The hazards of technology- neutral policy: questioning lawful access to traffic data, Communications of the Association for Computer Machinery (CACM) Journal

Published 29 Feb 2004 by Alberto Escudero Pascual and Ian Hosein

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Association for Computing Machinery

After some successes and many miss-steps, the regulatory environment surrounding technology policy is transforming. Lessons taken from content, copyright, and cryptography policy processes, amongst others, resulted in the emergence of a number of technology policy innovations. Two particular innovations are the internationalization of policy-making, and technology-neutral policies. These innovations come with risks, however. The risks are particularly apparent when we look at policies Access to traffic data for law enforcement purposes is a traditional tool for investigation and intelligence gathering. Traffic data is an elusive term, due in part to technology variances. The policies regarding lawful access to traffic data, however, are increasingly set in technology-neutral language, while the language and policies are often negotiated at closed international fora.

Even while policy changes are argued as necessary due to international obligations and new technological realities, these policies tend to ignore technological details. Just as cryptography policies of key escrow were mis-interpreted by government as updates 'to maintain the status quo' [8]; updating legal definitions of traffic data while not acknowledging the increased 'sensitivity' of the data is problematic.

Keyword(s): Policy, Privacy, Data Protection