Research Centre for Technology Law & Policy. Lead by Dr David Mangan
This Centre provides a forum for the development and promotion of existing research and teaching in the field of Law and Technology (broadly conceived) at the School of Law & Criminology, Maynooth University locally, nationally, and internationally. Maynooth is fortunate to have a number of active researchers and teachers in this area of growing importance. The Centre enhances these activities by: establishing a central location for the promotion of this work and its impact; augmenting the case for successful competition in national and international funding bids within the Centre’s scope; providing a means through which Centre members may co-operate/partner with European and global research centres in the same area; enhance the profile of Maynooth’s School of Law & Criminology for post-graduate recruitment; and foster collaborated outreach and engagement (including seminars and conferences) on matters of crucial societal importance related to the field of Law & Technology.
Context and Rationale
Researchers in the Technology Law & Policy Centre study the role of technology in contemporary society, how technology challenges the orthodox legal framework (facilitated by continuously evolving technological innovations) and addresses how law and policy may be adapted to suit contemporary needs. Centre members’ research takes technology as a central focus of their work, and study technology through a legal and policy lens in a way that benefits society. Evidence of the impact that Centre members have had on the field of Law and Technology includes: multiple monographs, textbooks, and edited collections in the field, publications in leading Law and Technology journals, representation on Government councils as well as national and international working groups grappling with pressing Law and Technology issues, success in attracting funding supporting Law and Technology projects, and speaking invitations at Oireachtas committees.
The Centre offers research-led teaching on matters related to Law and Technology that brings students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels into close contact with the legal issues presented by innovations in technology. Several of our Ph.D students are actively working on projects exploring Law and Technology issues ranging from Artificial Intelligence, online disinformation, and the sharing of indecent images without consent. Most recently the Law MA Placement module has linked up to Trilateral Research, a multidisciplinary consulting and technology development company, to take on students studying data, privacy, and surveillance. Engagement with wider society extends beyond our members’ research and policy efforts to our teaching offerings as demonstrated by new placements established for postgraduate students with partners such as Privacy Engine. At undergraduate level, the Law and Technology module has established partnerships with large law firms.
The Centre’s Irish locale means that it is based in the European Union (and often European, Middle East, and Africa) home for the majority of the world’s largest technology companies. This has previously facilitated member engagement with both technology and regulatory leaders. As such, it is a strategic priority for the Centre’s members to expand its research, teaching, and leadership in Law & Technology, including advancing understanding of the internet as well as automation and their impacts in society. The Centre is also involved in interdisciplinary collaborations with other departments, universities, and organisations.
The Centre is home to researchers and instructors specialising in the legal and policy aspects of information technology, intellectual property, and technological innovations as found in multifarious settings, including the workplace, the home, in healthcare, in business, in citizen-state interactions, and in public. This work touches on myriad facets of Law & Technology including: artificial intelligence, automation/robotics, ‘big data’, biotechnology, cybersecurity, data protection, digital commerce and virtual currencies, digital rights, intellectual property, mobile surveillance technologies, emerging health technologies, as well as the regulation, governance, and dispute resolution of online telecommunications, privacy
Centre members (alphabetically) are:
Dr. Ciara Bracken-Roche
Dr. David Cowan
Dr. David Doyle
Dr Brian Flanagan
Dr. Neil Maddox
Dr. David Mangan
Professor Aisling McMahon
Dr. Maria Murphy
Dr. Mariana Velasco Rivera
Dr Karen Walsh
Below are some of the projects on which members are currently working. These examples are divided by broad topic areas, and are not an exhaustive list of members’ current work.
Teaching Law and Technology for Law Students
Dr. Ciara Bracken-Roche has introduced three new technology focused modules in the past year (LW226, LW315, LW689). Additional practical applications of this academic study are offered through a placement with Trilateral Research (LW693).
Dr. David Cowan has launched courses in Law and Technology (LW121, LW222, LW321). As noted in the Law Society’s Gazette, These are the first course offerings that are compulsory and integrated courses for an LLB in Ireland.
Professor Aisling McMahon established a research placement with Access to Medicines Ireland which allows students to examine the practical and policy impacts of patents on access to healthcare building on skills gained under (LW610).
Dr. Maria Murphy has set up a placement for Information Technology Law students with Altada.
Intellectual Property Rights & COVID-19
A key strand of Professor Aisling McMahon’s current work examines the implications of intellectual property rights for access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Recently, Prof Aisling McMahon co-authored a paper with Dr Siva Thambisetty (LSE), Dr Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent), Dr Luke McDonagh (LSE) and Prof Graham Dutfield (Leeds) building the case for a temporary TRIPS waiver to suspend certain intellectual property rights to encourage broader access to COVID-19 vaccines and other health technologies to increase global equitable access to vaccines. This paper has been widely cited internationally including by a recent Nature editorial. Together with these co-authors, they led an academic open letter in favour of the TRIPS waiver which has been signed by over 180 leading intellectual property scholars worldwide.
Dr David Doyle has been awarded an Irish Research Council Coalesce Award for this project. It investigates the legal ambiguities associated with the processes and outcomes of cryobanking and de-extinction. It, additionally, explores the ‘relational values’ underpinning these processes, especially how human preferences and cultural iconicity influence which species are chosen for de-extinction.
Patents & Human Genome Editing
Professor Aisling McMahon currently sits on a high level international expert working group examining the role of patents and human genome editing technologies, led and chaired by Prof Duncan Matthews (Queen Mary University). This working group considers the social, regulatory and legal issues arising from the application of genome editing and re-thinks policy approaches. The group was invited to deliver a webinar on these issues to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing in 2020, and their contribution is cited by the Advisory Committee’s recently published Recommendations on Human Genome Editing. The group published a whitepaper on these issues in July 2021.
Patents in Humans
Professor Aisling McMahon has been awarded a European Research Council grant for this project. She will lead a team of four researchers to investigate the bioethical implications of patents over technologies which relate to the human body, such as: medicines, human genes, elements of diagnostic tests, prosthetic limbs, and human enhancement technologies for instance, potential future uses of brain implant technologies. Patents allow rightsholders to control how patented technologies are accessed and by whom. Therefore, patents granted over technologies related to the human body and how they are licensed can have significant implications for how we treat, use and modify our human bodies. ‘PatentsInHumans’ focuses on understanding these bioethical implications and reconceptualising how they are incorporated within European patent decision-making. More information relating to the PatentsInHumans project can be found here.
Fertility Preservation for Children with Cancer
Dr Neil Maddox was awarded an Irish Research Council award to author a report on the legal and ethical challenges presented by new medical technology allowing preservation of fertility for pre-pubertal children facing cancer treatment. The report examines the unique issues faced by policymakers, ethicists and clinicians in seeking to formulate rules and guidelines that adequately properly regulate this area.
Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values
Dr. Maria Murphy is a founding Team Member of the Centre for AI and Digital Policy which aims to ‘bring together world leaders, innovators, advocates, and thinkers to promote established frameworks to explore emerging challenges in AI’. In 2020, Dr Murphy contributed to the report on ‘Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values’. This was the first report of its kind, systemically ranking the national AI policies of 30 countries. The CAIDP prioritises policy engagement with governments worldwide and centres the public voice in AI policy making. In addition to this policy and engagement work, Dr Maria Murphy is currently contributing to the development and design of the 2021 report on ‘Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values’.
Artificial Intelligence Standards in Ireland
Dr. Maria Murphy is a member of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Top Team on AI as well as its Legal Working Group. The NSAI Top Team on AI is designed to support the development and utilisation of AI in various arenas of society as part of Ireland’s National AI Strategy. Collaboration occurs both at the Working Group level of legal experts (including industry, academia, and regulatory experts) and at the Plenary Group level. Dr. Maria Murphy is contributing to the a final report of the Top Team on AI designed to develop a standards and assurance roadmap for AI in Ireland.
Media Representations of Data Protection during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Assessing the Portrayal of Data Protection Issues Alongside and in Opposition to Public Health Interests
With this project, Dr. Maria Murphy seeks to assess how the media portrays the issue of data protection during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data protection challenges have been identified in many contexts – from the development of the COVID Tracker App, to the unplanned shift to working/studying from home, to the collection of personal information by private parties for the purposes of contact tracing. A key part of this project’s assessment of the media coverage is aided by systematic content analysis of articles published in major Irish newspapers. This project is particularly interested in whether data protection issues are presented as matters of fundamental rights. This research is supported by a BILETA Research Award and a MUSSI Small Grant.
Dr Maria Murphy is a Member of the National Advisory Council for Online Safety, a forum for non-governmental, industry, and academic stakeholders to identify emerging issues where government intervention might be needed and provide advice to Government on online safety issues. The Council was formed as part of the Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-2019.
As a member of the Research and Policy Committee of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Dr. Maria Murphy has worked closely with the ICCL in developing positions on issues of pressing public concern. Dr Murphy has previously collaborated on submissions related to Online Safety and is currently working with the ICCL in devising a response to the recent report of the Oireachtas Committee on the proposed OSMR Bill.
The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is under pre-legislative scrutiny in the Oireachtas. Led by Dr. Maria Murphy and Dr. David Mangan, this project seeks insights from users of online services who are outside of the collection of stakeholders who have been consulted thus far in the legislative process. Funded by a grant from the Society of Legal Scholars, the project will gather these perspectives in order to determine how they may differ from the perspectives of those currently dominating the debate and to represent those views by providing input into the shaping of the proposed legal infrastructure.
ResPecTMe – addressing precarity in paid and unpaid platform work
Dr David Mangan is a member of ResPecTMe which is a project funded by the European Research Council with Professor Valeria Pulignano (KU Leuven) as the PI. The current work focuses on setting out how the results of interviews may be translated into recommendations for legal change. This effort takes into consideration the number of current proposals put forward by the European Commission in the area of platform work (including the proposed adequate minimum wage directive). Legal and policy recommendations are being drafted as part of the output from this project.
Police & Public Safety Use of Surveillance Technology
Dr Ciara Bracken-Roche has worked with members of the Geography and Computer Science Departments in Maynooth to study the adoption of drones, LIDAR, and GIS mapping systems in response to covid19 and other emergency management contexts as part of a large SFI grant. Additionally, her own IRC-funded research focuses on the procurement and adoption of mobile surveillance technologies such as Automated License Plate Readers, Body Warn Cameras, and drones by An Gardai Siochana in Ireland.
Current Course Offerings
Law & Technology LW121
New Perspectives on Law and Technology LW222
An Introduction to Cyber/Crime & Technology LW226
Advanced Perspectives on Law and Technology LW321
Media Law LW360
Law and Biotechnology LW426
Intellectual Property Law LW457
Labour Law and the Digital Economy LW495
Contemporary Issues in Medicine and Law LW469
Intellectual Property and Disruptive Technologies LW499
Patents, Health and Biotechnology LW610
Bioethics, Health and Human Rights: Contemporary Issues LW668
Information Privacy Law LW647
Information Technology Law LW685
Introduction to Surveillance Studies LW689
There are also postgraduate placement and dissertation opportunities.