On Saturday, June 18, 2011 the University of Toronto Faculty of law was host to an innovatively structured gathering featuring a series of sessions and discussions on issues relating to law and technology. Based on the idea of BarCamp–user generated gatherings, or “unconferences”–the sessions arose from the suggestions and proposed discussion topics put forward by the participants and attendees at the sessions.
Sponsored by CILP, lawyerlocate.ca, SapnaLaw, Mitchell E. Kowalski and My Legal Briefcase, lawTechcamp featured sessions that dealt with a range of issues, from questions around social media in the courts, privacy issues in the context of corporations and PIPEDA, free access to law through organizations such as CanLII, and the strengths and challenges that arise from cloud computing structures, the topics were diverse and the resulting discussions were at times lively.
Gavin Magrath spoke on corporate acquisition of information and PIPEDA’s requirement regarding privacy policies. He also touched on the fascinating and much-publicized case of Google Street View, which involved a technology, installed in the trucks dispatched to collect the street views, that also collected data from any unsecured wifi networks in range of the vehicles. The conflict of laws, with the inter jurisdictional issues between the US and Canada resulted in Google, which was headquartered in the US, being unable to destroy the information collected under American law, while Canada’s law required that information collected in Canada be destroyed under PIPEDA. The result was that Google has placed the information that was collected under a quarantine of sorts.
The sessions on social media delved into the complexities to be found at the nexus of the tensions between law and social networking technologies, and dealt with a range of issues. Omar Ha-Redeye guided and facilitated discussions relating to the role social media is playing in the context of the trials and the court system. His presentation and the resulting debate was marked by a high level of engagement among the attendees. A video of his talk, as well as the accompanying slides, are available on his website.
Lorraine Fleck then spoke of issues relating to corporate policies, social networking and some of the complications that have arisen, not simply as regards employees’ use of social media, but also in instances where a corporation’s own communications go viral. While this can be a blessing, often as not, the message can get morphed and distorted in such contexts, with the result that the company loses control of their marketing and their image. While this may have happened to some extent in the past, because of the networked nature of social media, such viral propagations can happen at an unprecedented speed and encompass an extraordinarily wide scope.
Another session on cloud computing, moderated by Mitchell Kowalski, was marked by lively and wide-ranging discussion, with attendees expressing diverse points of view and contrasting positions.
In all, the event was a great success, with over a hundred attendees. It served as a fantastic opportunity to meet others with similar interests and areas of engagement, while also providing a series of hubs, in the form of the individual sessions, around which to focus discussion and debate.
With the ever changing modalities, structures, and innovations in an increasingly high-tech world, there are many and shifting tensions that arise as the law struggles to provide a responsive, useful paradigm that still speaks to the difficult questions of due process and appropriate policy. Gatherings like the one that took place at LawTech Camp are key, in facilitating the free flow of ideas and approach to some of the more vexing questions that arise, as a result of the juxtaposition of law and technology.