Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Law and the Semantic Web

WWW06 is on in Edinburgh right now. I'm not at it, for various reasons, but I am intrigued by the reports, because it's being run by my future home, Southampton University, in my current home, Edinburgh; and because we're getting the first inklings that there may be as many legal problems about Web 2.0 as we've already had with Web 1.0.

"Hugh Glaser of the University of Southampton ..describing the semantic web, an attempt to make the web more intelligent... [said] Privacy problems could occur,.. because the semantic web deliberately combines multiple sources of information about people and places."

This problem has already reportedly come up in real life with various Grid projects emanating from the E-Science Centre (also in Edinburgh). Large distributed databases are being mined for results by researchers asociated with the high-speed "Internet 2" that is the Grid, working from different institutions in different countries. In such circumstances, it is hard to identify and seperate data controllers, processors and subjects, let alone work out what legal system has jurisdiction, and hence what information privacy rules operate. It looks like the Semantic Web takes this trend one step further. I hope to be working on these kinds of problems with colleagues at Southampton very soon.

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