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Technology & Digital round-up: 17 June 2022

Welcome back, after a short break, to our latest round-up of legal and non-legal tech-related news stories. This edition covers data reform, national security assessments, the crackdown on Big Tech, crypto turmoil, and much more.

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Get in touch with Sally Mewies or Luke Jackson if you have any queries or need advice or assistance.

The legal part…

  • The government published its long-awaited response to the consultation on data reform. The proposals cover: reducing barriers to responsible innovation; reducing burdens on businesses and developing better outcomes for people; boosting trade and reducing barriers to data flows; delivering better public services; and reform of the Information Commissioner’s Office. In his statement in response, the Information Commissioner said that he shared and supported the ambition of the reforms. The proposals will now be worked through in the upcoming Data Reform Bill. We will continue to monitor and report on developments.
  • Altice’s acquisition of 6% of shares in BT was called-in for a full national security assessment using powers under the National Security and Investment Act 2021. This call-in demonstrates the very broad powers the Secretary of State has to review transactions, even of relatively small stakes in an entity, and highlights that even acquisitions by investors from so-called friendly countries (in this case France) may give rise to national security concerns.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority is consulting until 22 July on the launch of a market investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store.
  • As the crackdown on Big Tech continues, the CMA is taking enforcement action against Google in relation to its app store payment practices. It’s also investigating whether the company has broken the law by restricting competition in the digital ad tech market.
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office fined Clearview AI Inc more than £7.5 million after it collected billions of images of people’s faces and data in the UK and worldwide from the web and social media and used them to create an online database that could be used for facial recognition, without the individuals’ knowledge.
  • In a recent case of interest, the English High Court decided that cryptocurrency does not meet the criteria for security for costs.
  • In another recent decision, the High Court ruled that Samsung had infringed various trade marks owned by the Swatch group after consumers downloaded digital watch face apps bearing the marks to Samsung’s smartwatches from its online app store. The apps were created by third-party web developers.
  • The European Commission published Q&As on the two new sets of standard contractual clauses. While the new EU SCCs do not apply to the transfer of personal data outside the UK, the ICO’s UK addendum to the EU SCCs – in force from March this year – is a useful option for organisations transferring personal data from both the UK and EU, as they will be able to use one set of SCCs (the new EU SCCs and addendum) instead of having to enter into two different sets of arrangements.
  • New consumer rights rules in the form of the Omnibus Directive (the ‘EU Better Enforcement and Modernisation Directive’) started to apply as of 28 May and are relevant to UK traders offering goods or services to EU resident consumers. This Commission factsheet explains the key changes.

…and in other news

  • The ongoing turmoil in the crypto market continues to dominate the tech news. The G7 says it welcomes increasing global cooperation to address regulatory issues associated with the use of cryptoassets. In light of the recent turmoil, it urges the Financial Stability Board to advance the swift development and implementation of consistent and comprehensive regulation of cryptoasset issuers and service providers, with a view to holding cryptoassets, including stablecoins, to the same standards as the rest of the financial system.
  • In related news, HM Treasury is consulting until 2 August on proposals to manage the failure of stablecoin and other ‘systemic digital settlement asset’ firms.
  • The government launched a £40 million competition to provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025. It says it’s continuing to develop a comprehensive legal and assurance framework for self-driving vehicles to ensure the safety of the technology.
  • It was reported that the government is not currently considering copying EU plans for a common charging cable.
  • The Office for Product Safety and Standards published the results of a study on the impacts of AI on product safety. Among other things, the research identified the lack of clarity around the applicability of existing legal definitions and concepts, resulting in a lack of legal certainty for economic operators involved in the manufacture of AI-driven consumer products, as well as a need to improve the skills and knowledge of regulatory bodies, such as market surveillance authorities and conformity assessment bodies, on AI systems.
  • The National Cyber Security Centre introduced a new briefing pack for its Cyber Security Board Toolkit, described as an essential reference point for directors overseeing cyber security. The NCSC points to a recent Institute of Directors poll finding that 72% of business leaders view cyber risk as a significant concern for their organisation, with 58% believing the risk of an attack has increased.
  • Meanwhile, the government is seeking views until 24 July on how to boost the security and resilience of the UK’s data centres and online cloud platforms.
  • Microsoft is retiring its Internet Explorer browser and redirecting users to Edge.
  • It was reported that the Ministry of Defence has acquired the government’s first quantum computer.
  • And finally, eBay became the latest company to launch an NFT collection.

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