Australasia / Dr John Carey, the Director of the PNG Centre for Judicial Excellence, reports on “Digital footprints” from the CMJA Virtual Conference


With a significant delegation from the Judicial office of Papua New Guinea attending the Commonwealth Law Conference Nassau 2021, we are delighted to further the warm relationship established with our colleagues from that jurisdiction, by featuring a report from Dr John Carey, the Executive Director of the PNG Centre for Judicial Excellence on a presentation he gave at the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) virtual conference.

The theme of the conference was “Post-Pandemic Innovations” and was held shortly after the Commonwealth Law Conference on 12th-15th September. Dr Carey presented on the topic “Digital Footprints”.

“Whenever you use an online service you leave a digital footprint. If you are using WhatsApp or making a debit card payment at a store, you are building a digital footprint that can inform users about your behaviour over a period of time,” said Dr Carey.

Dr Carey talked on the lasting impact of what people do with information and how the reality of vulnerability can happen when digital footprints are terribly managed. He went further on impacts of digital footprints on lawyers who are appointed to serve on the bench.

“Privacy concerns and data protection arise when we consider our digital footprint. For many lawyers who regularly post comments or views online, once a Judicial appointment happens, they suddenly recognize that some of their views that are now in the public domain digitally, could become embarrassing or detrimental to engendering public confidence and/or trust in their ability to be independent or impartial,” he said.

“Should they then attempt to remove what has been in the public domain or should they allow these digitally verifiable statements remain as part of their public record of who they are and potentially bring embarrassment to the judiciary?”

Dr Carey said, these are questions that judiciaries grapple with as with most judicial application processes, there is a section that refers to disclosure of anything that may cause consternation for the judiciary if someone is appointed to the bench.

Dr Carey concluded that the future of judiciaries is intertwined with the digital footprints that people create, evaluate and pass judgement on. It is important that all Judiciaries examine where they are in the spectrum of digital footprints in terms of ensuring that what is reflected in domains in this era of digital transformation is consistent with values that uphold the rule of law. Moreover, to the extent that access to justice is strengthened by digital footprints, which supports the notion that the rule of law prevails in a just and fairer society and public confidence in judiciaries will be enhanced and preserved. The public has the expectation that Judiciaries uphold the highest standards possible. Integrity should support Digital footprints in the Judiciary.