New centre aspires to be an international think-tank that promotes inter-disciplinary research into the interactions between technology and the law.

The new Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law (TRAIL), a research unit under the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law (NUS Law), was launched today by Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, at the 8th Asian Privacy Scholars Network (APSN) Conference.

Mr Edwin Tong (in front), Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, receives a token of appreciation from “Clair” (the robot) at the launch of the Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law (TRAIL), a research unit under NUS Faculty of Law.

Leveraging NUS Law’s preeminent position amongst the top law schools in the world, TRAIL aspires to be an international think-tank that enables inter-disciplinary communities to research into legal, ethical, policy, philosophical and regulatory questions associated with the use and development of information technology (IT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and robotics in the practice of law. The Centre plans to conduct research into the interactions between technology and the law in a more integrated and holistic manner.

TRAIL also aims to provide a forum for legal and non-legal scholars interested in various aspects of technology law, to collaborate and advance inter-disciplinary research.

Speaking at the APSN Conference, Senior Minister of State Mr Tong said, “The increasingly rapid pace of technological developments in fields like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles means the law has to respond even more quickly. The launch of TRAIL today signifies the commitment of Asia’s top law school to research excellence, and I am confident that the centre can work with different partners locally and globally to produce valuable legal solutions and policies which benefit society.”

TRAIL is led by NUS Law academic staff Associate Professor Daniel Seng as the Centre’s Director. He is assisted by two Deputy Directors – Professor David Tan from NUS Law and Associate Professor Chang Ee-Chien from NUS School of Computing.

Associate Professor Daniel Seng, Director of TRAIL, said, “Never before has so many facets of technology, ranging from robotics to bioinformatics to AI, promised to affect society so profoundly. TRAIL seeks to contribute towards the conversation on how we harness and integrate technology, in a useful and equitable way, into our society and our practice of law. In addition, TRAIL intends to harness technologies such as data analytics and natural language processing to help us understand legal issues better and improve our laws and social policies. Ultimately, we want to create a fairer and more responsive legal system for the new technology era.”

The Centre’s current activities include conducting research into the regulation and deployment of AI, as well as privacy and analysing data protection issues from the perspectives of computer science and law. Researchers at the Centre will also examine the legal and ethical issues surrounding biotechnology, including medical ethics. To expand its research links, TRAIL will be collaborating with international research centres to further inter-disciplinary research in, and the development of, possible guidelines, standards, and solutions to such issues.

The Centre has already signed co-operation agreements with the Centre for Media and Communications Law as well as Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia at the Melbourne Law School, and the Law and Technology Centre at the University of Hong Kong.

The 8th APSN Conference is the first global symposium organised by TRAIL, in partnership with the EW Barker Centre for Law & Business. The theme for this year’s conference is “Privacy, Confidence & Data Protection in the 21st Century” and brings together close to 100 scholars and practitioners from Asia and Australia to discuss contemporary issues relating to invasion of privacy, the breach of confidence action and data protection legislation, and more.

The Secretary of the APSN, Professor Anne Cheung from the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, commented: “We are most honoured to be the first international symposium that TRAIL is hosting. Privacy in the digital economy is of universal relevance to all countries and I am glad to see TRAIL placing privacy on its research agenda.”

More information about the ASPN Conference is available at https://law.nus.edu.sg/events/apsn2019/

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