Not Hardcoding but Softcoding Privacy

Item Type Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

The delegation of decisions to machines has revived the debate on whether and how technology should and can embed fundamental legal values within its design. This debate builds upon a rich literature on techno-regulation as well as the quest for legal protection by design. While these debates have predominantly been occurring within the philosophical and legal communities, the computer science community has been eager to provide tools to overcome some challenges that arise from ‘hardwiring’ law into code. What emerged is the formation of different approaches to code that adapts to legal parameters. Within this article, we discuss the translational, system-related, and moral issues raised by implementing legal principles in software. While our findings stem from an investigation of the General Data Protection Regulation and thus focus on data protection law, they apply to the interlinking of code and law across legal domains. These issues point towards the need to rethink our current approach to design-oriented regulation and to prefer ‘soft’ implementations, where decision parameters are decoupled from program code and can be inspected and modified by users, over ‘hard’ approaches, where decisions are taken by opaque pieces of program code. Such “softcoding” can lead to more flexible systems that remain transparent, contestable, and malleable and thereby allow for disobedience, which is necessary to ensure the possibility of moral responsibility and overall legitimacy of the interlinking of code and law.

Authors Tamo-Larrieux, Aurelia; Mayer, Simon & Zihlmann, Zaira
Language English
Subjects computer science
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
Date 2020
Depositing User Dr. Aurelia Tamo-Larrieux
Date Deposited 04 Feb 2021 09:52
Last Modified 04 Feb 2021 09:52


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Tamo-Larrieux, Aurelia; Mayer, Simon & Zihlmann, Zaira: Not Hardcoding but Softcoding Privacy. 2020.

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