In This Review

The Electronic Silk Road: How the Web Binds the World Together in Commerce
The Electronic Silk Road: How the Web Binds the World Together in Commerce
By Anupam Chander
Yale University Press, 2013, 296 pp

By allowing the cross-border distribution of services by electronic means, the Internet has created many new legal and regulatory challenges. Internet firms, many of which operate from obscure locations, can now provide services that were once impossible to trade over long distances: take, for example, online gambling, which is against the law in many countries but hosted by companies based in Antigua, a small island nation in the Caribbean. The participation of major Internet companies in the U.S. National Security Agency’s collection of massive quantities of electronic data, provocatively revealed earlier this year by a former contractor for the agency, serves as a reminder that these companies capture oodles of information about their customers -- and about the friends and contacts of their customers -- sometimes in violation of laws protecting personal privacy, especially those in Europe. This interesting book reviews the diverse legal cases that have taken place so far involving such conflicts, including those convened under the General Agreement on Trade in Services of the World Trade Organization. It suggests ways that countries can benefit from the many positive aspects of an open Internet while still preserving democratically determined preferences about what content should be allowed online and what data should remain private.