Malamud believes that the law is one area that the disintermediating promise of the Internet has barely touched, and he brought in friend O’Reilly for a lunchtime discussion with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. “What are we missing as a society because we are denied access to what is essentially the open source of our democracy?” O’Reilly asked.
A recurring theme was the problem of authentication of legal materials online, and the implied authority of the two major vendors. Erika Wayne, a Stanford law librarian, asked if anyone had seen an “informational only” disclaimer – common on web legal materials – on a physical book.
Chris Hoofnagle, a privacy researcher and UC Berkeley law professor also had a stark warning about the need to protect individual privacy as advocates seek to put more government information online. He argued that believers in “Big Brother” powers for the government – “I’m serious” – will use the language of the transparency movement to accomplish their goal of a surveillance society.
Despite the serious mission and very real challenges, the promising theme of open data, Law 2.0 mashups and lowered barriers to legal knowledge was not lost. Said Macgillivray, imagine a statue with its own Twitter account, tweeting its revisions. Another common theme was that local governments are some of the most open – creating universal standards for data release is the challenge.