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January 25, 2007

Comments

Tan Yan Chen

Thanks for the blog Allyson, since I have no legal background I didn't know this is actually possible, this is really interesting! After doing some browsing on the internet about the subject, I came to a blog entry titled "ICANN Not a State Actor" http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2005/04/icann_not_a_sta.htm that lists some rulings regarding the issue of private companies and state actors. It seems that the author of that blog has not found any precedence for it, but this was in 2005. Has there been any changes since then that would make it possible and what is the process that it would involve? Under what circumstances would the courts consider changing or redefining what a state actor is? Sorry for the barrage of questions, but this is very interesting since my conception of a state actor has always been from the school of political science.

michaelzimmer

Would Google be considered a state agent in the case of providing free Internet access to all citizens on behalf of government, as in the San Fransisco Google wi-fi project?

Seeta Peña Gangadharan

The questions you pose also seem to probe at two ideas: 1) the concept of search engines as public goods and 2) the notion of path dependency in the development of information architectures.

Otherwise put: the longer Google search and other tools become embedded into the everyday fabric of public and private communications use, the more Google becomes a public resource... and one is arguably more amenable to state regulation.

Before that happens, though... it seems governments are foregoing their traditional exercise of oversight and instead placing faith in private companies like Google to Do No Evil. And dangerously so. The case of San Francisco, thus far, seems to indicate a stronger faith in private management of public wi-fi (http://www.media-alliance.org/article.php?story=20060927233943224).

What's even more curious is that Google is still drawing the public spotlight with SF, despite not being mentioned in the recently drafted contract (http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/site/uploadedfiles/dtis/tech_connect/process/SanFranciscoWirelessNetworkAreementFinal.pdf). Seems fishy...

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