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The most advanced and ambitious aspect of ecommerce technology is the use of intelligent agent-based computing. Software agents are basically autonomous software entities that can react and interact with their environment, with more advanced intelligent agents being also adaptive, sociable and mobile. Agent technology is embryonic, current agent uses including network and system management, ecommerce decision and logistic support, organization and user assistance. These activities – and the related processes and programming – present serious and unresolved legal challenges, regarding issues such as privacy, confidentiality, electronic contracts, copyright issues and taxation.
LEGAL PROGRAMMING: Designing Legally Compliant RFID and Software Agent Architectures for Retail Processes and Beyond provides a process-oriented discussion of the legal concerns presented by agent-based technologies, processes and programming. It offers a general outline of the potential legal difficulties that could arise in relation to them, focusing on the programming of negotiation and contracting processes in a privacy, consumer and commercial context. The authors will elucidate how it is possible to create form of legal framework and design methodology for transaction agents, applicable in any environment and not just in a specific proprietary framework, that provides the right level of compliance and trust. Key elements considered include the design and programming of legally compliant methods, the determination of rights in respect of objects and variables, and ontologies and programming frameworks for agent interactions. Examples are used to illustrate the points made and provide a practical perspective.
This focus on processes integrates both human and automatic machine activities within the same conceptual framework. An analysis and understanding of the issues raised by the process (its characteristics and procedures) is valid for both forms of activities. Also, it is a useful tool to consider the differences between agents that integrate the business processes, as part of the corporate or commercial platform (and can be designed legally accordingly), and those that are independent but then have to interact with the system –making process standardization or trading protocols obligatory. In describing the processes, the legal challenges consider the differences between human and automated performance – and then consider programming methods and tools to achieve compliance. This understanding assists in designing and building a technical architecture and related workflow, which integrates legal compliance and other requirements into the agent programming.