPS, the women in technology network and Google, which made its D.C. public events space available for the day. The program features law firm attorneys, in house counsels, former SEC regulators, privacy experts, and other lawyers, explaining the key legal issues a founder faces as they launch their business and scale.
The event also includes a panel of entrepreneurs sharing their stories of overcoming legal hurdles, and a panel of legal resource providers describing how founders can find (and work with) legal help. Georgetown Law's Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Clinic will present its work providing legal assistance to social enterprise organizations in the D.C. area. The Institute is publishing a Resource Guide for D.C.-area Legal and Business Clinics in connection with the event.
Today's event is part of the Institute's work on BEACON: The D.C. Women Founders' Initiative, which studies and develops strategies to promote a diverse and inclusive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs. Incubated at the Institute and staffed by a full-time Georgetown fellow, BEACON works in partnership with the D.C. Mayor's Office and other local leaders. Its work has been featured by the National Women's Small Business Center and the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
You can read BEACON's recent report, "Building Inclusive Ecosystems With Intentionality: A Strategy to Support D.C.'s Women Founders" here.
Visit the StartUpLaw 101 Event Website here to view highlights from the day.
This week, the Institute hosted its annual program Tech Foundations for Congressional Staff, a two-day immersion program for staff to learn about new developments affecting technology policy.
Over two days, staffers participate in a rigorous classroom experience with lecture/seminar-style presentations from technologists, academics, and business leads. The program is designed to step back from typical "issue advocacy" and instead provide the technology, legal and business context for current tech policy debates.
Each year's program is designed based on feedback from Congressional staff about what matters most to them. Not surprisingly, this year's program had a strong focus on privacy, with additional sessions on algorithmic bias and accountability, competition, and content moderation. The program closed with a half-day simulation which saw teams of staffers respond to a protracted cyber influence campaign.
The Tech Foundations program attracts staffers from both parties and chambers, drawing from committees and personal offices. It's one of our favorite programs of the year, as interested staff find time to connect with each other and explore complex issues in the classroom.
This year's event was made possible by support from BSA | The Software Alliance and the Internet Association. Thank you to them, to the great group of staff who joined, and to our phenomenal line-up of speakers.
You can see the full program for the event at www.georgetowntech.org/ctf.
Earlier this summer, the Institute hosted a workshop focused on improving Congressional access to tech policy expertise. The workshop built on the increasing calls for Congress to revive the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which from 1972-1996 provided Congress with deep expert analysis on science and technology issues.
Recent appropriations bills reported by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have called for further study of improving tech policy resources for Congress, including whether the best strategy is to refund OTA or boost services offered by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) or the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The workshop brought together former OTA staff and leadership, current congressional staffers, academics and policy experts for a two-hour discussion that weighed various policy options (a list of participants is included as the Report's Appendix A). Among other things, the group broadly agreed on the need to increase Congress’s resources for understanding technology policy. There was general agreement that those who care about improving Congress’s capabilities should work toward a set of consensus recommendations to better advise congressional efforts on this issue.
This report is intended as a step to facilitate that consensus, by highlighting common priorities and views discussed during the workshop. It is also intended to provide some early assistance to the study that is expected to follow from the above-mentioned House and Senate Appropriations Bills.
The report provides a framework for evaluating tech assessment programs, then summarizes participants' discussion of several potential sources of tech expertise: the National Academies, CRS, GAO, and a revived OTA. It discusses strategies to muster support for renewed tech assessment capabilities, and finally shares considerations for decision-makers who are evaluating the best avenues for improving tech assessment.
Many thanks to the workshop's participants, whom we hope to continue engaging in this work.
The Georgetown Law Tech Review's Symposium Issue went live today, featuring articles presented during our February symposium on the Regulation and Governance of Information Platforms.
The issue features pieces from Georgetown Law's Paul Ohm, Julie Cohen, and Anupam Chander, and Tech Institute Fellow Gigi Sohn. Other leading voices in technology scholarship also contributed essays, including former FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny writing about whether the FTC is keeping pace with new technologies, Danielle Citron and Ben Wittes in dialogue with EFF's Cindy Cohn writing about changes to Section 230, and Deidre Mulligan about misinformation and the right to truth.
In her introductory essay, Julie Cohen writes:
"Encounters between networked information technologies and law tend to be framed as examples of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. For example, some argue that networked information and communication technologies are technologies of freedom, able to help human civilizations solve all of our most pressing problems—if only the law will stop undermining technology’s potential and either get with the program or get out of the way. Others assert that it is information technology that fatally undermines the rule of law—that unbreakable encryption and untraceable alternative currencies will plunge society into chaos, or that unaccountable and fundamentally nonhuman artificial intelligences spell the end for antiquated models of social control and regulation.
Whether any of those inspiring or doom-laden predictions will come to pass is beyond our ability to know, but their premises are wrong. Networked information technologies inevitably will alter, and are already altering, the future of law but not because there is any single, irresistible arc of technological progress. The reason, rather, is very nearly the opposite: information technologies are highly configurable, and their configurability offers multiple points of entry for interested and well-resourced parties to shape their development. For similar reasons, law is not an immovable object. Legal institutions are not fixed, Archimedean points around which modes of economic development shift and cohere. They are arenas in which interested parties struggle to define what constitutes “normal” economic or government activity and what qualifies as actual or potential harm, and they are also human-created artifacts whose form and function are not preordained.
[...] Understanding the various interactions between platforms and the law—and acting to reshape those interactions if their results are too socially costly—have become profoundly important projects. The essays in this symposium issue of the Georgetown Law Technology Review seek to broaden and deepen that discussion. Taken as group, the conceptual frameworks and regulatory proposals that the essays offer reflect efforts to bridge the space between old and new ways of thinking about the functions that platforms perform and the appropriate ways of governing those functions."
A list of Symposium articles below, and you can view the full issue here.
I. GOVERNANCE OF AND BY PLATFORMS
- Platforms Are Not Intermediaries - Tarleton Gillespie
- The Platform Is the Message - James Grimmelmann
- Regulating Informational Infrastructure: Internet Platforms as the New Public Utilities - K. Sabeel Rahman
- Primitives of Legal Protection in the Era of Data-Driven Platforms - Mireille Hildebrandt
II. PROBLEMS OF ACCESS AND ENTRY
- Should We Be Concerned about Data-opolies? - Maurice E. Stucke
- Sources of Tech Platform Power - Lina M. Khan
- A Policy Framework for an Open Internet - Gigi B. Sohn
- Integrative Information Platforms: The Case of Zero-Rating - Olivier Sylvain
- Prosumer Law and Network Platform Regulation: The Long View Towards Creating OffData - Chris Marsden
III. PROBLEMS OF FACT AND VALUE
- The Myth of Platform Neutrality - Anupam Chander and Vivek Krishnamurthy
- From Platforms to Springboards - Derek E. Bambauer
- Bad Facts Make Bad Law: How Platform Censorship Has Failed So Far and How To Ensure that the Response to Neo-Nazis Doesn’t Make it Worse - Cindy Cohn
- The Problem Isn’t Just Backpage: Revising Section 230 Immunity - Danielle Keats Citron and Benjamin Wittes
- Why Do People Share Fake News? A Sociotechnical Model of Media Effects - Alice E. Marwick
IV. CODING REGULATION VS. REGULATING CODE
- Psychographics, Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, & Bots: Is The FTC Keeping Pace? - Terrell McSweeny
- Technology Regulation by Default: Platforms, Privacy, and the CFPB - Rory Van Loo
- Regulating at Scale - Paul Ohm
- Rescripting Search to Respect the Right to Truth - Deirdre K. Mulligan and Daniel S. Griffin
On Thursday, Georgetown's Center on Privacy & Technology hosted its third annual conference, The Color of Surveillance -- this year, focusing on government surveillance of American religious minorities.
The conference featured over 30 speakers from academia, advocacy groups and religious organizations to discuss the history and current use of government surveillance to monitor religious groups. Historical presentations highlighted surveillance of Pilgrims in the 16th and 17th centuries, the targeting of Mormons in the 19th century, and surveillance of American Jews and Black clergy in the 20th century.
The afternoon's presentations focused on surveillance in modern times, from post 9/11 watchlists to President Trump's "extreme vetting" plan to use an automated system that would analyze a vast web of online information, which critics blasted as a "digital" Muslim ban. Farhaj Hassan of Muslims United for Justice and Asad Dandia of NYU presented on the Raza and Hassan cases in which they were lead plaintiffs challenging the NYPD's surveillance of New York Muslims.
Final sessions talked about the role of community action in challenging surveillance, including the coalition that helped pass legislation in Oakland that is arguably the strongest surveillance oversight law in the country.
This post barely does justice to the rich line-up of speakers, poets and artists who spoke at the event. For more, read the Privacy Center's great Twitter feed from the conference at https://twitter.com/hashtag/colorofsurveillance or visit the conference website at www.colorofsurveillance.org.
The Institute's Executive Director Alexandra Givens spoke Tuesday at a panel on women and innovation organized by TechNet, a national bipartisan network of tech CEOs and senior executives. The event featured U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and was moderated by Anna Palmer of POLITICO.
Alex's remarks highlighted the Institute's work on BEACON: The D.C. Women Founders' Initiative, which studies and develops strategies to promote a diverse and inclusive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs. Incubated at the Law School and staffed by a full-time Georgetown fellow, BEACON works in partnership with the D.C. Mayor's Office and other local leaders. Its work has been featured by the National Women's Small Business Center and the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
You can read BEACON's recent report, "Building Inclusive Ecosystems With Intentionality: A Strategy to Support D.C.'s Women Founders" here.
by Garrett Lance, Class of 2020
This fall, Georgetown Law welcomes the addition of adjunct Professors Hillary Brill and Miriam Vogel, who will co-teach a new seminar, Technology Policy and the Practice of Law in the Digital Age. The course will explore how lawyers should navigate disruptive and innovative technologies with sometimes outdated legal tools, and how our laws can be more flexible to keep pace with technological changes.
Professors Brill and Vogel discussed their new course and how their backgrounds in technology policy will inform their teaching. Responses below have been edited for clarity and length.
This experiential course is a new offering at Georgetown. Could you provide an overview of the course? And, what are some of the skills you’re hoping your students will acquire throughout the semester?
MV: Students in this course will have hands-on policymaking experience with a focus on the latest technology issues. Students will explore whether and how our laws could be improved to both foster innovation and protect individual freedoms. Students can expect to complete this course with an understanding of key technology legal and policy issues and having acquired “skills of the trade.”
How does your course fit in with the other technology-focused class offerings at Georgetown Law?
HB: This class will use the example of cutting-edge technology issues to teach practical legal, legislative and policymaking skills that can be applied to any legal and policy matter (e.g., competition, national security, health, tax policy). This course will provide a strong foundation for students interested in technology issues across the campus community.
How should lawmakers be thinking about responding to the ever-changing technology landscape? Are traditional legal tools the best approach, or are there more flexible policy solutions?
HB: Lawmakers need to be open-minded, flexible, and educated about how technology is changing our society. The rapid pace of technology is not being matched by policymakers and the repercussions of that inconsistency have the potential to be troubling if our legislators are not visionaries and not willing to adapt.
MV: Lawmakers need to stay current and do something that is hard in our election cycles-centric system—think about long-term consequences both of emerging technology and of our laws. Technology is changing norms and realities, and there are ethical and legal consequences that need to be considered during this critical period. Lawmakers need to be ready to make thoughtful decisions about who we want to be as a nation committed to both privacy and innovation, and then we must ensure that our laws and regulations support that vision.
Are there any technologies or technological developments that particularly concern you, or you think will be especially challenging for policymakers to address?
HB: Privacy issues have recently been at the forefront of legislators and society at large with the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook crisis. However, those issues have been there for years. Unfortunately, it takes a crisis sometimes for people to realize that the technology in their daily lives may have hidden costs. Lawmakers will continue to be faced with privacy and cybersecurity concerns.
MV: Due to the nature of emerging technologies that challenge actual and perceived legal boundaries, there are numerous technology-related issues that will be particularly challenging to our legal system and our lawmakers that we will address in this class. One in particular is Artificial Intelligence (AI) because it can impact so many of our basic legal notions. AI will enable devices to so closely mimic human behavior that it may change our perception of culpability and mens rea, impact our current ideas of ownership or theft of intellectual property, and pose even more challenging ethical questions.
Tell us about your backgrounds and how you became interested in technology and the law.
HB: When I was a law student at Georgetown there wasn’t much available for students. Few schools, if any, had any Internet law classes as the law was in its infancy. The closest area at the time was communications law, so I became a communications lawyer at Covington & Burling. The dot-com bubble soon burst and I had to be a self-starter at the firm and find any Internet work available, such as helping to draft the first Internet primer, working pro bono for the Smithsonian IP department, and helping the Bosnia and Herzegovina government with its first communications and information regulatory laws. I loved these policy projects and decided to go to the Hill to work with Internet-policy champion Congressman Rick Boucher on the Energy & Commerce and Judiciary Committees. I was then recruited as the Legislative Counsel for eBay and stayed there for ten years in various roles including Senior Global Policy Counsel and Head of Government Affairs. I continue to work with the Internet industry with my private practice.
MV: Like Hillary, I had to seek out opportunities to pursue this area when I was in law school, such as a job after school at National Public Radio. After a federal clerkship, my husband took us out to Los Angeles where I practiced entertainment law with a focus on intellectual property. When we moved to Boston, I was offered an in-house position based on my IP experience, and then we moved home to DC when I was offered a position in the Obama Administration, ultimately serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General and chair of the Attorney General’s Intellectual Property Task Force. It took being creative to find a path into tech policy and law in the past, but thanks to innovations at Georgetown such as the Tech Institute, students can now explore this area with much greater ease.
As Georgetown Law alums, how has the school changed since you were law students?
MV: On the surface, the school is almost unrecognizable to the one I first sat in when I attended classes with my mother, who was a law student in the early 1980s. The campus has changed in a way that enables students to have more of an on-campus experience but, at its core, the school is very much the same place I’ve known and loved since I was seven years old sitting in Father Drinan’s torts class.
HB: The Tech Institute is a dream come true. Both Miriam and I bonded over the fact that we wished we had an institute like the one that is thriving and growing today. Students have such incredible opportunities in the area of technology law and policy that were never possible before.
Georgetown's Privacy Center today hosted a half-day forum on the Supreme Court's landmark privacy ruling in Carpenter v. United States. The forum, which was broadcast on C-SPAN, brought together leading privacy experts and practitioners, including Nathan Freed Wessler, attorney for Mr. Carpenter, and Georgetown Law Professor Laura Donohue, whose Fourth Amendment scholarship was heavily cited in the Court’s dissenting opinion.
The day began with a technical primer on cell site location technology by Professor Sibren Isaacman. It followed with a policy discussion between Mr. Wessler, Professor Donohue and Professor Stephanie Pell, a former Hill staffer; and location privacy expert at West Point’s Army Cyber Institute. The forum ended with a discussion about the practical implications of the Carpenter decision featuring Matt Mitchell, a digital safety and privacy expert, Jason Downs, a criminal litigation expert, and Maryland prosecutor Todd Hesel, moderated by Jumana Musa of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Georgetown's faculty have been deeply engaged in discussions around the Carpenter case, both before and after the decision came down. One of our Faculty Directors, Prof. Paul Ohm, wrote an excellent analysis of the decision here. You can view Professor Donohue's brief on the history of the Fourth Amendment, cited five times by Justice Gorsuch in his dissent, here. And for a great read about cell site location technology, read this blog post by the Privacy Center's Deputy Director Laura Moy, who worked as an analyst before becoming a privacy lawyer.
by Garrett Lance, Class of 2020
The Tech Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of Richard Whitt as a non-resident Senior Fellow beginning June 2018. Richard, a 1988 graduate of Georgetown Law, brings over two decades of in-house legal experience working at companies such as Google and Motorola.
As a Senior Fellow, Richard hopes to develop frameworks to govern the creation and deployment of emerging technology platforms. In particular, he plans to research ways to ensure that emerging technologies, like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, are being deployed ethically and accountably.
“I’m excited to work with folks at the Tech Institute to explore how we can put in place effective safeguards to promote and protect the public interest in next-generation technologies, both through laws and regulations, but also through codes of conduct and best practices,” said Richard.
Richard will also contribute to an ongoing collaboration between Internet-founder Vint Cerf and the Tech Institute regarding digital preservation.
Prior to this fellowship, Richard led Strategic Initiatives at Google. During his time at Google, Richard managed projects related to net neutrality, spectrum reform, and other media and telecom issues. He also worked with Vint Cerf on “digital heritage” to ensure that content is accessible over the long term, regardless of its software or hardware format. Before Google, Richard worked as an in-house attorney at telecom company MCI, coordinating the firm’s public policy advocacy. He also spent two years as the global head of public policy for Motorola.
Richard recently started his own technology consulting firm, NetsEdge, providing counsel to companies looking to make technology more accountable to users without relying on regulatory solutions. He has also begun a senior fellowship with the Mozilla Foundation, exploring the concept of an “open Internet,” what “openness” means, and the trade-offs of more or less regulation of the Internet.
As a Georgetown Law alum, Richard said that he is “very excited to have the chance to be able to come back to the Law Center and do work with this really great Institute. I look forward to getting back on campus and to my Georgetown roots.”
You can reach Richard via the Institute at TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu.
by Eduardo Gonzalez, Access to Justice Fellow
Technology’s potential to ally itself with the access to justice movement presents unique opportunities for cross-organizational collaboration. Technology can support the development, deployment, and assessment of legal services, while simultaneously enabling justice providers to engage the public through software interfaces and analytical insights. Yet, technology can be limited by its application. Merely collecting data or designing a user interface cannot alone solve the Justice Gap. Rather, technology integrated across systems truly makes a difference.
Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them. - Steve Jobs
On May 19, 2018, our Access to Justice Fellow, Eduardo Gonzalez, participated in Florida Justice Technology Center’s Legal Aid Virtual Hackathon. Together with Katherine Alteneder, Stephan Tillman, and Jordan Place, he set out to design a technology project that integrates communication, data collection, and multi-institutional collaboration. The goal of the project was to develop a browser extension that serves as both a resource and communication tool for the justice community.
The inspiration behind the Justice Reach Extension (JRE) Project comes from Eduardo's fellowship research, where he is conducting a national survey of court-based projects for self-represented litigants. Eduardo's project has required him to deal with problems of scattered information: decentralized databases about court-based projects (especially in states without uniform court systems), ever-changing project managers and operators, differences across reporting methods, and the reality that many projects go unreported and unnoticed. These inspired him to imagine a way to use technology to scale and sustain data collection and maintenance.
The Justice Reach Extension
The result of the hackathon was the Justice Reach Extension prototype (for a video demo, click here). The JRE is an easy-to-use tool for users to post, update, browse, and collaborate on access to justice projects. A critical feature of the tool is a simple and easily adopted interface (UI) that minimizes the burden of reporting project activity. Eduardo modeled the tool using Adobe’s InVision Studio App and simulated aspects of its proposed functions using a survey created on SurveyMonkey.
Much like other browser extensions, the JRE does not require a user to visit a new website or load a different screen to utilize its functions. By selecting “Post New”, the user inputs information including:
- Project Name
- Managing Organization Information
- Managing Organization Type
- Manager Contact Information
- URL to the Project
- Start and End dates
- Project Description
- Case Type (if any)
- Service Type (forms, advice and counsel, courtroom services, information, diagnostic, or other)
- Delivery Type (in person, remote)
- Funding Source
- Number of Organizational Partners
- Organizational Partner Types
Users can “Update” their projects to keep the information current. The tool collects information in a single database users can “Browse” by selecting search filters that match the input categories. For example, if a user wants to see all court-based projects dealing with Guardianship and funded by a State budget, they would select “court-based” for organization type, “guardianship” for case type,” and “state” for funding type. The JRE would show a list of matching projects the user selects to get contact information for the project manager and other information that could help their own projects.
Users also have the option to choose to follow projects for updates and announcements they receive via push-notifications or a personalized JRE “Project Feed.” After posting a project, a quick link to the project profile would appear in the user’s “Project Library.” Finally, the “Workshop” feature would allow multiple users to access the project profile and share resources that only users with the necessary permissions could access.
What is next for the JRE?
The UI submitted to the hackathon is a low- to medium-fidelity prototype and various features of the JRE are missing. The functions described here are features that would form the core of the JRE, but the vision is for courts, legal aid organizations, and Bar associations to share information about their projects and collaborate across their institutions. If, for example, a court is considering adopting e-filing, a court employee could “Browse” the database to identify project managers, in or out of state, working on a similar project, including those organizations that have successfully deployed an e-filing program. The aim is to enable and support communication across justice providers.
Several challenges remain, however.
Because the JRE requires user profiles, the JRE database and user profiles need to be stored on a secure server—whether a trusted web server or cloud-based service. JRE’s technical aspects need to be compliant with organization and court network requirements to recruit providers across the justice ecosystem.
The JRE database is also limited by the information that users contribute. Although installing a browser extension is straightforward, without user contributions, there is no data to query. One solution is to generate an initial database from existing datasets that users can immediately access. These datasets can come from publicly available information on the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) website, the American Bar Association (ABA) website, and from project and resource datasets collected by courts and Access to Justice Commissions. While the goal of the JRE is to get justice providers to post and browse projects, the database will be openly available to the public and to entities like LSC, the ABA, and the National Center for State Courts. If there is a privacy concern about sensitive project information, the JRE could implement permission levels, whereby users select what authorize only certain information to be public.
Finally, the issue of maintenance. The biggest technological challenge facing the justice community is the burden and cost of maintenance. Seldom do legal aid organizations or courts have digital curators or dedicated staff members that track changes, milestones, and updates to their work for the public—rarer still are those entities that are able to continuously report on their work. Without a dedicated curator, the JRE risks becoming quickly out of date. As such, it is important for the central JRE organizer to be able to push notifications to users for information and periodically review the dataset for major errors. This may take the form of a full time data manager or increasing opportunities for technology fellows, but the responsibility of maintaining the database should be one taken by an organization working on a national level.
What comes next? Continued development. Although the hackathon has ended, the energy remains. The next goal is to create a functional prototype for the features described above. Then comes testing, redesigning, and more testing iterations. For the JRE to succeed, it must be one that the justice system believes in, and one that organizations want to adopt.
While there are many technology tools and solutions that address the Justice Gap, there are certain principles that can activate the Access to Justice Movement--one of which is knowledge sharing. Without cross-disciplinary and cross-organizational collaboration, all endeavors are destined to meet the same obstacles. The challenge is too great for any one organization, greater still for any single project. The solution is one that builds momentum.
On May 25, students in Georgetown's IPR Tech and Communications Clinic filed comments before the Federal Election Commission, addressing its proposal for whether and how to require public disclosure of paid political ads on social media.
Two students, Guiying Ji and Kamila Benzina worked on the comments on behalf of three civil rights organizations, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and Color of Change. The comments supported the FEC’s efforts to update disclosure requirements, highlighting how “people of color have been the targets of malicious voter suppression efforts that take advantage of the fact that current FEC disclosure rules are obsolete.”
The FEC's rulemaking comes in the wake of Russian interference to sway the 2016 Presidential election through online advertising on social media platforms. The FEC's proposal would require disclosure of the sponsors of ads that engage in express political advocacy, solicit contributions, or are made by political committees. More than 150,000 individuals petitioned the FEC to start the process to change its rules.
IPR's client, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, has now been invited by the FEC to testify on the matter at a hearing on June 27, for which the students will help prepare.
On the heels of National Small Business Week, The Hill convened leading policymakers, entrepreneurs, economists and small business owners to share insights on the current state of entrepreneurship in 2018. The event, "Small Businesses, Big Ideas: Entrepreneurship in Action" illuminated both progress and challenges facing our nation's business environment and empowered attendees to advocate on issues impacting their startup and small business communities.
Following opening remarks and a conversation between SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, Editor-in-Chief of The Hill Bob Cusack and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), our Institute Fellow Deloris Wilson joined an esteemed panel to share strategies for supporting startups and their founders.
The "Supporting Startups" discussion, which also featured Erin Janklow - Founder and CEO of Entrada ESL, Susan Tynan - Founder and CEO of Framebridge, and Jeff Reid - Professor and Founding Director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, helped raise awareness of the differing needs between startups and small businesses. Speakers also described investment trends in regions outside of Silicon Valley, and illuminated barriers to social and financial capital experienced by women and minority founders.
When asked what investors could do to help diversify their portfolios, Deloris referenced findings from the Institute's recently published report: "Building Inclusive Ecosystems with Intentionality: A Strategy to Support D.C.'s Women Founders." Specifically, she stressed the importance of engagement beyond traditional personal and professional networks; using targeted strategies to mentor companies outside of investors' existing portfolios; and programs that train diverse investors beginning at earlier stages in their careers. These and other strategies outlined in the report help counteract "pattern matching" techniques which can disadvantage underresourced founders.
For a full recap of the day's events, including the "Supporting Startups" panel, click here.
Deloris Wilson leads the Institute's work supporting BEACON: The D.C. Women Founders' Initiative, which provides recommendations and leads activities to improve the ecosystem for D.C.'s women entrepreneurs. You can read more about the Institute's work with BEACON in its 2017 Annual Report. Follow @thebeacondc on Twitter for updates.
We're thrilled to announce that leading scholars Anupam Chander and Madhavi Sunder will be joining Georgetown Law this fall. With deep expertise in intellectual property, cyberlaw, international trade, human rights and development, Professors Chander and Sunder will be phenomenal additions to Georgetown Law's tech- and IP-focused faculty.
Professor Chander, who visited at Georgetown in the Fall 2017 semester, is the author of The Electronic Silk Road (Yale University Press), a study of the legal infrastructure for international trade over the internet. The recipient of Google Research Awards and an Andrew Mellon grant on the topic of surveillance, he is a member of the ICTSD/World Economic Forum E15 expert group on the digital economy and the World Economic Forum expert group on Internet fragmentation. In the 2018-2019 academic year, he will teach Contracts (fall) and Cyberlaw (spring).
Professor Sunder, who visited at Georgetown in the Spring 2018 semester, is a leading scholar at the intersection of intellectual property, human rights law and the First Amendment. Her book, From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice, examines the impact of intellectual property law on social and cultural life. Professor Sunder was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2006, and has been a Visiting Professor of Law at the Yale Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, and Cornell Law School. In the 2018-2019 academic year, she will teach Trademark and Unfair Competition Law (fall and spring) and Property (spring).
We're delighted to have Anupam and Madhavi join us at Georgetown - welcome!
On Wednesday, Georgetown hosted its Ninth Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, featuring student-created apps that promote access to justice.
Appearing before a panel of judges, students compete for prizes for Excellence in Design, a Social Media Prize, and - for the all around best app - Iron Tech Lawyer.
This year's competition featured six apps designed for legal service providers around the country. The winning app, The New Orleans Release Date Calculator, helps attorneys and family members of incarcerated individuals calculate when they will be eligible for release, and helps keep track of prisoners detained past their release date. It was created for the New Orleans Public Defenders' Office.
The winner for Excellence in Design, STAN: The SNAP and TANF Assistant of New Mexico helps families determine their eligibility for public benefits and fill out the necessary forms for filing. It was developed for public interest client Law Access New Mexico, who worked with the students closely in developing the app.
The Social Media prize -- determined by several hundred voters casting their vote on competition day -- was The Florida Interpersonal Help App, developed for Florida's Office of the State Courts Administrator. The app determines what type of relief users can seek for domestic violence or sexual abuse, and helps users safely fill out forms to file in court.
You can read more about the apps and view the competition video on our 2018 Competition Page. Congratulations to all who participated!