Techlaw News Round-Up

September 19, 2019

Automation and the future of work report published

The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee has published its report on automation and the future of work. It calls on the UK government to issue a UK robot and AI strategy by the end of 2020. The report outlines a series of measures which could be introduced as part of this strategy, to help support businesses, industries, and universities and boost the adoption of automation. The report finds against a ‘robot tax’, believing that such a tax would discourage take up of automation and that it would not be in the interest of businesses or workers in the UK. The report recommends the government makes proposals in the next budget for a new tax incentive designed to encourage investment in new technology, such as automation and robotics. Finally, the report agrees with the CIPD that a four-day week is feasible, but not currently practical.

EIOPA establishes Consultative Expert Group on Digital Ethics in Insurance

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority has established a Consultative Expert Group to assist it in the development of digital responsibility principles in insurance. Previously it carried out a thematic review which concluded that there are many opportunities arising from big data analytics and digitalisation more broadly, but also some risks that need to be further addressed. For this reason, the digital responsibility principles will address the use of new business models, technologies and data sources in insurance from the perspective of fairness and taking into account ethical considerations. Specific focus will be given to pricing and underwriting, due to their specific importance in the insurance sector. EIOPA has confirmed the composition of its Consultative Expert Group on its website and states that its first meeting will take place on 8 October 2019.

EU issues guidelines on ethics in artificial intelligence

The EU published guidelines on ethics in AI in April 2019, and the European Commission will soon put forward further legislative proposals for a coordinated European approach to the human and ethical implications of AI. Against this background, the EU has published a paper to shed some light on the ethical rules that are now recommended when designing, developing, deploying, implementing or using AI products and services in the EU. Furthermore, it identifies some implementation challenges and presents possible further EU action ranging from soft law guidance to standardisation to legislation in the field of ethics and AI. There are calls to clarify the EU guidelines, fostering the adoption of ethical standards and adopting legally binding instruments to set common rules on transparency and common requirements for fundamental rights impact assessments, and to provide an adequate legal framework for face recognition technology. Finally, the paper gives an overview of the main ethical frameworks for AI under development in third countries including the USA and China.

House of Commons Select Committee publishes report on rural broadband

The House of Common Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has published a report highlighting the continuing digital divide between urban and rural areas. Poor connectivity continues to hinder rural businesses and is preventing people from engaging with online public services the rest of the country take for granted. The UK government has recognised that connectivity must be treated as a utility with its introduction of the broadband Universal Service Obligation and has outlined a commitment to ensure the divide between urban and rural areas is not exacerbated through various funding initiatives. However, given the continued challenges posed to rural businesses and communities, the Committee is not confident that the government has fully grasped the extent of the problem, the scale of the challenge, or the wider cost of poor connectivity for the rural economy. The report recommends a “rural roaming” solution is needed to tackle partial “not-spots” in mobile coverage in the absence of a forthcoming agreement between government and mobile network operators.

ICC calls on World Trade Organization members to permanently prohibit the imposition of tariffs on cross-border data flows

ICC has called on WTO members to permanently prohibit the imposition of tariffs on cross-border data flows. It articulates concerns following recent indications by some countries of a desire to lift the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions. The moratorium has been in place since 1998. Since then, the world has seen unprecedented growth in digital trade, with the moratorium preventing the creation of trade barriers and customs duties or tariffs. As a result, consumers have gained unprecedented access to new products and services, and businesses globally, particularly micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, have gained access to new markets. In recent months, however, three countries have said that they wish to break from the practice of extending the moratorium. The report explores the economic disruption that will inevitably occur if the moratorium is lifted. It also highlights that benefits to countries from tariff revenue on electronic transmissions will be vastly outweighed by the disruptions to business and economic losses that would result. In addition, the report considers the technical difficulty of implementing customs duties on the cross-border flow of data and the risk of creating unnecessary fragmentation to the global trading system.

NCSC issues report on cyber threat to universities

The NCSC has published a report assessing the current cyber security threat to universities. The key threats are criminals seeking financial gain; and nation states looking to steal personal data and intellectual property, for strategic advantage. The kinds of data and information of interest to a nation state may be: emails; bulk personal information on staff and students; technical resources (e.g. documentation and standards) and sensitive research and intellectual property. Sensitive research may be targeted for its defence or commercial value, and its loss is likely the most detrimental of all to both the affected university and to the UK as a whole. While the methods employed by cyber criminals are constantly evolving, the NCSC assesses that spear-phishing and social engineering are highly likely to remain the main attack vectors. Ransomware is likely to be the greatest single cause of disruption to staff, students and the universities themselves.

Number of Privacy Shield certified companies reaches 5,000

The US Secretary of Commerce has announced that more than 5,000 companies are now actively certified under the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework. These companies, approximately 70% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises, rely on the Privacy Shield program for transfers of personal data from the EU to the US in accordance with the GDPR. In addition, in a joint meeting, the EU and US reviewed the operation of the Privacy Shield, which covered all aspects of the functioning of the Privacy Shield Framework from its administration and enforcement to broader U.S. legal developments regarding matters related to commercial data protection and national security data access. The European Commission plans to publish a report on the functioning of the Privacy Shield.