This Week's Techlaw News Round-up

ICO publishes beta version of AI toolkit, ICO publishes annual report, Ofcom consults on changing universal broadband service rules, Ofcom publishes strategy on managing UK airwaves and more in this week’s round-up of UK and EU techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.

UK law

ICO publishes beta version of AI toolkit

The ICO has published a new version of its AI toolkit. The toolkit contains risk statements to help organisations using AI to process personal data understand the risks to individuals’ information rights. It also provides suggestions on best practice organisational and technical measures that can be used to manage or mitigate the risks and demonstrate compliance with data protection law. The toolkit reflects the auditing framework developed by the ICO’s internal assurance and investigation teams. This framework sets out a clear methodology to audit AI applications and ensure that organisations process personal data in compliance with the law. If an organisation is using AI to process personal data, then by following this toolkit, the ICO says that they can have high assurance that they are complying with data protection legislation. The new beta version will involve testing the toolkit on live examples of AI systems that process personal data to see how practical and useful it is for organisations. The ICO says that it will continue to engage with stakeholders to help to produce a product that delivers real-world value for people working with AI. It plans to release the final version of the toolkit in December 2021.

ICO issues annual report

The ICO has also this week issued its latest annual report. It says that the pandemic changed the environment and its work. As it changed, so did its work. The ICO’s report says that it has been at the centre of the key issues that have had a real impact on individuals, from ensuring data protection considerations were built into contact tracing solutions to emphasising the value of transparency and documentation of government decision making. COVID-19 also prompted a transformation in the role of digital services. Peoples’ lives are now more digital than ever before, and the ICO’s work is now more often complex and high profile, and increasingly overlaps with other areas of regulation. It has built partnerships with other regulators and developed international relationships and influence.  The National Data Strategy sets out how the UK is well placed to reap the benefits data can bring in the coming years, both to the economy and to society. The ICO will be central to that work, encouraging innovation and ensuring that data is managed, protected, and respected to unlock its full impact. Most of all, it wants to continue to demonstrate that data protection is, at its core, about trusting that data will be used fairly and transparently.

Ofcom consults on changing universal broadband service rules

Ofcom has launched a consultation in which it proposes to modify its universal broadband service rules, to clarify how BT should provide quotes to customers who have applied to be connected under the scheme. It is proposing that where excess costs are very high, BT should inform customers of the total excess costs and gain agreement to cover these before delivering the connection. One or more customers in the local area can then cover all the excess costs of the build, including shared infrastructure. The consultation ends on 10 September 2021.

Ofcom publishes strategy on managing UK airwaves

Ofcom has published its strategy for how it will manage the UK’s airwaves over the next ten years, setting out how supporting innovation will be at the heart of its work in this area. Ofcom emphasises that people and businesses rely on wireless communications services every day and it is Ofcom’s job to manage this resource. Its new strategy focuses on supporting wireless innovation: including allowing certain airwaves to be used for innovation while their long-term use is still being decided; and influencing international standards and working with a wide range of organisations that could benefit from wireless services in the future. It also wants licensing to fit local and national services: looking at further ways to give organisations access to spectrum on a localised basis. This will benefit businesses like factories, remote farms and airports, which do not need to use spectrum across the whole UK, while still supporting larger services that need nationwide access, such as mobile. It will also promote spectrum sharing: encouraging users to share access to spectrum with others – including in higher frequencies – so it is used as efficiently as possible. New technology and better data can help support this – allowing wireless networks to be more resilient to interference from other users.

UK government publishes innovation strategy

The UK government has published its innovation strategy. It aims to boost private sector investment in R&D across the whole of the UK and create the right conditions for all businesses to innovate with confidence. The strategy outlines how the government will focus its efforts to support businesses and institutions at the cutting edge of innovation. In particular, the government plans to consult on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation and commission the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation, including looking whether there are a set of high-level guiding principles for regulation that may apply broadly to any sector of innovation.

CDEI publishes report on unlocking the value of data: Exploring the role of data intermediaries

The CDEI has published a paper on data intermediaries, which was commissioned by the DCMS. The paper explores the activity of existing intermediaries across different sectors and considers the role they could play in the future. It discusses the opportunities that data intermediaries present, including how they can empower individuals and businesses (eg by enabling individuals to control how data about them is used and for what purposes), and enable analysis (eg by facilitating data sharing in commercially-sensitive environments). It explores how data intermediaries can be leveraged in response to pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges, with a focus on three potential opportunities, including: facilitating preventative medicine; enabling better matching of workers with available jobs; and enabling the UK to meet its net zero targets. It considers seven types of data intermediaries, including: data trusts; data exchanges; personal information management systems; industrial data platforms; data custodians; data cooperatives; and trusted third parties.

EU law

European Parliament committee adopts new data governance rules

The Industry, Research and Energy Committee has adopted its position on the EU Data Governance Act (DGA), aimed at increasing trust in data sharing, create new EU rules on neutrality of data marketplaces and facilitate the reuse of certain data held by the public sector e.g. certain health, agricultural or environmental data, which were previously not available under the Open Data Directive. The Committee says that facilitating data sharing is also a precondition for unlocking the potential of AI and help start-ups and businesses develop an ecosystem based on EU standards and values. MEPs clarified the scope of the legislation especially regarding data intermediation services, to make sure that big tech companies are covered by the framework. Public sector bodies should avoid entering into agreements creating exclusive rights for the re-use of certain data, say MEPs, who propose to limit exclusive agreements to a period of 12 months, in an effort to make more data available to SMEs and start-ups. Sensitive public sector data may be transferred to third countries only where it benefits from a similar level of protection as in the EU. The Commission will declare if a third country provides such protection, via a delegated act, which allows Parliament to have a say on the decision. MEPs also say that member states should lay down penalties for infringements. To exploit the potential in the use of data made available voluntarily by informed consent or general interest, such as scientific research, healthcare, combating climate change or improving mobility, the legislation should set up pools of data on a voluntary registration scheme of ‘data altruism’ organisations recognised in the EU. 

European Commission launches consultation on web accessibility

The European Commission is consulting about a review of the Web Accessibility Directive. Since 23 June 2021, all public sector websites and mobile apps in the EU have had the legal obligation to be accessible to people with disabilities. The Commission now wishes to review the application of the Directive in practice. The consultation ends on 25 October 2021. The results of the consultation will feed into the review and will help improve the impact of the Directive on making public sector websites and mobile apps accessible. The findings of the review will be published in June 2022.

Published: 2021-07-23T12:00:00

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