August 27, 2013

There are three main features of this outstanding issue. We have three articles on emerging trends that I hope will offer readers new insights. We have a series of articles focusing on the powers of governments to access data which offer contrasting views. We also have the usual mix of case reports and practitioner articles that are our bread and butter.

One of the best things about editing the magazine is that I frequently find that the articles clarify some uncertain area that I had meant to research. This issue offers enlightenment on virtual currencies, augmented reality and cybercrime. The former has been especially useful for me in that I had never understood why anybody bothered with Bitcoin in the first place and now, thanks to the authors of that article, I feel I have a glimmer of understanding, even if I remain slightly mystified about the motives of some (‘haven’t they anything better to do?’). With augmented reality, I did not even know the extent of my ignorance until I read Joanne Frears article – I enjoyed the learning and look forward to the rest of her promised series. I think most of us are aware of some of the dangers of cybercrime but I feel confident that Stewart James will still offer an eye-opener or two.

While avoiding arguments is a sound general policy, a good argument is a real pleasure, especially for a readership made up largely of lawyers. This issue has a good argument going about government access to data and I have enjoyed the exchange of views and am delighted that SCL can be seen as the right place to host robust debate. The width and range of legal powers of access may shock some; I feel it would not be so bad if those legal powers did actually set the limits. I am still clinging on to my first thoughts on the subject but the catalogue of breaches of its own rules by the US authorities make that harder by the day. I do think that Edward Snowden is a symbol of a healthy society for, while all governments will break the rules and justify the breaches on the grounds of national security, only a healthy society will throw up a whistle-blower acting (relatively) purely out of principle. But I am wary of a climate of fear in the US and here which is quite disproportionate to any real threat, and a new version of the military industrial complex that fosters that climate and prospers in it. The NSA is a very long way from being the Stasi, but the condition of liberty is eternal vigilance and one cannot help but be disturbed by what appears to be a conspiracy of neglect of liberty, and a concerted persecution of the vigilant.

I would like to celebrate our ‘bread and butter’ pieces too. I rarely admit to favourites but I found Rory Graham’s piece on public sector contracts especially illuminating. One of its most attractive features is that it admits that IT lawyers might carry some of the blame for the mess and suggests a way forward that requires greater intestinal fortitude from his colleagues. I would like to think that SCL might have a role here in encouraging its members ‘to be more robust in countering … public sector clients’ fears and resisting the temptation to deliver up a many-hundred page contract’. But with many insights elsewhere in the magazine, in case reports, on data protection and on the intricacies of exclusion clauses, the ‘bread and butter’ pieces are liberally coated in jam.

Let me close by reminding you that the magazine is available in an e-pub version for your tablet etc and that version includes ‘bonus tracks’ that were worthy of inclusion in the magazine but for which there was no space.