Predictions 2016: Late Invite and Some Thoughts

November 30, 2015

My series of invitations to experts in IT law and technology of relevance to lawyers went out a little late this year. But then it has been that sort of year – suffice it to say that I am looking forward to 2016.

And I am also looking forward to posting the predictions I already have, many of which are insightful and entertaining, and I look forward to reading those that I have yet to receive. There is still time to submit – a week until I draw the line on those that can appear in the magazine but you have 20 days if you don’t mind appearing online only. If you feel slighted by the fact that you are expert and haven’t invited to contribute then I apologise – as I say it, has been that sort of year – but one way to make sure that you are not overlooked again is to contribute this year.

The predictions supplied last year were presented as a series of blog posts and, taken together, were yet again the most read item on the site. This year, we are attempting to take Twitter into account and each prediction (even the very short ones) will be posted as an individual blog post with the chance to gauge popularity by counting retweets and analysis of comments.

You may recall all those ‘Back to the Future’ articles and blog posts in October. We are now into the Back to the Future future and perhaps can be allowed a little speculation about long-term changes as well as the expectations for 2016.

Feel free to look beyond the obvious IT issues and consider the issues that might arise from other forms of technological advance too. Life sciences, healthcare and robotics spring to mind but the interface between IT and other innovative technology is becoming increasingly complex.

I am looking for at least 50 words per person, but if you want to provide more, even lots more, that’s fine; some predictions might well make a short independent article.

Contributions will be displayed on the SCL Web site with full attribution, including contact details and description (which you may provide but please don’t make them too long). A series of Predictions blog postings will begin on 1 December. I hope to publish selections in the Dec/Jan issue of the magazine from those replying by 8 December (and that doesn’t give you long, so do it sooner rather than later). And try not to be as self-indulgent as I am below.

I notice that the early contributors are mainly focused on technology rather than IT law. I suppose that’s understandable – guessing the lottery results for the next six weeks is as nothing to the unpredictability of the contents of the data reform package (aka GDPR) due to be ‘finalised’ by three weeks on Thursday.


Reality will sink in. The European Commission will announce on 17 December that things have changed so much since the original proposals were put that the whole process will have to start again. As their spokesman will point out, the judgments of the Court of Justice have been raising all sorts of pesky issues and they can find nothing in the original draft that deals with them. Because of that, and the strongly held view that it would be undemocratic to just draft a new set of provisions to respond to new issues, the whole procedure has to start over. While it is important for any reform package to be technology neutral, the Commission will note that technology has changed society fundamentally, even in the time it has taken for the EU to try and agree reform, and the GDPR cannot be {i}society neutral{/i}. ‘Frankly’, says the spokesman (with the usual insincerity), ‘we have all been useless and we are very sorry’.

The new version will not take long. Theresa May will be appointed special EU Commissioner and will get it through in eight weeks.

{b}People are Data{/b}

The notorious definitional provision in the Investigatory Powers Bill, ‘data includes any information which is not data’, will be amended to clarify its true import; the phrase ‘at the whim of the Secretary of State, any person, living or dead, may be classified as data’ is added. This change causes a bit of a stink but we are assured that it is necessary for the purposes of national security – so that’s all right. After a consultation which involves ‘all relevant stakeholders’, but which actually only involves Facebook and Google, the words ‘at the whim of the Secretary of State’ are deleted. This satisfies all but the most awkward. After all, we have data protection legislation so we are all safe.

When the consultation papers are leaked in 2017, it turns out that Facebook and Google were confused by the proposal. They had always thought people were data.

A new Investigatory Powers Bill will be proposed early in 2017 when it transpires that GCHQ have acted wildly in breach of the last one. The new Bill is needed to make that behaviour legal.

{b}EU Referendum{/b}

The latter part of 2016 is taken up almost entirely by everyone involved in IT law trying to write client notes on what happens on Brexit. (The first part of 2016 was taken up with writing client notes on the GDPR, which might turn out to be a bit of a waste of time.) As a by-product, nobody has time to redraft or check contracts and there is a black market in fax machines because all notices under contracts drafted during 2016 are valid only if sent by fax.


The exciting plans for ODR will be shelved. Following on from the announcement that damages will no longer be available for soft tissue injuries (because of the fears of whiplash fraud), all causes of action for less than £5,000 will no longer be justiciable. As the Government will point out, if it’s only a claim for a couple of grand, it is really not worth the bother. Furthermore, the businesses which might have had to pay out under ODR or any other small claims procedure can be trusted to lower their prices for the general good.

{b}Social Media{/b}

It will be made illegal to use the phrase social media. It will be realised that the various applications that are normally lumped together in this phrase have so little in common that they might as well be called ‘thingys’. Moreover, it is widely acknowledged that most of these applications have become immensely anti-social and that they never really were media.

Facebook will lose its position as the leading anti-social thingy.