This paper draws on regulatory governance scholarship to argue that the analytic phenomenon currently known as ‘Big Data’ can be understood as a mode of ‘design-based’ regulation. Although Big Data decision-making technologies can take the form of automated decision-making systems, this paper focuses on algorithmic decision-guidance techniques. By highlighting correlations between data items that would not otherwise be observable, these techniques are being used to shape the informational choice context in which individual decision-making occurs, with the aim of channelling attention and decision-making in directions preferred by the ‘choice architect’. By relying upon the use of ‘nudge’ – a particular form of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives, these techniques constitute a ‘soft’ form of design-based control. But, unlike the static Nudges popularised by Thaler and Sunstein [(2008). Nudge. London: Penguin Books] such as placing the salad in front of the lasagne to encourage healthy eating, Big Data analytic nudges are extremely powerful and potent due to their networked, continuously updated, dynamic and pervasive nature (hence ‘hypernudge’). I adopt a liberal, rights-based critique of these techniques, contrasting liberal theoretical accounts with selective insights from science and technology studies (STS) and surveillance studies on the other. I argue that concerns about the legitimacy of these techniques are not satisfactorily resolved through reliance on individual notice and consent, touching upon the troubling implications for democracy and human flourishing if Big Data analytic techniques driven by commercial self-interest continue their onward march unchecked by effective and legitimate constraints.
Innovations in networked digital communications technologies, including the rise of “Big Data,” ubiquitous computing, and cloud storage systems, may be giving rise to a new system of social ordering known as algorithmic regulation. Algorithmic regulation refers to decisionmaking systems that regulate a domain of activity in order to manage risk or alter behavior through continual computational generation of knowledge by systematically collecting data (in real time on a continuous basis) emitted directly from numerous dynamic components pertaining to the regulated environment in order to identify and, if necessary, automatically refine (or prompt refinement of) the system’s operations to attain a pre-specified goal. This study provides a descriptive analysis of algorithmic regulation, classifying these decisionmaking systems as either reactive or pre-emptive, and offers a taxonomy that identifies eight different forms of algorithmic regulation based on their configuration at each of the three stages of the cybernetic process: notably, at the level of standard setting (adaptive vs. fixed behavioral standards), information-gathering and monitoring (historic data vs. predictions based on inferred data), and at the level of sanction and behavioral change (automatic execution vs. recommender systems). It maps the contours of several emerging debates surrounding algorithmic regulation, drawing upon insights from regulatory governance studies, legal critiques, surveillance studies, and critical data studies to highlight various concerns about the legitimacy of algorithmic regulation.
A challenge held by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to encourage Blockchain use in the Health Information Technology field resulted in 15 winning whitepapers. The Department’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) first announced the “Use of Blockchain in Health IT and Health-Related Research” challenge in July.More than 70 submissions were received by ONC, “addressing ways that Blockchain technology might be used in health and health IT to protect, manage, and exchange electronic health information,” the Department revealed.
“Blockchain technology is going to revolutionize healthcare and the method in which every patient interacts.”That prediction, from technology consultant Peter Nichol in 2015, is far from being fully realized, but blockchain is gaining momentum among health IT thought leaders as a way to increase data security and interoperability while reducing costs.In finance, blockchain technology is best-known as the foundation for the digital currency, BitCoin. In healthcare, organizations like Deloitte, the Mayo Clinic and even Google have identified a growing number of use cases for blockchain as a means for more efficient and transparent data exchanges.
This short essay reflects on some of the potential implications of automated enforcement via distributed ledger systems (including blockchain) to ensure the security of transactions for ‘freedom under law’ and the social foundations upon which the rule of law in modern legal orders is grounded.Keywords: blockchain, distributed ledgers, rule of law, individual liberty, automation, law enforcement, governanceJEL Classification: K20, K40, K42Suggested Citation:Yeung, Karen, Block
UCL Roberts Building, Malet Place, London WC1Organised by the UCL Centre for Law, Economics and Society with the support of the Modern Law Review and UCL Public EngagementThe workshop deals with emergent economic, political and legal phenomena in the field of FinTech. It pursues two distinct goals. First, it intends to generate awareness and facilitate a better understanding of the actors, phenomena and dynamics of the new financial order. Second, it explores the political and legal implications of financial and technological innovation based on blockchain technology. These debates will constitute the basis of an edited volume that introduces practitioners and researchers to the regulatory and political challenges of blockchain technologies and its diverse uses.The Speakers include:Tomaso Aste (UCL)Iris Chiu (UCL)Georgios Dimitropoulos (Hamad Bin Khalifa University Law School)Stefan Eich (Princeton Society of Fellows)Hermann Elendner (Humboldt University of Berlin)Jonathan Greenacre (Oxford University)Rohan Grey (Modern Money Network)Philipp Hacker (EUI)Michael Jacobides (London Business School and NY Fed)Rosa María Lastra (Queen Mary University of London)Ioannis Lianos (UCL)Pietro Ortolani (Max Planck Institute Luxembourg)Giovanni Sartor (European University Institute)Alexandros Seretakis (University of Luxembourg)Paolo Tasca (UCL)Angela Walch (St. Mary’s University School of Law)Aaron J. Wright (Cardozo School of Law)Karen Yeung (King’s College London)Claus D. Zimmermann (Sidley Austin LLP)
Cryptocurrencies are portrayed as a more anonymous and less traceable method of payment than credit cards. So if you shop online and pay with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, how much privacy do you have? In a new paper, we show just how little.Websites including shopping sites typically have dozens of third-party trackers per site. These third parties track sensitive details of payment flows, such as the items you add to your shopping cart, and their prices, regardless of how you choose to pay. Crucially, we find that many shopping sites leak enough information about your purchase to trackers that they can link it uniquely to the payment transaction on the blockchain. From there, there are well-known ways to further link that transaction to the rest of your Bitcoin wallet addresses. You can protect yourself by using browser extensions such as Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin, and by using Bitcoin anonymity techniques like CoinJoin. These measures help, but we find that linkages are still possible.
The blockchain could be the most consequential development in information technology since the internet. Created to support the Bitcoin digital currency, the blockchain is actually something deeper: A novel solution to the age-old human problem of trust. Its potential is extraordinary. Yet without effective governance, this approach may not promote trust at all. Wholly divorced from legal enforcement, blockchain-based systems may be counterproductive or even dangerous. And they are less insulated from the law’s reach than it seems. The central question is not how to regulate blockchains, but how blockchains regulate. They may supplement, complement, or substitute for legal enforcement. Excessive or premature application of rigid legal obligations will stymie innovation and forego opportunities to leverage technology to achieve public policy objectives. Blockchain developers and legal institutions can work together. Each must recognize the unique affordances of the other system.
We offer case studies of the following decentralized publishing projects:
- Freedom Box, a system for personal publishing
- Diaspora, a federated social network
- Mastodon, a federated Twitter-like service
- Blockstack, a distributed system for online identity services
- IPFS (Interplanetary File System), a distributed storage service with a proposed mechanism to incentivize resource sharing
- Solid (Social Linked Data), a linked-data protocol that could act as a back-end for data sharing between social media networks
- Appcoins, a digital currency framework that enables users to financially participate in ownership of platforms and protocols
- Steemit, an online community that uses an appcoin to incentivize development and community participation in a social network
Cryptocurrencies are an area of heightened pecuniary, numismatic, technological, and investment interest, and yet a comprehensive understanding of their theories and foundations is still left wanting among many practitioners and stakeholders. This discussion paper synthesizes and summarizes the salient literature on cryptocurrencies with a view to advancing a more general understanding of their order and purpose.