Journal of Law, Information and Science
Introduction to the Special Issue:
The Second International Conference of the Asian Privacy Scholars Network
ANDREW A ADAMS, GRAHAM GREENLEAF AND KIYOSHI MURATA
For some years European and North American privacy scholars have had the benefit of an annual conference at which to present their research and meet scholars with similar interests. In the USA the best-known such event has been hosted annually in turn by Berkeley and George Washington Universities, and in Europe it has been the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) Conference held in Brussels in January each year. Asian privacy scholars have lacked such a regular opportunity, although regulators in the region have six monthly Asia-Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) meetings, and the Institute of Privacy Professionals, and commercial conference organisers, ensure there is no shortage of opportunities for consultants, privacy officers, and businesses to meet.
The Asian Privacy Scholars Network (APSN) was created from a desire to provide such an opportunity to meet and share research for those interested in privacy regulation (and other aspects of privacy scholarship) in Asia-Pacific countries. The need to ‘meet’ was taken as both physical and virtual, so a mailing list (an old-fashioned one, not a surveillance-prone social network version) was also envisaged. Since privacy and data protection in the Asia-Pacific has no central laws or institutions comparable to the US Constitution, or the European structures (Directive, Convention, Court of Human Rights, Article 29 committee), the unifying interest in APSN is the way in which privacy interests are reflected in widely differing legal and social systems.
The initiative to establish the APSN came from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Law Faculty’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, which had built up substantial contacts in the region over the previous decade through its ‘Asia-Pacific Privacy Charter’ and ‘Interpreting Privacy Principles’ projects. There were 19 participants at the March 2010 Symposium held at UNSW and titled ‘International perspectives on privacy regulation: Privacy Principles in Asia Pacific economies compared’. That event was therefore the formation of the Network, and its inaugural conference. A closed majordomo mailing list followed shortly. The APSN currently has 50 members from across the Asia-Pacific, with a broad definition of ‘Asia’ that includes Turkey and Israel, plus Canadian and Australasian scholars in the ‘Pacific’ component. Membership is by nomination and consensus of existing members, and open to scholars (defined broadly) with an interest in the development of privacy and data protection laws in the Asia-Pacific region. The 2nd APSN Conference was held at Meiji University, Tokyo in November 2012, and the 3rd APSN Conference at the University of Hong Kong in June 2013.
With the publication of this Special Issue of the Journal of Law, Information and Science, the APSN has taken a significant step forward in communicating research arising from its networking. Presenters at the Conference were invited to submit full papers of their talk for this Special Issue. As with the conference, there is a mix of papers on the central theme of the conference (privacy and social networking) and on some broader issues of privacy and data protection in Asia/Pacific and around the world. Greenleaf covers the global question of how many privacy/data protection laws there are, giving a definition of what it means to have such a law and coming up with the perhaps surprising calculation that over one hundred jurisdictions now have something that appears to be a broad-based regime, although with wide variation on both the regimes of enforcement and on the details of the laws.
Keeping with a transnational theme but approaching the conference theme, Bennett et al cover the long-running, though now mostly resolved, dispute between Canadian privacy authorities and (primarily US-based) international social media companies as to how much Canadian privacy law applies to the operations of such entities when they are used by Canadian residents/citizens. Trottier moves further into the conference theme of social networking, remaining with a Canadian focus with a report on his work on the use of social media for social and criminal investigations into activities during riots in Vancouver in 2011.
Ramasoota and Panichpapiboon then provide us with an Asian perspective on online privacy, reporting on the social attitudes in Thailand. Drawing on questionnaires and in-depth interviews this paper highlights the threats to privacy in a country with deep political and social divisions and a lack of public appreciation for the consequences of a lack of privacy in such circumstances.
Murata et al report on a range of interesting results from surveys of Japanese youngsters and their attitudes to their online privacy. In particular their study reveals some deep contradictions between high-level attitudes towards online privacy (eg privacy policies for online shopping sites are important) and real actions (eg no one ever reads privacy policies for online sites).
Adams then analyses the impact of the choices made by platform operators with regard to issues such as anonymity/pseudonymity/’real names’ and visibility defaults on not just the behaviour but also the internalised attitudes of users of social network sites. In this he makes clear the link between broadly accepted elements of social psychology (conformity, post-decision bias) and the results of the expressed attitudes and actions of SNS users, to demonstrate the significant power of platform operators in influencing users, often against users’ best interests and pre-existing desires.
Finally, Clarke provides an analysis of the market potential for a less invasive and more user-controlled social network service, avoiding a potential crash in trust and confidence in existing services which treat their users more as prey than partners.
Privacy and data protection in the information age are large questions with many and subtle traps for ordinary users, network service providers, legislators and privacy activists. The wide-ranging interdisciplinary approaches used in the papers presented at the conference and those now appearing in this Special Issue provide, we hope, useful contributions to this ongoing debate about the interaction of law, social science and engineering in the social networked world.
The conference was supported by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science under grant ‘Organisational and Individual Behaviour, and Personal Information Protection in the Age of Social Media’ (Kakenhi (B) 24330127).
The conference was supported by Japan’s MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan) Programme for Strategic Research Bases at Private Universities (2012-16) under grant ‘Organisational Information Ethics’ (S1291006).
 See Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, Asia-Pacific Privacy Charter Initiative (2014) <http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/appcc/> .
 Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, Interpreting Privacy Principles (2014) <http://cyberlawcentre.org/ipp/> .
 For details of the 1st Conference, convened by Graham Greenleaf and David Vaile of UNSW, see Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, Asian Privacy Scholars Network (2014) <http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/privacy/apsn.htm> .
 See Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, Members of the Asian Privacy Scholars Network (2014) <http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/privacy/apsn_list.htm> .
 Convened by Kiyoshi Murata and Andrew Adams of Meiji and Graham Greenleaf of UNSW; see the Conference report at <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2207543> .
 Convened by Anne Cheung of HKU; see the Conference report at <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2327539> .