The University of Southampton

LAWS6139 Digital identity and the law

Module Overview

The focus of this course is upon the protection of digital identities in cyberspace. There is no such a thing as a right to digital identity yet. Online identities as much as offline identities are protected by a patchwork of legal norms. The purpose of this course is to analyse the main components of this patchwork and assess the need to recognise an autonomous right to digital identity. The first step will therefore be to define what we mean by digital identities. All identities are composite by nature. They are formed by many different attributes. Should we distinguish among different types of attributes? The second step will consist in examining the set of restrictions and entitlements to use identity related information, which does not necessarily form a coherent body of rules. Intellectual property laws, privacy and data protection laws but also some elements of criminal laws will be covered. Given the fast-changing nature of the environment, this is a challenging course with a dynamic and evolving subject matter. Whilst seminar outlines and materials are provided, significant emphasis is placed on self-learning, enabling seminars to concentrate on specific topics and issues.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• provide a critical overview of the rules governing the protection of digital identities mainly in the UK and in Europe (e.g. civil law countries) and eventually compare these rules with those adopted in other systems such as the US • allow students to identify and evaluate new technological trends and regulatory responses in the field • provide students with a range of opportunities to practice writing and communications skills in the field and undertake independent research

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the legal and public policy challenges posed by the Internet and information and communications technology as regards the development of e-government;
  • the key features of international law, regulation and policy considerations in this area, with particular emphasis on the UK, EU, the US but also possibly civil-law countries;
  • the fundamental principles of law, including decisions of the courts, that impact upon the protection of digital identities with particular reference to tort, intellectual property, privacy and data protection and criminal law;
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • apply the law in each of these fields
  • compare the solutions adopted in each of these fields and in particular their implications in terms of users’ rights and duties;
  • critically assess what part both policies and computer technology play in protecting digital identities, as well as law;
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically analyse legal and policy positions from a variety of sources;
  • Clearly communicate and discuss complex ideas and arguments in writing;
  • Undertake independent research.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Developed research skills and knowledge of relevant legal resources in preparation for classes;
  • Developed the ability to solve problems and undertake critical analysis of relevant legal issues:
  • Developed competence in the use of key online and offline legal resources;
  • Exercised time management skills;


Occupiers’ liability  

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

An explanation and analysis of links between the Law of Torts and other legal topics.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Lloyd I. (2014). Information Technology Law. 

Murray, A (2013). Information Technology Law. 

Clare Sullivan (2001). Digital Identity. 

Bainbridge D (2014). Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law. 

Rowland Dl (2011). Information Technology Law. 

Reed, C (2012). Computer Law. 

Graham J H Smith Bird & Bird (2007). Internet Law and Regulation. 



Group presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (4000 words) 100%
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