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Character of Consent cover

MIT Press, June 2024

The rich, untold origin story of the ubiquitous web cookie—what's wrong with it, why it's being retired, and how we can do better.

Consent pop-ups continually ask us to download cookies to our computers, but is this all-too-familiar form of privacy protection effective? No, Meg Leta Jones explains in The Character of Consent, rather than promote functionality, privacy, and decentralization, cookie technology has instead made the internet invasive, limited, and clunky. Good thing, then, that the cookie is set for retirement in 2024. In this eye-opening book, Jones tells the little-known story of this broken consent arrangement, tracing it back to the major transnational conflicts around digital consent over the last twenty-five years. What she finds is that the policy controversy is not, in fact, an information crisis—it's an identity crisis.

Instead of asking how people consent, Jones asks who exactly is consenting and to what. Packed into those cookie pop-ups, she explains, are three distinct areas of law with three different characters who can consent. Within (mainly European) data protection law, the data subject consents. Within communication privacy law, the user consents. And within consumer protection law, the privacy consumer consents. These areas of law have very different histories, motivations, institutional structures, expertise, and strategies, so consent—and the characters who can consent—plays a unique role in those areas of law. The Character of Consent gives each computer character its due, taking us back to their origin stories within the legal history of computing. By doing so, Jones provides alternative ways of understanding the core issues within the consent dilemma. More importantly, she offers bold new approaches to creating and adopting better tech policies in the future.

Co-edited with Amanda Levendowski


University of California Press, June 2024

Feminist Cyberlaw reimagines the field of cyberlaw through a feminist lens. Essays crafted for this volume by emerging and established scholars and practitioners explore how gender, race, sexuality, disability, class, and the intersections of these identities affect cyberspace and the laws that govern it. This vibrant and visionary volume promises to build a movement of scholars whose work charts a near future where cyberlaw is informed by feminism.

Check out for more details.

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New York University Press 2016

- A gripping insight into the digital debate over data, permanence and policy-

“This is going on your permanent record!” is a threat that has never held more weight than it does in the Internet Age, when information lasts indefinitely. The ability to make good on that threat is as democratized as posting a Tweet or making blog. Data about us is created, shared, collected, analyzed, and processed at an overwhelming scale. The damage caused can be severe, affecting relationships, employment, academic success, and any number of other opportunities—and it can also be long lasting.

One possible solution to this threat? A digital right to be forgotten, which would in turn create a legal duty to delete, hide, or anonymize information at the request of another user. The highly controversial right has been criticized as a repugnant affront to principles of expression and access, as unworkable as a technical measure, and as effective as trying to put the cat back in the bag. Ctrl+Z breaks down the debate and provides guidance for a way forward. It argues that the existing perspectives are too limited, offering easy forgetting or none at all. By looking at new theories of privacy and organizing the many potential applications of the right, law and technology scholar Meg Leta Jones offers a set of nuanced choices. To help us choose, she provides a digital information life cycle, reflects on particular legal cultures, and analyzes international interoperability. In the end, the right to be forgotten can be innovative, liberating, and globally viable.

Praise "[B]y laying out the terrain so thoughtfully, and highlighting the concepts that should guide our actions, Jones has created the groundwork for a much needed conversation on the profound problem of permanent digital ballasts in the 21st century." ~The New York Times Book Review "Ctrl + Z argues powerfully that we should all take the advice of Googles Eric Schmidt and be more careful about how we interact with one another online." ~Financial Times "[A] groundbreaking comparative work." ~Harvard Law Review "The legal and moral implications require a rethinking of much of what we take for granted, and Jones is plugged in to many of the conversations." ~Inside Higher Ed "Meg Leta Jones is the preeminent American scholar of the Right to Be Forgotten, a concept born in Europe. This fascinating book is a must-read for anyone, American or European alike, vexed about what to do (or not to do) about the persistence of memory online." ~Paul Ohm, Georgetown University "The so-called 'right to be forgotten' has become a firestorm of controversy in todays Digital Age. Should individuals have a right to have data about themselves deleted or made more obscure? With great thoughtfulness and insight, Meg Leta Jones's Ctrl + Z explores the right to be forgotten, avoiding the exaggerations and dispelling the myths that often appear in debates about the issue. Fascinating and accessible, Ctrl + Z addresses all dimensions of the right to be forgotten the law of different countries, the nature of the technology, and the arguments on each side. The result is a truly unforgettable book that grapples with the right to be forgotten with great nuance and erudition." ~Daniel J. Solove, John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law, George Washington University "In language accessible to non-specialists, enriched by an interdisciplinary outlook and a plethora of examples and case law, Jones draws on legal cultures, international feasibility and interoperability and detailed information about the information about the information life cycle, and argues that both approaches, favouring and opposing the right to be forgotten, take only a partial view on the matter." ~Stefania Milan, Times Higher Education "[T]he books strength is its ability to inspire, and that is what makes Ctrl + Z a pleasure to read. In proposing the idea of information stewardship, it may give us some guidance towards a solution to this complex and controversial policy issue." ~The London School of Economics' "United States Politics and Policy" blog "A crucial question in the digital age is whether society will reclaim our ability to forget. The right to be forgotten raises important questions of free speech, privacy, reputation, and dignity. Jones's book wrestles with these questions with rigor. An indispensable read for those interested in exploring the pressing issue of reinvention in an era when networked tools do not forget." ~Danielle Keats Citron,Lois K. Macht Research Professor, University of Maryland "In this timely and provocative book, Meg Jones takes on one of the most pressing issues of the digital age must everything about us be permanently stored or is there room in our society and legal system for a 'right to be forgotten?' Jones great contribution is to cut through the rhetoric and extremism to chart a middle path: one in which we can have privacy and freedom of speech, in which we can access information without being constantly under the microscope ourselves. A must-read book for anyone interested in the Internet, privacy, or freedom of speech. Ctrl + Z is sophisticated yet readable, scholarly yet contemporary, and an essential contribution to how we think about rights of deletion in a digital age." ~Neil Richards,Washington University in St. Louis "[CTRL+Z] advocates that online privacy is a pressing issue, but the United States government just keeps procrastinating on the matter. As important as the issue is, it just doesn't appear to be on many people's minds--yet." "Meg Leta Jones, an assistant professor at Georgetown University, is one of the more interesting observers of the web and the persistence of its content."

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