With rapid digitization and expanding technological horizons all around us, we often associate “technology” with sophisticated devices we use but do not understand, and “law and tech” with complicated rules that elude comprehension. But, as Laura Bingham, executive director of Temple’s newly launched Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT), explains, the future relationship between technology and society defies prediction, and now is the time for active engagement with the bigger social and political questions at hand in the regulation of data and technology.

“I want our students to learn that the law in this field can be created with a mission, and that they are participants in that process,” said Bingham. “And I want them to think about who else should be in the room with them. As new technologies and the industries that create them have grown more complex and inscrutable, we should never lose sight of the fundamental ties and commitments in society, including social justice, human rights, accountability, and the rule of law. Emerging leaders and today’s decisionmakers need those touchstones, as they have in past eras of technological advancement.”

For Temple Law students, the newly launched Institute for Law, Innovation & Technology (iLIT) provides the space and opportunity to put their collective and individual mark on what the future of technology looks like. Created as a collaborative hub, iLIT’s mission is twofold: to ensure that approaches to technological innovation in the public interest are informed by critical perspectives bridging academic and practical borders, and to drive global equity in technology fields, serving as a launching point for students from underrepresented groups and other systemically marginalized people in technology fields.

The Institute directly creates opportunities for students to build skills and networks through work study positions, practicum courses, collaborative projects, and clinical education programs. Through its rigorous curriculum, programming, and experiential learning opportunities, students will graduate with the capacity to engage in critical thought and critical technical practice at the intersection of technology and society. iLIT’s work will also be a source of strategic advice and support for other university centers, civil society, industry, and government on accountability trends applicable to technological innovation, and translating ethically responsible research into concrete policy and regulatory impact.

Much of this impact comes directly through student work. The students, called iLIT Fellows, will “fuse their life experiences, interests, and knowledge of other fields with new questions that they want to use their legal training to address — questions about how technology shapes our lives, shapes our futures, and can contribute to more just and equal societies,” said Bingham. “The intellectual space and support that these opportunities offer, in short, encapsulate what we are working every day to achieve with iLIT.”

For iLIT Fellow Sarbjot Dillon LAW ’23, this means working to address issues with a public interest approach. “With the rise of AI, we believe there should be greater focus on the human rights harms that can occur when these new technologies are implemented without proper regulation, oversight, or review,” she said.

Together, iLIT fellows tackle a variety of concerns, from cyberthreats to AI tools being used in loan applications and by police departments. They approach their work by centering transparency and asking tough questions of emerging technologies. 

“What are the effective, ethical uses of AI and how much is too much?” asked Ed DeLuca LAW ‘23. “How do we know these technologies even work?” DeLuca and other iLIT Fellows researched and wrote a public comment jointly with the New York University School of Law’s Digital Welfare State program that was submitted to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The submission recommends creating binding regulations to address the social, economic, and political impacts of AI-based biometric identification technologies such as facial recognition and fingerprint matching tools. 

Jessie Hemmons LAW ‘24 centered her research around the volume and content of data being collected on individuals, particularly through apps, such as health apps, that might capture weight, blood-sugar levels, or menstrual cycles, for example. “That data is not covered by HIPPA (the Health Information Personal Protection Act) and is not privacy-protected,” she said. “At what point are we going to start regulating the sale of that data?” she asked.

In addition to the cohorts of iLIT Fellows, Temple Law, through a generous gift from InterDigital Foundation, announced the creation of the William J. Merritt Student Fellowship. The Fellowship, established in honor of Bill Merritt LAW ‘87, provides financial and mentorship support for Temple Law students to write about self-selected research topics that explore technology’s impact on society. 

As iLIT finds itself in the midst of its first official Fall semester, there’s no shortage of upcoming programming. In October, iLIT will host a conference to provide diverse insights, direct advising, and unique engagement opportunities for students and early career professionals to learn about pathways to leadership at the forefront of this complex and growing field. In November, iLIT and the Temple Law Review will host a joint symposium, Sovereign Identity Crisis, which will examine competing priorities, promises, and players in emerging governing agendas for the future of technology.

Learn more about iLIT here.