For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Car immobilisers, criminal possibilities and chilling effects: sidebar poll reviewed

Without adequate security, you
never know who might be about
to drive off with your car ...
A little while ago, the IPKat hosted “Can you Tango with a Megamos?”, this being a piece by Robert Carolina and Kenny Paterson on a difficult and sensitive issue faced by a judge -- in this case Mr Justice Birss in Volkswagen v Garcia -- on an application for interim injunctive relief: put simply, does the public interest in suppressing information about an insecure and allegedly secret algorithm that can lead to criminals stealing cars override the freedom of academics to disseminate their research results and the public’s right to know that their cars may not be as securely immobilised as they imagined?  And does the imposition of an interim injunction to halt publication have a chilling effect on the academic's right to publicise his research results?

The Carolina-Paterson article was a short and blog-friendly version of a longer paper on the subject that you can read in full here.

The IPKat and Merpel, after due consideration, both thought that Birss J's ruling raised an issue that was important enough to merit a sidebar poll, so they composed one: here's what 101 of our readers thought of the matter:
  •  The chilling effect of this ruling is bad for freedom of speech and bad for the public’s right to know 23 (22%)
  • Volkswagen are acting as Trade Secret trolls, exercising their rights in an abusive manner 9 (8%)
  • It’s just a random ruling on its own unique facts and is of no precedental significance at all 9 (8%)
  • The researchers are acting irresponsibly and deserved to be stopped from publishing their work 13 (12%)
  • Loss of freedom of expression is a small price to pay for protecting drivers’ interests 8 (7%)
  • I happily admit that I don't know enough about cryptography and this security system to assess the risk of publication in this case 39 (38%)
This is the first time in this Kat's memory that the "don't knows" have topped any of his sidebar polls, which itself is an argument in favour of leaving difficult issues of balance to courts that are not merely familiar with the legal principles but which have also the ability to appreciate the technological fact-base within which that balance must be sought.  A further 30% of readers were unhappy either with the imposition of a temporary but potentially permanent restraint on the dissemination of information or with Volkswagen's attempts to achieve that imposition.  Very few voters appeared to sympathise with the position of the motorists for whose benefit the interim ban was said to be imposed.

1 comment:

Suleman said...

I disagree with 'leaving difficult issues of balance to courts'. The Courts apply laws on our behalf, and those laws are meant to reflect our collective views of how things should be done. Court decisions must always take into account the real world situation, and that must involve some input at some level about how a reasonable member of the public would think. Yes, the Courts do a good job, but from the level of first-instance decisions being overturned on appeal, we know they also get a lot wrong.

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':