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Welcome to the Amsterdam Law & Technology Institute

Who We Are

The Amsterdam Law and Technology Institute performs research and teaching in the field of law and technology. This covers a variety of topics ranging from digital services, smart devices, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. What binds the ALTI-professionals is the question of how new technological developments are related to the law. This includes questions such as: do new technological developments fit within the existing legal framework? Are new laws needed to address the problems related to technology? What should these laws look like? Should new technologies be facilitated to exploit their advantages or should they be restricted to see their risks?

What We Do

Designed to deceive: how manipulative design in privacy policies affects transparency and user rights
 
This project investigates the use of deceptive and manipulative design (also called dark patterns) in privacy policy notices of websites, and how they affect the concrete implementation of the transparency principle enshrined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 
 
Transparency is a fundamental principle of the GDPR (Art. 5(1)(a)). It implies informing data subjects about the data processing operations, and of their rights. The transparency principle promotes a shift in power from data controllers to data subjects. This perspective clashes with previous practices of making data processing invisible to the data subject.
Unsurprisingly, this shift came with resistance. Manipulative and deceitful design strategies are used to ensure GDPR requirements are met with minimal effort, in a way that nudges data subjects to exercise their rights mostly to the benefit of controllers. 
Some attention has been paid to deceitful design applied to consent banners in recent papers that study their application, taxonomy, and impact. However, in addressing the requirement of transparency, privacy policies are still the main tool used to inform data subjects. Here, manipulative and deceitful strategies take the form of information overflow, use of jargon, or splitting information in many parts of the system. Those practices are well diffused, can conflict with the obligation deriving from the GDPR, but are not easily identified, and subject to much less body of literature and only a few cases in France and in the Netherlands.
Most importantly, the extent to which deceptive design affects the concrete application of the transparency principle is still unclear, and this is what we explore in this project.
 
This project is funded by the Network Institute at VU, and it is carried out by an interdisciplinary team composed of two main researchers and two student assistants, in the context of the Newtwork Institute Academy Assistant programme (NIAA). Under the NIAA programme, the two Academic Assistants will receive theoretical and practical training on how to pursue academic research. 
 
Researchers: Dr. Dayana Spagnuelo (TNO), Dr. Silvia De Conca (ALTI, VU)
Academic assistants: to be provided. 
 

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Dynamic Competition Initiative (link)

The Dynamic Competition Initiative (“DCI”) is a research group created in July 2022 with the institutional support of University of California, Berkeley, European University Institute, and the Amsterdam Law & Technology Institute at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It gathers 30 academics to develop a new theory of potential competition and innovation.

At the heart of the initiative is a belief that a deeper understanding of technological innovation is required for the elaboration of empirically grounded theories focused on the competitive advantage of firms and nations, as well as for proper regulation of dynamically competitive systems. Since technological innovation stems from complex interactions between managers, organizations, institutions, and technologies, studying innovation requires a broad, holistic, and interdisciplinary lens. Evolutionary economics, complexity economics, and the dynamic capabilities framework are important organizing frameworks and theories that can help interpret facts and evidence.

Researcher: Thibault Schrepel

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The human rights to privacy and data protection: Modern technologies and the Internet

This research project looks at the primary legislative tools (ECHR and European Charter of Fundamental Rights) concerning privacy and data protection in Europe. Its focus is the interaction of information technologies with privacy and data protection, based on the developments to their interpretation and application deriving from the case-law of the ECtHR and the CJEU. This project aims to reflect upon the doctrines and balances that have been developed in the past decades at European human rights level with regard to privacy, data protection, and information technologies. The aim is twofold: to critically evaluate the relationship between the ECHR and EU charter, and the effects of this relationship on how privacy and data protection protect European citizens from harms coming from modern technologies; and to project the existing human rights framework into the future, discussing emerging and upcoming technologies and their risks to privacy and data protection. The main output of this research project is a book chapter, to be published in an upcoming volume on the European human rights framework.

Researchers: Silvia De Conca, Arno R. Lodder

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The Local Regulation of the Platform Economy in the Internal Market 

This research project focusses on the room for national and municipal legislators to regulate the platform economy within the European single market. In particular, we focus on the influence of single market rules (Treaties, E-Commerce Directive and Services Directive) on the local regulation of accommodation platforms and the short-term rental market. This includes the question how European internal market law influences policy and enforcement choices by local and national authorities. Methods are interdisciplinary: we combine legal research on the substance of EU law with empirical research on the influence of law on policy and enforcement. As a case study we investigate the regulation of short-term rental services in the city of Amsterdam from 2013 onwards. 

Researchers: Dion Kramer, Martien Schaub

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Report on Smart Contracts for the European Commission (link)

The deployment of smart contracts within the European zone could fluidify economic transactions. It also risks fragmenting the Digital Single Market (“DSM”). This conundrum calls for a constructive response to preserve both the benefits brought by smart contracts and a strong DSM. Against this background, this report adopts a “law + technology” approach. It suggests combining law and technology to develop solutions that encourage the evolution of smart contracts (rather than hindering it) in a direction that preserves and reinforces the DSM.

Researcher: Thibault Schrepel

ALTI-Professionals are not merely interested in identifying and analyzing problems related to new technologies. We use our knowledge to contribute to solutions. This includes providing input in the public debate and active engagement in public consultations. Concrete outcomes are achieved by involvement in societal organizations, such as Platform Burgerrechten (https://platformburgerrechten.nl/).

Policy Reviews & Expert Analysis. Please be in touch with us for more information [altiamsterdam1 @ gmail.com]

Focus Areas

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