Letter from the Editor: Unpredictable

December 3, 2018

It is that time of year again. Predictions.

Of course the most important one, the one we’d all love to know the full and complete answer to is, at the time of writing, entirely unpredictable in its outcome. I speak inevitably and unfortunately of Brexit and the headline on the BBC website at this moment (30/11/2018 18.00) is “May not ruling out Second MPs’ Brexit vote”. So is it no deal, a compromise deal, an endless transition, a second referendum, a Red White and Blue one (remember that!) or even, dare I hope, a withdrawal of Article 50 altogether?

The only up side of all this is that it makes predicting what will happen in the tech law world seem comparatively straightforward: at the very least any developments are likely to be the product of reason and not the pure chance of politics (and fake news) in the social media age.

This conclusion is somewhat supported by a swift review of some of last year’s predictions (putting aside any concerning Brexit).

For example Gideon Shrazi of 4 Pump Court “Bitcoin prices will crash” It may have taken a while but they dropped 36% in November. Is that a crash or a correction? Too early to tell but the underlying message of volatility seemed to me spot on. He also predicted that “Uber will face the largest data protection fine ever”. Now we know that this is not strictly accurate but a £385,000 fine announced by the ICO in November is up there though it was of course pipped by Facebook maxing out at 500k (if their appeal fails – prediction?)

Anna Cook of Bristows, and SCL Trustee, also deserves an honourable mention for the following:

“I expect growing pressure on the technology giants to address public perceptions about their behaviour as corporate citizens, including the safety of their forums and the payment of tax. Although there is greater public awareness about how social media platforms can be manipulated, I do not expect much change to online behaviour in 2018.”

Spotting the contradiction that the bad press surrounding the giant technology corporations will not persuade people to change their now ingrained habits is uncannily accurate, slightly to my dismay. 

And I particularly liked Matthew Lavy’s (another Trustee) prescience and insight with his thoughts on AI:

“applications of AI will become more and more impressive and pervasive (and more and more applications of good old-fashioned statistics will be marketed as AI)”

It does seem that AI is everywhere partly perhaps because not all the solutions proffered as such really deserve the tag, even though they may still be helpful in practice. 

So predicting what will happen in 2019 is not necessarily the fruitless task that reason suggests and we are now open to receiving your thoughts now.

To mix things up a bit this year we will accept submissions in any format: text, image, cartoon, infographic, audio or video*. We will then publish them on whatever channel is suitable so it could be scl.org, our YouTube channel, as a podcast or in the next issue of the magazine (or a combination of any of them). If written, they can be short or long but I’d suggest that any video or audio submissions are kept reasonably short. 

Remember too that predictions are welcome from all, whatever your experience: it is not by invite only and they can tackle any topic that you have something to say about. By way of inspiration I suggest you read Marion Oswald’s utterly inspired contribution from last year demonstrating that any approach is acceptable.

To get things started I’ll lay down the gauntlet with a few short predictions of my own:

  • the UK will not dare depart from EU data protection and privacy standards regardless of what kind of Brexit we have
  • the ICO will issue a 4% of turnover penalty
  • blockwashing will be one of the words of the year but the sceptical tone in its usage will mask some steady, but probably boring, progress in the use of the technology
  • a major social media network will trial an ad free paid for subscription option
  • quantum computing will be disturbingly close to changing everything
  • finally a hope more than a prediction. The Google Maps will learn that I do not want to be prompted to allow location settings – I have location services turned off for a reason.

I’ll mark my own work at the end of the year and forgive me if, in my ignorance, any of my predictions have already been superseded by events. If that is the case that what better way to let me know than by sending in your own.

How to submit your contribution

Email me at david.chaplin@scl.org. If sending a video or audio file and it is too big to attach, send some form of sharing / download link instead.

* I will endeavour to do something on those lines myself in the coming week