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Technology & Digital round-up – 4 February 2022

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04/02/2022

Welcome to our latest round-up of legal and non-legal tech-related news stories. This edition covers an important development on international data transfers, regulation of automated vehicles and Spotify under the spotlight.

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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 ICO’s international data transfer agreement and UK addendum to the new EU standard contractual clauses have been laid before Parliament. They are due to come into force on 21 March 2022 and replace use of the old EU SCCs for transferring personal data outside of the UK in the absence of relevant adequacy arrangements. They will apply to all new transfers from 21 September 2022. The old EU SCCs can be used for contracts concluded on or before that date until 21 March 2024 provided the processing operations remain unchanged and the arrangements ensure appropriate safeguards in compliance with the Schrems II decision. See the ICO’s statement. The addendum will be a useful alternative to the international data transfer agreement for organisations transferring personal data from both the UK and the 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. The ICO is developing additional tools to provide support and guidance to organisations, to be published soon. That includes guidance on transfer risk assessments that will need to be carried out in addition to applying the new transfer tools, to ensure Schrems II compliance.
  • In a related development, the government announced the launch of the International Data Transfer Expert Council, a group of 20 experts who will meet quarterly and provide independent advice to help the government ‘achieve its mission of unlocking the benefits of free and secure cross-border data flows now the country has left the EU’. Current priority countries for striking data adequacy partnerships include the US.
  • Highlighted in a new ICO in the media webpage are the first media interviews given by the new Information Commissioner. They provide an insight into the approach we can expect to see. Among other things, the Commissioner talked about wanting a sharp supervisory focus on tech companies, how coming out of the EU presents considerable opportunities and how, in the context of data protection reform, he thought greater certainty and flexibility could be provided to businesses without putting at risk fundamental rights that people have in the UK.
  • The Information Commissioner recently announced a major listening exercise to hear directly from businesses, organisations and people about their experiences of working with the regulator, to help it focus on a ‘how to’ not a ‘don’t do’ approach.
  • The ICO in the media webpage also highlights recent reports covering the ICO’s response to a Home Office backed campaign calling for the rollout of end to end encryption to be delayed until tech organisations can ensure the safety of their users. Among other things, the ICO’s Executive Director for Innovation and Technology says that the discussion is too unbalanced to make a wise and informed choice – there is too much focus on the costs without also weighing up the significant benefits.
  • In a new report, MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee voice their urgent concerns that, as currently drafted, the Online Safety Bill neither adequately protects freedom of expression nor is clear and robust enough to tackle the various types of illegal and harmful content on user-to-user and search services. The draft Bill is a significant piece of proposed legislation to make internet service providers responsible for what is happening on their platforms.
  • In related news, over in Europe, MEPs agreed a draft set of measures to tackle illegal content, to ensure platforms are held accountable for their algorithms, and improve content moderation. Negotiations with member states on the Digital Services Act can now begin.
  • On 26 January 2022, the Law Commission published a report recommending new laws to regulate automated vehicles (vehicles which can drive themselves without being controlled or monitored by an individual for at least part of a journey) in Great Britain. Key recommendations include new legal roles for users, manufacturers and service operators, with removal of criminal responsibility for the person in the passenger seat, and holding manufacturers and service operators criminally responsible for misrepresentation or non-disclosure of safety-relevant information. The government will now decide whether to accept the recommendations and introduce legislation to bring them into effect.
  • Over in the US, electric car maker Tesla is recalling nearly 54,000 cars and SUVs because their “Full Self-Driving” software lets them roll through stop signs.

…and in other news

  • The controversial decision by Spotify to remove Neil Young’s catalogue from the streaming service following an ultimatum from the artist relating to Joe Rogan’s hugely popular podcast reignited the debate around the influence held by Big Tech. Concerns had been raised that Rogan’s podcast content contained inaccuracies relating to COVID-19 and questions have been asked by those that felt Spotify had not done enough to prevent the spread of misinformation on its platform.
  • The New York Times has acquired the rights to the popular online daily puzzle ‘Wordle’. The game has been hugely popular since its launch in October 2021, with the New York Times having high hopes that it will boost their online subscriptions.
  • It was reported that India will launch a digital version of the rupee as early as this year and introduce a 30% tax on income from digital assets – putting profits from trading or transferring cryptocurrencies and NFTs in the country’s highest tax band. China is already trialling the digital yuan.
  • Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund urged El Salvador to remove Bitcoin as legal tender, saying that the adoption of a cryptocurrency as legal tender entails large risks for financial and market integrity, financial stability and consumer protection.
  • Europol published a report debunking common myths on the criminal use of cryptocurrencies, confirming, for example, that the overall number and value of cryptocurrency transactions related to criminal activities still represent only a limited share of the criminal economy when compared to cash and other forms of transactions, and that most blockchains are publicly available, making transactions traceable.
  • The rise of digital art thefts in the NFT marketplace is the subject of this news report, with one artist describing the situation as “one huge mess of theft and fraud and inauthenticity”.
  • Vodafone announced that it will begin retiring its 3G network in 2023 as part of a network modernisation programme to improve the 4G and 5G experience for all customers.
  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Meta is building the world’s fastest artificial intelligence supercomputer as part of his plans to build a virtual metaverse – see this news report.
  • Jaguar Land Rover warned that it expects the global computer chip shortage to continue throughout this year but expects supplies to gradually improve.

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