Editorial December 2017/January 2018

December 30, 2017


I cannot think of many better years for SCL. It’s
true that there have been years with high-profile IFCLA Conferences and agenda
setting SCL Lectures but 2017 has had a mix that appealed to me enormously. And
much of this was reflected in the magazine

In the course of this year’s issues, we have had
blockchain explained, AI implications puzzled over and smart cities explored.
Plus we have seen GDPR and its interpretation and impact thoroughly examined,
though, like a newly discovered continent, I suspect much terra incognita
remains to give further delight; the brand new Article 29 Working Party
guidance on consent looks like a bundle of fun. We have had one issue dominated
by the two of the star SCL events – the Online Courts Hackathon and the SCL
Conference on Real Business for Lawyers; the Hackathon was especially memorable
for me, with so many bright young people applying a mix of tech knowledge and
social insight and giving me a hope for the UK’s future. We can even boast that
Neil Brown’s article on Sextech: Sticky Legal Issues provoked a special event
on the many related issues – and by all accounts it was a memorable occasion.


We close the year, as has become something of a
tradition, with sets of predictions – some very serious and some light-hearted,
but all worthy of your attention. I am usually tempted to share my own views at
this time – and this year is no different.

There is not as much doom and gloom about Brexit as
I expected among this year’s predictions. As I stated in my Editorial for the
June/July 2016 issue, I was dreading a leave vote but ‘don’t actually think
that the consequence of ruin and degradation that has been outlined is very
credible’. To be fair, I think it is marginally more credible now, but the
smart money is on a very gradual relative decline, with some things getting
better less quickly than they might have if the vote had gone the other way.
There must though be a real chance of some very nasty blame games, making a The Apprentice boardroom argument look
like a tea party, which will dominate politics, cause social division on an
even greater scale than now and throw a shadow over every commercial activity
including tech and innovation. Let’s hope not.

One recent development that is a Brexit-positive is
the supine approach of the EU Commission to the Privacy Shield. It is a
transparently cosmetic arrangement but, luckily for post-Brexit UK, the EU
Commission refuses to call for the inches of slap to be removed. One can only
hope that, notwithstanding the likely wishy-washy amendments to the
Investigatory Powers Act 2016 that will aim to make data retention policies
compliant with EU law (and come up short), the Commission takes an equally
‘practical’ view of the UK’s adequacy once it becomes a fully–fledged third

I make one prediction with greater certainty: by
the time, the next set of predictions is published in this magazine, it will
have a new editor.


One of the most exciting SCL events of 2018 is
likely to be the Student Tech Law Challenge in February. I much regret the fact
that I shall be abroad and am unable to enter (though there may be other
technical disqualifications too). Teams of two will get to live a day in the
life of a tech lawyer. I applaud the pursuit of verisimilitude as I note that
it is listed as an all-day event, presumably reflecting the fact that they are
still expected to be working at midnight. If you are reading this as an SCL
member, you probably don’t qualify to enter for the challenge any more than I
do but you probably know someone who should enter. So tell them about it – and
tell them to get their entry in quickly.