The technology leads, and the law follows, or is it vice a versa? Both sides are trying to prove their superiority above the other. Thus the situation has lead to much distance between the two. Both these species use Language (legal and programming) to attain their vision. However, both of them do not understand what the other is speaking. Instead, they stand in awe, disbelief, or scared about each other, their work. Technologists gaged law as a distant, creature, a thing to be afraid.
The end of the 20th century has marked the beginning of a world, the digital world. This world was designed for accessible communication, sharing of knowledge, and a home for mind. It created a sphere to be treated as equals without being discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, color, caste, religion. It is a world that “is both everywhere and nowhere.” It is the reality of today. Now we have a parallel digital world to our physical world. The worlds are too conjoined to be separated.
The early internet was designed to be anonymous, private, stateless, and borderless. In 1992 when Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee seamed the world with the World Wide Web. Nevertheless, the subsequent innovations destroyed the early virtues. Instead, it is now operating to be exact opposite its fundamental ethos. The systems which once promised anonymity and privacy now has become the biggest panopticon world has ever noticed.
The early internet had a stateless architecture for interaction. It was impossible to trace out the “state” even a moment ago. The sites never asked to log in to the user. Therefore it was impossible to track someone’s digital activity. It kept the privacy of the user safe. However, it was terrible for business and commerce. Therefore Lou Montulli web-browser programmer, of Netscape invented a protocol for “Cookies” in 1994. This particular protocol through the HTTP protocol enabled the sites to know “who visited their websites.” It made it easy to target the user and tear apart the user privacy.
Similarly, the internet had a “Borderless” structure. TCP/IP does not, by design, know about “who the user is?", the geographic location of the user, or the user's activity. Later IP mapping technology was invented to answer the question of who, what, and where.
The legal system around the world tried to cope up with this change, by enacting, amending different sets of Acts, Rules, and Regulations. The speed at which the technology moving is much faster than the law. It is the time for the Legislative, and the Judiciary takes out their glasses of misbelief. And the technologists to comfortable with law. It is time for them to take a step back and think. Think that the innocent piece of computer program they write how in interjecting, affecting human rights, lives, and society.
Thinkers from as early as the late ’90s tried to enunciate the nature of the relationship between law and technology. In February 1998, Joel.R. Reidenberg, in his Lex Informatica article “The Formulation of Information Policy Rules through Technology.” There he laid down the path of technology being a regulator by itself. In 1999 Lawrence Lessig consolidated all the ideas in his book named Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. The quote from the book which stood out is “Code is Law.”
Why and how the “Code is Law”?
Law is what society needs. Law is what regulates society. However, there are several conditions apart from law that affect the regulation - Norms, Commerce, and functional physical conditions. The Legislature does get affected by these attributes and take into account while drafting the laws. Thereby the abovementioned conditions affect lawmaking.
In both the abovementioned examples of change in TCP/IP protocol and introduction of the IP mapping system, the commerce needed a change. The change
took place by a piece of code. The change resulted in the alteration of behavior. Therefore the society and then law both changed due to the introduction of a small piece of code.
Therefore technologists to understand that the code they write has severe practical consequences. Therefore they do not have the luxury of ignorance to think that they are only dealing with technologies and not with human lives. The ethics for programmers have become crucial than ever as they are the people who possess the power to make the world a better place at the same time they can destroy it and all by an innocent piece of code. It is the time for lawyers, technologists, activists to come together to bring awareness to society.