The Law Cannot Keep Up With Technology, Can You?

With the new data protection law only set to take effect from 2018, Karen Holden wonders if you could be putting your business at risk...

The Law Cannot Keep Up With Technology, Can You?

Technology is big business for the UK and despite scary tales I believe following Brexit the UK will continue to thrive. London continues to be a hub of excitement for investment and advanced technology development.

So now the UK law must evolve to respond to these advances and changes in society and business, but we all know it’s not likely to keep up very easily. A perfect example is the current data protection law which is based on a piece of law from 1998. Whilst the law has recently been updated (2016) this will only take effect from 2018. As we all know technology is barely recognisable from 1998 and you have to wonder is it going to be out of date before its even implemented?

So, what faces business owners, investors and technology creators?

Artificial intelligence

Autonomous cars are a current topic for discussion , but pose a huge issue on liability. If an accident takes place – who is at fault, as the question as to who was actually in control of the car is now up for debate? Can the technology truly function to an extent it’s fully liable for itself?

A vast majority of traffic accidents are caused by distracted or poor driving so surely these systems will improve road safety, so why then are manufacturers , like General Motors staying quiet on this subject of liability . Whereas Volvo say they are clear “Our claim is that if the autonomous drive software was responsible for the accident we would take responsibility”. Then the question arises : Who and how would you prove it was the inventor given the complexities of the technology who could adequately challenge this?

California is currently testing driverless cars with a view to pushing these onto California’s roads. This would mean no human to override it should something go wrong. So the UK watches eagerly to monitor what happens when they take to the roads and accidents happen.

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR was once for gamers, but now businesses use this or charities to exhibit for simulating drink driving for example.

There are so many unforeseen or unknown risks that the law must try and plan for – such as what if someone is injured as a result of the software or becomes sick (nauseous and dizziness is a side effect) which is likely to be common (but presently cannot be excluded liability wise). What about in the case of Ronnie O Sullivan who fell over when playing virtual pool, who would be liable here for a broken arm? Who needs public liability?

Despite the legal position we do strongly advise that there are clear contracts between a company and their developer which will, among other provisions, (1) deal with ownership of intellectual property in the software, and (2) deal with liability. We also recommend that clear paperwork disclosing medical side effects and current medical status be explored with the recipients. That the company delivering and offering the VR secure adequate insurance.

The best practice for now would be to ensure there are clear contracts between all parties, and that everyone understands their positions on liability and every effort to advise people of any side effects or risks is made in advance.

Internet of things and moving things (IOT)

This is where wireless network connectivity, sensors and technology has been added to everyday objects. Taking it a leap forward is the Internet of Moving Things, which will go further and connect portable objects like mobile phones or cars.

The concept is to create an almighty infrastructural network, which will connect everything and everyone across the world. Feeding data and information to hubs where it can be used to everyone’s advantage.

In Milton Keynes a future smart city is currently piloting Internet of Things applications to support better public services for citizens. It is believed this could improve NHS health and social care provisions, efficiency and accountability by employing this technology.

But how will the law govern hacking, privacy, jurisdiction, liability and IP?

The UK cannot unilaterally create a standard policy and assume global consensus will be reached. Technology has no country boundary, and so consistency throughout different legal jurisdictions will no doubt be required. The more transparent and innovative the UK’s position on the legal infrastructure, will perhaps lead to greater confidence in the UK and attract companies and consumers.

The UK has always been sensitive in the area of personal data and privacy. The sheer detail of personal information, particularly locational and financial information, which is collected by existing technology, is vast and will increase. As already stated the 1998 legislation is only just now being updated, by time it is in force (if it comes into force in the UK), will it already be out of date?

The questions remains, how will the law adapt to virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and whatever comes next? The law is desperately trying to keep up and the legal landscape over the next few years will certainly be an exciting one.

As an innovative law firm we relish these challenges and hope to work as a pioneer to protect our clients in this exciting new world. Our bespoke and very specialist documents offer as much protection as one can seek in these uncertain legal times

Karen Holden is the founder of A City Law Firm

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