CrySP Speaker Series on Privacy

This speaker series is made possible by an anonymous charitable donation in memory of cypherpunks and privacy advocates Len Sassaman, Hugh Daniel, Hal Finney, and Caspar Bowden.

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Repo Men Are Coming: Body EULAs, Privacy and Security of the Person

Ian Kerr, University of Ottawa

[Download (MP4)] [View on Youtube]

October 10, 2012 1:30pm, in DC 1302


Recent innovation allows us to transcend biological limitations through the implantation of microchips, digital body parts, artificial organs and other technological enhancements. However, surprisingly little thought has been given to the ethical and legal aspects of their design and use. In this presentation, Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, examines current ethical and regulatory approaches that govern implantable devices and argues that the existing paradigm of mass‐market consumer goods is not particularly well suited for regulating these emerging technologies. His primary concern is that individuals are increasingly called upon to sign complex contractual documents that diminish privacy and autonomy not only as users of mass market consumer goods but, often, as medical patients.

Drawing on lessons learned in the field of privacy and information technology law, Dr. Kerr suggests that special considerations are required to ensure that patient autonomy and privacy are adequately protected in an era where our bodies are becoming inextricably tethered by devices and software owned by health care providers in partnership with industry.


Ian Kerr holds the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, with cross appointments to the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Philosophy and School of Information Studies. Dr. Kerr has published books and articles on topics at the intersection of ethics, law and technology and is currently engaged in research on two broad themes: (i) Privacy and Surveillance; and (ii) Human‐Machine Mergers. Building on his recent Oxford University Press book, "Lessons from the Identity Trail", his ongoing privacy work focuses on the interplay between emerging public and private sector surveillance technologies, civil liberties and human rights. His more recent focus on robotics and implantable devices examines legal and ethical implications of emerging technologies in the health sector.

In the past five years, Dr. Kerr's research has attracted five million dollars in support from the Canada's Tri‐Council, including recent funding for his work on artificial organs and medical enhancement devices. He is the co-director of the Canada Research Chair Laboratory in Law and Technology, a facility supporting the work of 40 researchers. His devotion to teaching has earned him six awards and citations, including the Bank of Nova Scotia Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Award of Teaching Excellence, and the University of Ottawa AEECLSS, Teaching Excellence Award. His innovative, interdisciplinary courses — "Building Better Humans?" and "The Laws of Robotics" — have garnered international attention, with regular invitations to lecture and teach at prestigious institutions across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Dr. Kerr sits on numerous editorial and advisory boards and is co-author of "Managing the Law: The Legal Aspects of Doing Business", a business law text published by Prentice Hall and used by thousands of students each year at universities across Canada.