Deliverable D7.1: Assessment of Ethical and Legal Issues of Component Technologies

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Ethical Issues:

  1. This report discusses ethical issues raised by BEAMING. While BEAMING shares many potential ethical concerns with existing virtual reality and telecommunications technologies, it also raises several novel issues.
  2. In the near term, the primary ethical issues raised by BEAMING relate to safety and privacy. In particular, that BEAMING interactions will occur in actual places (rather than virtual ones) raises privacy concerns over and above existing technologies.
  3. In the longer term, BEAMING and related future technologies will likely raise more profound ethical issues relating to the fundamental nature of social interactions and concepts of personhood. This report lays out some suggestions regarding what these issues may eventually be. The exact nature of these issues, however, will depend greatly on how this technology develops and on its eventual culture of usage.

Legal Issues:

  1. BEAMING involves a real time interaction between the visitor in one place, his avatar and the locals in a remote location. This presents a real challenge for the application of existing legislation.
  2. In law, only human beings are capable of performing voluntary acts and there- fore the avatar will not be deemed a subject of law. This acknowledgment leads to primarily conclude that the consequences of acts performed by the avatar will be attributed to the visitor.
  3. BEAMING raises multiple liability issues such as civil, criminal, professional and products liability. The interaction between the visitor and the locals may result in breach of a contract or even in a tortuous conduct. For example, if the visitor were performing a telemedicine treatment he might not be deemed prop- erly qualified according to the legal regulation of the medical practice in the loc- als’ state and this might amount to a violation of professional liability rules in force in that state. Equally, the equipment used to perform the telemedicine ses- sion or even pharmaceuticals prescribed by the visitor may cause damages to the local patient, situations that enable a legal action based on products liability. The former reasoning might be also applicable to service providers if they were in- volved in a breach of contract or liable in tort.
  4. The issues of liability, formerly described, as well as other legal concerns re- garding BEAMING would be hard to define if the applicable law were dubious. Therefore it is important to determine what law should apply to the visitor, his avatar and the locals, given their different physical locations. The fact that these subjects may be located in different states raise the issue of laws public policies in force in each of those countries. Conflict of laws rules will be required to re- solve these issues.
  5. All information technologies have raised questions about the fundamental right of privacy that has been fully recognized worldwide. BEAMING and similar technologies will require that personal information be filed firstly with the ser- vice provider. Additionally and depending on the purpose of its use, other per- sonal data might be collected by the visitor or by the locals. Therefore, BEAM- ING and other telepresence technologies raise particular data and privacy protec- tion issues.
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