This week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

April 8, 2020

COVID-19 guidance for telecommunications infrastructure deployment in England published

The DCMS has published guidance for telecommunications infrastructure deployment in England. Among other things, it says that work to repair and maintain the telecommunications network must be allowed to continue at the current time. The guidance covers emergency access provision, agreements between landlords and telecommunications network providers, street-works and public health considerations.

Ofcom publishes new study of audiences’ expectations in the digital world

Ofcom has published a new study of audiences’ expectations in the digital world. It reveals broad support for broadcasting rules, which ensure audiences are protected while freedom of expression is upheld. The research also finds widespread agreement among audiences that society’s views around offence have shifted in recent years. There is also broad support for the role of regulation, and the role of broadcasters, in ensuring that content is appropriate and reflects audiences’ expectations. In particular, viewers and listeners said that rules to protect children from unsuitable content are essential. Rules around incitement of crime, disorder, hatred and abuse are very important. Discriminatory content against specific groups is more concerning than other offensive content, such as nudity and swearing, and should be prioritised. Audiences want access to clear information about content in programmes to make informed decisions. Pre-programme warnings are seen as important in mitigating potential offence by telling viewers what to expect; mistakes during live broadcasts are acceptable if they are genuine and unavoidable. People are worried about a lack of regulation on video-sharing platforms. Survey respondents felt that they were more likely to come across inappropriate or upsetting content accidentally on these sites, with rolling playlists, pop-ups, and unchecked user-generated content being cited as common concerns.

Payment Systems Regulator Annual Plan and Budget 2020/21 published

The Payment Systems Regulator has published its Annual Plan and Budget 2020/21. The aspects that may be of interest to tech lawyers include the following objectives: Pay.UK’s development of the New Payments Architecture delivers a resilient way of making digital payments that supports more competition and innovation, to the benefit of the people and organisations using the system; people can continue to access and use cash from the ATM networks where they want or need to in an increasingly digital world; the market for card-acquiring services works well, supported by effective competition; more is done to prevent authorised push payment scams and protect victims; and payment systems and markets are more competitive and/or deliver better outcomes for users; this includes tackling anti-competitive conduct, so that there is a credible deterrence against such behaviour.

Irish DPC issues guidance and report on cookies

The Irish Data Protection Commission has now published guidance on using cookies.

They had started examining thee use of cookies and similar technologies on a selection of websites across a range of sectors in August 2019. It chose popular websites operated by some of the most well-known organisations across these sectors. It also included controllers whose use of cookies had come to the attention of the DPC through complaints from members of the public, or through its own observations of how information about cookies and tracking technologies was presented, or appeared to be lacking, on those sites. The purpose of the sweep survey was to request information to allow the DPC to examine the deployment of such technologies and to establish how, and whether, organisations are complying with the law. In particular, the DPC wanted to examine how controllers obtain the consent of users for the use of cookies and other tracking technologies. It did not undertake a broader examination of the adtech industry or the real-time bidding advertising framework as these issues are the subject of separate inquiries by the DPC. Nevertheless, it was evident from the examination of the types of tracking technologies and cookies in use that advertising technology and tracking are core to the business models of many of the websites examined. 

EASA publishes first rules for safe drone operations in Europe’s cities

EASA has published an opinion on a high level regulatory framework for the use and control of drones in an urban environment, balancing the desire to maximise the commercial and convenience benefits of drones against the need to ensure the safety and privacy of citizens and the potential environmental impact on cities. The term “U-space” has been adopted to describe the management of unmanned aircraft traffic to ensure the safe interaction with other entities using the same space in any location, not just urban areas. The opinion, presented to the European Commission as a basis for future legislation, lays down the first building block for the establishment of the U-space in Europe. The initial scope is low level airspace, densely-populated urban airspace and locations close to an airport. EASA expects to expand the scope as the market develops and experience is gained. One example of the measures it proposes is a Common Information Service for exchange of essential information. This would offer U-space service providers, air navigation service providers and other participants in the U-space airspace access to the same traffic data and airspace restrictions. This will help drone operators to plan and execute their flights safely, knowing exactly where and when their drone is permitted to fly. EASA published a first set of draft content of acceptable means of compliance and guidance material to support drone operators and EU member states to comply with the new rules. 

EDPB publishes scope of upcoming guidance on data processing in the fight against COVID-19

During its 20th plenary session on 7 April, the European Data Protection Board assigned concrete mandates to its expert subgroups to develop guidance on several aspects of data processing in the fight against COVID-19. Guidance will be provided on the following two issues: geolocation and other tracing tools in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak – a mandate was given to the technology expert subgroup for leading this work; and processing of health data for research purposes in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak – a mandate was given to the compliance, e-government and health expert subgroup for leading this work. The EDPB decided to postpone the guidance work on teleworking tools and practices in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, for the time being.

ICO statement on investigating coronavirus scams

The ICO has published a statement on investigating coronavirus scams. It says that it is aware that a growing number of organisations using the public health emergency opportunistically to set up scams and contact vulnerable people using nuisance calls, unsolicited emails, and spam texts. In recent weeks it has seen an increase in complaints about nuisance marketing clearly aimed at preying on people’s fears and is prioritising such cases. It is ready to investigate any business taking advantage of the current pandemic. It reminds organisations that it may issue penalties under electronic marketing rules to individual company directors as well as their companies, with fines of up to £500,000. Where it finds evidence of fraud it is working closely with Action Fraud, Trading Standards, law enforcement and other relevant agencies.

Other news published on this week