Original Paper

Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 319-328

First online:

Cracking down on autonomy: three challenges to design in IT Law

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The paper examines how technology challenges conventional borders of national legal systems, as shown by cases that scholars address as a part of their everyday work in the fields of information technology (IT)-Law, i.e., computer crimes, data protection, digital copyright, and so forth. Information on the internet has in fact a ubiquitous nature that transcends political borders and questions the notion of the law as made of commands enforced through physical sanctions. Whereas many of today’s impasses on jurisdiction, international conflicts of law and diverging interpretations of statutes can be addressed by embedding legal safeguards in ICT and other kinds of technology, to overcome the ineffectiveness of state action by design entails its own risks, e.g., threats of paternalism hinging on the regulatory tools of technology. Rather than modelling people’s behaviour by design, the article suggests that design policies should respect individual and collective autonomy by decreasing the impact of harm-generating behaviour (e.g., security measures and default settings for data protection), or by widening the range of people’s choices (e.g., user friendly interfaces).


Autonomy Data protection Design Digital rights management Information technology Law Jurisdiction Paternalism Privacy by design Self-enforcement technologies