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Technology & Digital round-up – 29 October 2021

Welcome to our latest round-up of legal and non-legal tech-related news stories. This edition covers Facebook going Meta, smart doorbells, developments from the CMA and more. Get in touch with one of our experts below if you have any queries or need advice or assistance.

The legal part…

  • The County Court upheld a claimant’s claims for harassment and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 arising out of her neighbour’s use of security cameras, including a smart doorbell, at and around his property. Among other things, the judge found that the extent of the devices’ audio range could not be said to be reasonable for the purpose for which they were used, i.e. crime prevention. See this news report. While the higher courts are not bound by County Court decisions, the case is nevertheless of interest for its consideration of the privacy issues surrounding this type of smart technology.
  • The European Commission is consulting until 10 January 2022 on adapting the civil liability rules in relation to products and services to the digital age and circular economy. The initiative is part of a staged approach to developing an “ecosystem of trust” for artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner’s Office is consulting until 1 December 2021 on a beta version of its AI and data protection risk toolkit which is designed to assist risk practitioners to identify and mitigate risks to data protection that AI systems that process personal information create or exacerbate.
  • The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers US sanctions, published guidance to promote sanctions compliance in the virtual currency industry. The Treasury noted in its press release that, as ransomware attacks have increased in recent years, so has the number of ransomware payments, which have been typically paid through virtual currency.
  • The CityUK is calling on the government to set a clear framework to boost the UK’s leadership in sustainable digital finance. It wants to ensure that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are considered in all new fintech legislative and regulatory initiatives to mitigate risks and avoid unintended adoption barriers.
  • The Deputy Governor for Financial Stability at the Bank of England (BoE) gave a speech on the impact of cryptoassets on the stability of the UK’s financial system. Among other things, he said that bringing the crypto world effectively within the regulatory perimeter will help ensure that the potentially very large benefits of the application of this technology to finance can flourish in a sustainable way, and the work already begun by regulators globally needs to be pursued as a matter of urgency.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published Compliance Principles for anti-virus software businesses that use auto-renewing contracts in the UK. It also fined Facebook £50.5 million for breaching an order imposed by the CMA during its investigation into Facebook’s purchase of online database and search engine Giphy. See the press release.

…and in other news

  • Shanghai-based Envision, owner of the UK’s battery ‘gigafactory’ in Sunderland, has big expansion plans for the plant as the demand for electric cars soars. The news comes in the same week that Tesla’s valuation exceeded $1 trillion for the first time following a bumper deal for electric cars with rental company Hertz.
  • The BoE published the minutes of the Artificial Intelligence Public-Private Forum (AIPPF) which took place on 1 October 2021. The BoE and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) launched the AIPPF to help them better understand the impact of AI and machine learning on financial services. They will be thinking about what future engagement with the financial industry more broadly could look like in light of the lessons learned through the AIPPF.
  • The BoE also published the minutes of the first meeting of the CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) Technology Forum, which will have an important role to play in helping the BoE to understand the views of expert stakeholders on the technological challenges of designing, implementing and operating a CBDC.
  • It was reported that the UK’s spy agencies have given a contract to US firm Amazon Web Services to host classified material in a deal aimed at boosting the use of data analytics and AI for espionage.
  • Twitter is looking into an apparent bias in its algorithm after its own research suggested that it amplifies tweets from right-leaning political parties and news outlets more than from the left. See this news report.
  • From 18 to 21 October 2021, the FCA ran a Sustainability TechSprint aimed at promoting new solutions and proof of concepts to some of the challenges faced by regulators in the area of ESG data and disclosure. See this link.
  • Facebook announced that it is planning to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the EU over the next five years as it works with others to develop the ‘metaverse’ – a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality. See this explainer for more information on the metaverse concept. This transpired to be a prelude to the announcement the company would be rebranding as ‘Meta’, news that prompted a mixed reaction.
  • Facebook has undergone scrutiny after former employee Frances Haugen released tens of thousands of internal documents and testified before US senators. Earlier this week, she appealed to UK MPs to pass legislation that does more to regulate how big tech companies operate.



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