Thursday, March 13, 2008

Forget wifi piggybacking, your phone is trespassing in my lawn!

The Japan Times carries the news that Softbank is launching a Toshiba mobile phone that has “arms” and “legs” and resembles a robot, and while it seems that they are only a decorative element, it can be seen as the first step towards a phone that actually walks and follows you when you forget it (as in the advertisement). Other “interesting” feature is that the phone shows its “emotions” on its screen and sends you, the owner, texts about how the phone is “feeling”…but what would happen if or when it starts sending texts to other people? What if your phone infringes somebody’s rights?
It can be argued that the technological “underdevelopment” in this side of the world has led to the also perceived “underdevelopment” in legal studies dealing with automated responses and/or artificial intelligence, but some current and future developments may make necessary to pay further attention to those issues within the realm of IT law. There are some (probably many) studies dealing with artificial intelligence and the use of automated agents, but when many or most of our home appliances become “intelligent” and carry out activities and engage in transactions, the problems around them may also multiple. When teaching some developments in privacy law, for example, I always refer to fridges that have sensors and that are also connected to Internet, which enables them to order food online automatically. The answer to what would happen if the fridge orders a thousand dozens of eggs seem quite straightforward (liability of the “owner” as the one making the order), but the transaction is quite more complex, involves a credit card company or a debit card (the transfer of risk and liability differ in both cases) and whether the doctrine of genuine mistake can be used also needs to be explored. But that is just an example of the situations that may be created when your appliances or your phone start having their own will…

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