Feb. 8: Algorithm police, robotic personhood and tech ambassadors

Security in the Internet of Things: an algorithm police?

The question of fixing the insecure Internet of Things has become increasingly prominent and problematic. The problem is that connecting everything to the Internet while security is merely an afterthought in the design processes creates a wealth of opportunities for attackers to hijack our environment. Bruce Schneier has a great essay in the New York Magazinecalling for governments to step in to help fix the problem through a “government regulatory agency” such as a “Department of Technology Policy” that would mandate corporate security practices and personal data protections, fund security research and incentivize transparency in design. Another interesting proposal from WIRED would be to raise tariffs for products with sub-par security. One obstacle is that we have no good way to measure whether products abide or not by security standards. Hence my question: do we need an algorithm police, i.e. a mechanism through which we can create common knowledge about the level of security in the products we buy?

Do we need robot personhood after corporate personhood?

The EU is starting to consider how it should regulate the growing field of robotics. Among the proposals in a recent report from the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee included proposals towards a “European Agency for robotics and a Code of Ethical Conduct” that would “supply public authorities with technical, ethical and regulatory expertise,” propose rules for liability in case of accident such as obligatory insurance and participation in a fund dedicated to victims compensation, and go as far as to include the possibility of considering robots as “electronic persons” – read Numerama (in French) and The Guardian debate this concept of robotic personhood. Additionally, the report calls for studying the evolutions needed in our tax and social systems to adapt to a robot-heavy era – one of the most prominent measures in left-wing French presidential candidate Hamon is to create a tax on robots to offset the loss of jobs that they provoke (Motherboard).

Denmark is naming an ambassador for tech companies 

Read this Washington Post short interview of Denmark’s Foreign Minister around the new job he is creating: a “tech ambassador” in order to “establish and prioritize comprehensive relations with tech actors, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and so on.” From the interview, it is still unclear which would be the mission of the ambassador, or how his embassy would be staffed, but the idea is an interesting symbol when large tech companies are capable of conducting quasi-diplomatic relations with most of the countries they operate in, and participate in international discussions. From Le Monde (in French): “should we place on an equal footing States defending their citizens’ interests and Google defending its stakeholders’?” From Le Figaro (also in French): we are headed towards a world “controlled by a minority (…) pursuing their own interests and a majority living in increasingly precarious condition (…) if we add to the financial power of [tech companies] the recognition we give to States,” concluding (somehow dubiously) that “diplomatic bags overpower the best encryption algorithm.”

Have a jazz-policedWednesday!



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