1/22 - Digital Feudalism Is Upon Us. How do we respond?

Brown Bag Session with Arvind Narayanan

The Internet and digital technologies are quickly evolving toward the very antithesis of their original decentralized roots. In the new model adopted by smartphones, tablets, and other devices like the Kindle, the key is vertical integration — hardware, software platform, and an identity layer packaged together, along with an app and content ecosystem. This feudal paradigm, with a small number of companies controlling their respective non-interoperable digital territories, is winning out — users, conceptualized as serfs, give up some freedoms but gain security, usability and convenience, and app and content providers finally have a workable revenue model.

In this brown bag session Professor Narayanan will discuss how we — as scholars, as citizens — should adjust to living in a feudal world. Should tech innovators be content to tinker at the edges, or try to strike at the roots? Which laws need to be reexamined, and what new laws do we need? What are the implications for antitrust policy, and for privacy? We may not find the answers right away, but let us start by identifying all the questions that need to be asked.

Arvind Narayanan is an Assistant Professor at Princeton's Department of Computer Science and Center for Information Technology Policy and an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. He studies information privacy and security, and has a side-interest in tech policy. His research has shown that data anonymization is broken in fundamental ways, for which he jointly received the 2008 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award. He is one of the researchers behind the "Do Not Track" proposal.

Tuesday January 22 | 12:50pm-2pm

Stanford Law School
Room 230
559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305

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