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14 Info. & Comm. Tech. L. 1 (2005)

handle is hein.journals/infctel14 and id is 1 raw text is: Information & Communications Technology Law,                     R Routledge
Vol. 14, No. 1, 2005                                                Taylor&FrancisGroup
Editorial Comment
CHRISTOPHER HARDING & UTA KOHL
Department of Law, University of Wales, Hugh Owen Building, Penglais, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
SY23 3DY. Email: csh@aber.ac.uk utakohl@hotmail.com
The aim of this special issue is to explore the impact of developments in information
technology on the law and practice of human rights protection, and conversely also
how human rights argument may affect practice within the field of information
technology. A moment's reflection will reveal both the more sinister and the more
benign implications of the surge forward of information technology from a human
rights perspective. On the one hand, the protective imperative is clear enough:
advances in technology provide increasing opportunity for both state and private
actors to invade the realm of the individual, widening and deepening the scope of
different forms of control. One reactionto this hasbeen the emergence of new categories
of protective law under suchheadings as 'data protection' and 'confidentiality'. On the
other hand, technological development has also expanded the practicalities of rights
protection-for instance, improving access to information and transparency in the
context of claims to democratic entitlement. Our editorial remit was therefore to invite
contributors to explore specific aspects of this increasingly significant and complex
interface of law and technology, addressing both the challenges and the opportunities
presented by the latter to the former, at national and international levels.
It may be helpful to begin briefly with some generally applicable observations.
To note the speed of technological development is now a commonplace remark,
but nonetheless it refers to a crucial fact that informs legal response. As
information technology becomes ever more rapidly more sophisticated, both law
and legal doctrine have to run faster, and with greater and wider expertise, to
keep pace. It is interesting to reflect, for instance, on the emergence of a concept
such as 'data protection'. This is now an everyday term of art, employed in a range
of situations. Perhaps few other terms convey so concisely this interaction of
information technology and legal regulation, neatly encompassing: (1) the legal
protection of (2) certain kinds of information from (3) technological invasion. Yet,
as an idea and as vocabulary it is still of relatively recent origin, though widely
bandied about and imperfectly understood. This is therefore an area of legal
development that calls for both a mastery of the technology itself-of how it
works and may develop-and the jurisprudential ability to handle new concepts
and uncertain boundaries. This is as true for human rights lawyers as it is for any
other category of lawyer coming to terms with technological development, and
this point will be evident, for instance, from a reading of the contributions by
Cannataci and Mifsud-Bonnici, and Berd6, as they address respectively the
broader and more specific aspects of the development of 'data protection law'.
In their article, Cannataci and Mifsud-Bonnici refer at one point to the 'coming
of age' of data protection law, and this prompts a further, related reflection on the
ISSN 1360-0834 print/ISSN 1469-8404 online/ 05 /010001-03 C Taylor & Francis Group Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/13600830420003252565

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