Over the past two weeks, we have explored the nature of privacy, information, and identity and we have looked at some responses to the privacy concerns raised by cyberspace. To understand the degree to which these responses may be implemented, and by whom, we need a clearer understanding of who has the power to control cyberspace, and by what mechanisms. To this end, we will focus this week on questions of sovereignty.
Consider for a moment the governmental structures with which you are already familiar. Government in real space is geographically bounded. Territories traditionally have defined the scope of government's legislative authority; and where governments have attempted to reach beyond territories, it has only been when behavior outside territories has affected life within the government's domain.
As mobility has increased, this model for sovereignty has been put under great strain. When people live in one area, yet work in
another, and then send their kids to school in a third, a system of democratic government that restricts their influence to the first
increasingly makes less and less sense. This has lead some scholars to question, even in real space, the exclusive reliance on
geography as a basis for legislative jurisdiction, or citizenship participation.
In cyberspace, the problem is only worse. One's behavior while in cyberspace can affect many in many other jurisdictions. And while one is always also in real space while one is in cyberspace, the behavior in cyberspace is increasingly behavior that is not really regulated properly by any individual sovereign, or set of sovereigns. There is emerging in cyberspace an existence that is outside of the life of any particular real world sovereign.
The question for us this week is, in short, what real world sovereigns can do to govern this emerging independent existence in cyberspace. There are at least two distinct concerns which are important to consider separately.
1. Law. What are the constraints, either political or legal, on a state's or nation's ability to govern activity on the Internet which it sees as affecting life within its real space borders? What are the legal tools available to a sovereign to control the conduct of its citizens on the Internet and of those individuals outside its borders whose conduct has effects within the sovereign's borders? It may be useful for you to read this short primer on jurisdiction to give you some feel for the background issues. When you feel comfortable with these jurisidictional considerations, have a look at Compuserve, Inc. v. Patterson, a federal appellate case which examines one state's claim of jurisdiction over a matter conducted entirely in cyberspace.
2. Architecture. Some of the readings collected below focus less on what those in charge of regulating some aspect of the internet may do than on how they may go about doing it. The Internet comprises a wide variety of technologies, which may collectively be called the architecture of cyberspace. Most of these technologies may be used and tweaked in ways which constrain or encourage particular behavior patterns. Discovering what architectures are available and how they may be used are important parts of this week's lesson.
To begin, please read this week's hypothetical.