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Involved in public affairs for a long time, fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University, Paul Flather who has chaired several academic boards and charities in Oxford, London, recently moderated a session on ‘Law and Technology’ at Difficult Dialogues, his second time here, after deliberating on education at the previous edition

Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ

While social media and technology have brought about change beyond perception that has many positives, there is growing concern over data protection, surveillance rights, privacy and confidentiality, identity theft, hacking and voyeurism, terrorism – all much debated during the introduction of the Aadhar system.

While, in present day, information technology is in constant change, with hidden and controlling new algorithms emerging daily there is a need to understand the magnanimity of this. In this respect a session on ‘Law and Technology (Cybersecurity, Artificial intelligence, Data analytics): What’s the future, was held at Difficult Dialogues, moderated by Paul Flather with Ben Tucker, Urvashi Aneja, Varun Sahni and Venkar Iyer as panelists.

The session that was held on Saturday, February 15 deliberated on some thought provoking questions like – While legal regulation all over the world struggles to keep abreast, and to keep IT giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, in check, how is India faring today? Can the Supreme Court keep Indian citizens safe, while defending state security, in an age of increasing concern about terrorism? The session examined where the legal checks and balances should lie, if there is enough transparency, how privacy and free speech can be protected, etc.

In conversation with Paul Flather

Q. You have been to Difficult Dialogues before. What are you looking forward to at the event this year, in terms of the discussions around law?

Without rules there can be no functioning society. So in so many ways there is no more important theme than the law. It is important to spend time discussing how aspects of law making, dispute resolution, access and fairness are all functioning. I am hoping we can excavate some of these key issues and come up with some constructive recommendations

Q. You’re moderating a panel about law and technology. What do you think the legal implications are for artificial intelligence in the future?

We are entering a new world with AI. We do not even know what the key problems might be except from science fiction. We already see in many countries battles with the global tech giants. Our dilemma in our panel will be to ask how the law today can keep pace and how we can protect individual rights and privacy. These are tricky issues but we cannot duck them and indeed the European Union is now showing us ways forward.

Q. Can you tell us about the partnership between Oxford Law or CSIS and Difficult Dialogues?

Oxford is delighted to be here supporting DD again. These are global questions and we can learn as much as we might be able to contribute. Professor Linda Mulcahy who heads the Oxford Socio-Legal Centre will have much to contribute on the interaction of society and the law – and as an expert on dispute resolution.

Q. Would you like to comment on any concerns for India in terms of dangers to free speech today, particularly in terms of justice system?

Free speech and academic freedom are cardinal principles for good democracies. But even here, there can be no ultimate free speech as people’s identities and interests also need protection. We are wrestling with these issues all over the world. Each country has to find the right, positive balance – that is why we need daring debates and difficult dialogues!

Q. Big data is what everyone is looking for. And as we get more advanced and rely more on technology, our lives, choices, etc, is now wide in the open.

Big data is a growing factor in our lives. There is an important new study showing how mining our information has become the key resource in a new form of “surveillance capitalism “. Yet we are all complicit as we keep checking the agreement box when we sign on to new apps or sites. We all need to be better informed and more aware of the larger stakes involved when we do that. It is going to be bumpy ride no doubt, and we will have to find some kind of medium or middle way through.

(The Navhind Times is the media partner for the event)

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