Legal Issues of the Twenty-First Century

Introduction to the Course

Mechanics of the Course

The issues pages contain the issues for this week and past weeks plus some provided by me for future weeks.

Table showing who has volunteered for what so far.


Future Imperfect

Links to relevant material online.

Recordings and White Boards of Classes.

Some webbed papers from previous years.

My office is Bergin 204; office hours Monday and Wednesday 4:30-5:30 and by arrangement.
Virtual office hours, via email, 24/7. I can be reached at:

The blog Future Pundit is a good source for current news on developing technologies.

Cybercrime Review is a possible source for current information at the intersection of computers and the law.

In Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, police would prefer  that the society be transparent in only one direction.

(Submissions Welcome)

[Send links to for inclusion here]

A spy computer you can build for $50.

A project to defend earth against attacks from space.

description of current law with regard to forcing someone to decrypt a hard drive. An article on the same case. is in the business of improving your online reputation; it promises to "replace your inaccurate or misleading search results with new, truthful, accurate results." Precisely how they determine what is truthful is not entirely clear. Or how much they care.

Delayed puberty drugs are apparently here now—and being used for a somewhat odd purpose.

Mass production blackmail at £10 a pop.

It is now possible to be legally genderless—at least in New South Wales

The Transparent Society may be nearer than we think: Your laptop is watching you. A legal analysis of the case.

A recent story on the chemistry of love.

Enforcing the GPL--in the courts. Relevant to some of the Open Source issues we will be discussing.

En route to Avatar: VR and Remote Control

How much does your browser tell web pages about you? The EFF is onto the question.

Giant database "to help find missing children"--threat, menace, or useful tool.

"I wanted to make a dent in the suffering and death caused by aging..." says one "DIY biologist". "Of course, there are also DIYers with no ambitions to save the world, who are content to 'make yogurt glow' in the basement for their own personal satisfaction!"

According to a recent report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, for every 119 males born in China, only 110 females are born. The report blames selective abortion based on technologies for determining gender before birth but, at least judging by the news story, fails to mention the role of government restrictions limiting a couple to one child.

A Stanford professor argues gaming worlds can keep workers engaged, and advocates elements of World of Warcraft or Second Life to hone skills like teamwork, leadership, and data analysis. And one IBM report also argues games like World of Warcraft teach leadership and "asserts that there is no reason to think that the same cannot be done in corporate settings of various sizes..."

Whether it's the BigDog military quadruped robot or an anthropomorphic robot with the ability to sweat, "All of them are disturbing to watch." This article documents what Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori calls "the uncanny valley," or why near-lifelike creatures can seem real but unhealthy -- genetically unfit.

Old News
(Links from the last time I taught this course)

Are genetically engineered crops killing the bees? See here and here.

Alcohol, smoking, ecstasy--which is worse?

A story of large scale online fraud, stamp collecting, open source crime detection, imperfect private and nonexistent public enforcement.

Quantum computing may be here.

Face to Face anonymity? Information on face animation.

We already have a distributed surveillance network, and NYC plans to use it: Cell phones

The Surveillance Camera Players, a performance troupe

For life in the transparent society - Privacy Sweatshirts

Audio of lecture on anonymity and privacy

IBM's Virtual Invisibility Cloak: Identity Mixer promises to keep your online presence anonymous.

A previous year's student has put up his own page for additional issues. Among other things.

Spy Coins: The Transparent Society in your pocket. Maybe.

VR glasses are getting better--and stylish..

Genetic engineering may in time let parents redesign their children before birth. It is already possible, but controversial, to do it after birth.

If you would like to browse the web without being watched by either the FBI or the RIAA, you might want to take a look at netshade.

The RIAA as a promoter of strong privacy? An interesting essay.

What do Open Source and the Dean campaign have in common? Fortune thinks they are models for the new Bottom-Up economy.

Virtual Reality makes it to Mars--with a little help from Java.

You can no longer reach Jesus on your cell phone. At least not in Finland.

A Secret war. Is your computer spying on you--the Spyware arms race.

Attack of the mad worm--ATM's bite the dust. "I have twenty-two bucks in my pocket and 14 people coming over to eat chili, drink beer and watch the Superbowl tomorrow," Manhattan resident Gail Pastore fumed, after finding out she wouldn't be able to make a withdrawal. "It's not going to be a good weekend."

Lee Silver is already obsolete. It appears that a new technology will make it possible for two women to produce a child entirely from their own genetic material.

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