SCL Policy Forum 2009: After the Crunch

August 17, 2009

The focus on the crunch and the recession has been on financial issues; that’s hardly surprising. But the recession may be gone sooner than we think and even the most learned IT law experts are not best placed to tell you about it anyway. So why is the SCL Policy Forum 2009 focusing on such issues? 

The recession may be short-lived (by the standards of the tortoise at least) but some changes in social attitudes that have accompanied the crunch may be longer lasting. It is the knock-on effects of those changes that are the focus of the forthcoming SCL Policy Forum. Changes in social attitudes may lead to major changes in the legal and regulatory framework. Will we see more emphasis on social responsibility and a slide away from the focus on profit and expansion? Will the deeply embedded distrust of bankers and all aspects of financial services see an intrusive and focused supervision that is technologically based? Might we see regulatory regimes having to accept limitations arising from their cost and the possibly repressive effects on the economy of any unnecessary restrictions? 

Since information and communication technologies are at the heart of all modern business and governmental activity, it follows that changes in legislative or regulatory approaches will inevitably address the use and workings of those technologies. The Policy Forum will explore the directions in which law and regulation might change, and attempt to identify the likely effects on technology users and subjects. 

The SCL Policy Forum is a leading opinion forming event, not least because its open structure encourages open mindedness. The Forum is taking a characteristically long view. Forget about the immediate effects of the crunch (for a day or two at least). This is blue-sky thinking in its true sense – looking beyond the storm clouds and addressing a climate which is more positive, but with recollections of recent storms only too fresh in the mind. 

The Forum includes sessions on ‘From profit to probity – new directions for computer and communications law’, on information regulation for finance and content, the new information risks, data sharing and privacy as a common good. A keynote presentation from Mark Turner on ‘A written constitution for the new information age’ is particularly intriguing.  

The Forum is chaired by Professor Chris Reed and Dr Judith Rauhofer. Day 1 is devoted to ‘How the legislative and regulatory agenda might change’ and Day 2 is ‘The new age of information privacy?’. With 23 speakers confirmed, it is impossible to do more than pick out two sessions that I find personally intriguing. Alistair Brett from The Times and Professor Ian Walden from Queen Mary London are the speakers on content liability and responsibility in one of the sessions on ‘New directions for information regulation’; I think that is likely to produce some insightful exchanges. On Day 2 Andrew Charlesworth from the University of Bristol, Iain Bourne from the ICO, Ian Brown from the Oxford Internet Institute, Rosemary Jay from Pinsent Masons and Christopher Kuner from Hunton & Williams are the panelists on a session entitled ‘Whither the EU data protection regime?’ – that is a truly stellar line-up and I think it will be a tricky session for anyone interested in data protection issues to miss. 

Full details of the speakers and sessions are available elsewhere on the site.

Although most of the places at the SCL forum are invitation-only, a handful of places are available to SCL members and others interested in the topics. Attendance on both days costs £400 plus VAT for SCL members and can be booked online. Attendance at just one of the days costs an SCL member £250 plus VAT but cannot be booked online.