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Technology & Digital round-up – 15 October 2021

Welcome to our latest round-up of legal and non-legal tech-related news stories. Though Facebook’s outage dominated much of the recent mainstream outlets, this edition also covers data privacy reform, legal action considering the use of Uber’s driver face-scanning software, Twitch’s data leak and much more. Get in touch with one of our experts below if you have any queries or need advice or assistance.

The legal part…

  • The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published its response to the government’s consultation on data protection and e-privacy reform. The Commissioner notes that digital technologies are one of the engines driving the UK’s economic growth, with the pace and scale of innovation meaning the data landscape has changed significantly since the Data Protection Act 2018 was passed. Supporting the review and the intent behind it, she says it is important government ensures the UK is fit for the future and able to play a leading role in the global digital economy, and that the final reform package clearly maintains rights for individuals, minimises burdens for business and safeguards the independence of the regulator. On that note, the Commissioner voices strong concerns over some of the proposals which she sees as a risk to regulatory independence, such as the Secretary of State approving ICO guidance.
  • The ICO’s Data Sharing Code of Practice came into force on 5 October 2021. It contains practical guidance for organisations on how to share personal data in compliance with the law.
  • The ICO’s consultation on its updated draft guidance on anonymisation, pseudonymisation and privacy enhancing technologies closes on 28 November 2021. A formal consultation on the full draft guidance is expected in the autumn.
  • Luke Jackson, Senior Associate in our Technology & Digital Group, explains how to avoid disputes when contracting for technology and how to manage them if they do occur. See this link.
  • A legal case has been launched on behalf of more than a million people whose confidential medical records were obtained by Google’s artificial intelligence firm DeepMind in 2015, to address public concerns about the use of private health data by tech firms. This is an example of an opt-out representative action, where a representative claims on behalf of themselves and a class of (potentially millions of) individuals who do not have to opt in to the litigation. It is hoped that the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on whether the Lloyd v Google case can go ahead will provide clarity in relation to this type of claim and the recoverable damages (see our earlier briefing on the Court of Appeal’s decision in this case). For details on data breach litigation and how organisations can protect themselves, please click here.
  • An Uber driver who lost his job when automated face-scanning software failed to recognise him is accusing the firm of indirect race discrimination in a legal test case. See this news report.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) responded to the government’s consultation on a new pro-competition regime for digital markets. The CMA strongly supports the proposals. There is concern that some large and powerful digital firms are exhibiting signs of entrenched market power in digital markets, enabling them to stifle competition. The CMA says this is leading to a worse deal for consumers and businesses and is inhibiting innovation and growth in the UK economy.
  • In pleading guilty to breaches of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (MLR), NatWest acknowledged that operational failures, including weaknesses in automated monitoring systems, meant that it failed to prevent the money laundering of £400 million – see this news report. This is the first criminal prosecution under the MLR by the Financial Conduct Authority.

…and in other news

  • In our recently published International Trade report, Made for Trade, we take a look at the commonalities between UK and US manufacturers, explore the challenges and opportunities they face and investigate how sharing knowledge can help drive further growth. We found that manufacturers are planning extensive tech investment but skills are holding them back. 76% of respondents plan to invest in operational technology, while 63% say a lack of in-house knowledge hinders tech investment. Click here to download your free copy and here to sign up for our upcoming webinar.
  • In a speech marking her first year in the post, the CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a warning that ransomware is the most immediate cyber security threat to UK business. In related news, Scottish engineering firm Weir was hit by a major ransomware attack, costing the company an estimated £5 million and forcing it to delay shipments worth more than £50 million in revenue.
  • The NCSC published updated guidance on enabling your staff to use their own devices for work.
  • It was reported that Intel, the world’s largest maker of semiconductors, is no longer considering the UK as the site to build a major new microchip factory, looking to EU countries instead. The report says that the company is hoping to secure subsidies from governments in the US and Europe on the basis that dependency on Asia for microchips could threaten their national security. A global shortage of semiconductors is currently affecting the supply chains of all kinds of goods.
  • Livestreaming site Twitch blamed a server error for a massive leak of sensitive data online. It said that some data was exposed to the internet due to an error in a server configuration change that was subsequently accessed by a malicious third party. Meanwhile, Facebook blamed a routine maintenance job for the recent global outage of its platforms.
  • The Chair of the Treasury Committee has written to tech giants Google, eBay, Facebook and Amazon with a series of questions relating to their policies and actions to combat economic crime, prevent fraud, and protect consumers.
  • Sticking with Big Tech, Amazon recently opened its first UK non-food store. As the report explains, the store in Kent will be the first 4-star store (every item has been given more than four stars by customers) outside the US. Digital price tags will be used to ensure the prices are the same in-store and online, and customers will be able to collect online orders and return items without the need for packaging and labels.
  • Walker Morris has become an early adopter in the UK legal market of the fast-growing verification software platform, Atticus. This is part of a planned programme of IT investments aimed at improving internal efficiencies and delivering a better client experience for our national and international client base.



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