My Doctoral Dissertation

Download Dissertation—created in 1997—634K

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Abstract of the Dissertation

There is a need to solidify the common folklore understanding of what acceptable behaviors are for computer network users. The process of solidification should provide for the development of a paradigm that will be utilized in the formulation of computer use policy. Those who craft computer use policy should move away from the model of a network as a superhighway to a model of a network as a commonly shared resource. The current process for formulating and reviewing an Acceptable Use Policy-an AUP-has generally not evolved as quickly as the rapidly expanding user base and changing demographics. Given the changes in user demographics on computer networks, there is a rapidly growing need to better understand the computer network and to create AUP's based upon questions of social interaction. Such questions might attempt to address the issues of cooperation and sharing of resources. For example, faced with the temptation to behave selfishly-to overuse the resources, how can a group of people (through its AUP) establish and maintain cooperative behavior?

To begin the process of answering such questions, this dissertation suggests focusing on the question: "How do privacy aspects of the First and Fourth Amendments impact the formulation of Acceptable Use Policy for an on-line computer network?" This dissertation suggests that privacy is a foundational concept in developing an understanding of the nature of the social activities which are growing in cyberspace. This dissertation also chronicles the transition from informal gentleman's agreement AUP's toward more formalized ones.

The research in this dissertation was accomplished by accessing a number of legal resources such as Lexis/Nexis, Westlaw, Web sites on the Internet, a law library, and several Mailing Lists involved in discussions of online legal issues. Other sources, such as government documents, existing and out of date Acceptable Use Policies, and legislative testimony, were reviewed. Personal communication with a number of eminent legal scholars also provided a valuable resource.

This dissertation concludes that an Acceptable Use Policy should be in place to govern use of computer networks. The Acceptable Use Policy should become much more of a social contract in the manner of many campus faculty and student handbooks, and, even in the manner that the U.S. Constitution is a social contract for the U.S. population. AUP's should be locally developed by those who have a foundational understanding of: