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Technology & Digital round-up: March 2024

“In case you missed it, last month we highlighted the top tech themes that look set to shape the rest of the year and beyond from a legal and regulatory perspective – from AI regulation and data reform, to developments in employment practices and cyber security.

“We’ve already seen movement over the past month in a number of key areas, including the European Parliament approving the landmark EU AI Act and the government publishing guidance on responsible AI in HR and recruitment. With changes coming in thick and fast, our regular Technology & Digital round-up keeps you up to speed with the latest news.

 Luke Jackson, Director, Commercial

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The legal part…

  • The European Parliament approved the landmark EU AI Act. It’s expected to be officially adopted in the next month or so. The Act focuses regulation on categories of identifiable risk and will be phased in over a 3 year period. It will apply to providers, deployers, importers, distributors and manufacturers of AI systems. In-scope organisations are encouraged to participate in an AI Pact to bridge the gap before full implementation. Watch out for our commentary and guidance on what you need to know.
  • We recently published our first quarterly illuminate publication aimed at GCs and in-house lawyers, including our guide on demystifying AI to help inform your approach to AI policies and governance.
  • Our latest webinar on “AI – Getting it right” will focus on the intellectual property issues surrounding AI, with an emphasis on the manufacturing sector.
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office published the second chapter in its consultation series on generative AI, looking at how purpose limitation should be applied at different stages of the AI lifecycle. Comments are requested by 12 April 2024. AI is one of the ICO’s areas of focus in 2024.
  • In non-AI news, the ICO ordered an organisation to stop using facial recognition technology and fingerprint scanning to monitor workers’ attendance. The regulator recently published new guidance for all organisations considering using people’s biometric data.
  • We’ve also seen new guidance to give employers more certainty about sharing their workers’ personal details in a mental health emergency.
  • As part of its cookie compliance work, the ICO is consulting until 17 April 2024 on “consent or pay” business models. Prioritising the fair use of cookies is another area of focus for the ICO in 2024. A consultation on updated guidance on cookies and similar technologies is expected later in the year.
  • With the European Commission’s UK data adequacy renewal decision approaching next year, the House of Lords European Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into data adequacy and its implications for the UK-EU relationship. On the subject of data transfers, see our recent briefing on use of the old EU standard contractual clauses and the need to make alternative arrangements after 21 March 2024.
  • A new report sets out a pro-innovation approach to regulating quantum technologies. The report was commissioned as part of the UK’s National Quantum Strategy.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority published its annual plan as it prepares for new responsibilities under the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (expected to become law in April 2024). Areas of focus include: enabling innovating businesses to access digital markets such as cloud services, e-commerce, and digital advertising; encouraging effective competition and consumer protection in emergent markets, including the development and deployment of AI foundation models; and encouraging competitive markets for climate technology.
  • Over in Europe, the European Commission opened non-compliance investigations against Alphabet, Apple and Meta under the Digital Markets Act. They are 3 of the 6 “gatekeepers” designated by the Commission under the Act and had to fully comply with its obligations by 7 March 2024. The Commission can impose fines of up to 10% of total worldwide turnover for infringements.

…and in other news

  • As part of its responsible AI toolkit, the government published guidance on responsible AI in HR and recruitment. Our Employment & Immigration lawyers are here to help with any queries in this area. As part of the same toolkit, the government also recently published introductory guidance on AI assurance, setting out key actions for organisations.
  • The G7 nations signed an agreement to tap into the power of AI and quantum technologies.
  • Amongst a flurry of recent government tech funding announcements, the Science Secretary outlined plans to upskill millions across the UK in future tech such as AI and quantum with a £1.1 billion funding package.
  • Eligible small and medium enterprises in the professional business services sector are encouraged to register their interest in a £7.4 million pilot scheme to subsidise the cost of AI skills training, ahead of an information webinar in April 2024 and the application process opening in May 2024.
  • A £360 million funding package for research and development and manufacturing projects across the life sciences, automotive and aerospace sectors is part of the government’s advanced manufacturing plan.
  • The National Cyber Security Centre published a blog post on cyber security governance and the role of the board. The government recently closed a call for views on a draft Cyber Governance Code of Practice to help directors and business leaders boost their cyber resilience.
  • Other recent NCSC blog posts cover: email security; connected places; and perimeter-exposed products. There’s also guidance for operational technology organisations on cloud-hosted supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).
  • Still on the subject of cyber security, the government responded to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy’s recent report on ransomware and UK national security. The Committee’s Chair expressed the Committee’s “ongoing, deep concerns that government short-termism and lack of preparation and planning are leaving the UK wide open to a severely damaging ransomware attack”.
  • And finally, the first “flying taxi” could take to the skies as early as 2026 if the government’s recently-published UK Future of Flight Action Plan comes to fruition.

If you have queries about any of the points covered in this edition of the Technology & Digital round-up, or need further advice or assistance, please get in touch with SallyLuke or one of our Technology & Digital experts.

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