October 22, 2019

Legal solutions to our digital future

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As part of our involvement in the Bath Digital Festival, a few of our experts share their thoughts on some of the themes of the Festival and the rising impact of digital technology in our everyday lives.

1. Privacy by design - changing the mindset

by Charlotte Ebbutt

With the growth of digital technologies, more and more data is being used and shared across different platforms. Data is becoming the lifeblood of many businesses.

The benefits of this are well documented – new innovations, better user and customer experience – but there are downsides to match. The growth of such technology inevitably leads to concerns over privacy and an individual’s ability to control how their personal data is used and shared.

Technologies such as AI and Blockchain offer exciting opportunities and ways of using technology for new purposes, but regard must be had as to how such technology interacts with the legislative framework surrounding data protection. This is challenging, as the nature of such technologies presents inherent difficulties in the pathway to compliance. Legal frameworks have been put in place to try and address such concerns, but the rapid pace of technological advancement means that the regulations do not always keep apace with change. GDPR introduced the concept of ‘data protection by design and default’. This is nothing new, as privacy by design has long been part of data protection law, however it is now a legal requirement.

The need to address privacy and data protection in business activities and processes, right from the outset, should be a fundamental consideration for all businesses.

Charlotte is an Associate in our Commercial, Technology & Innovation team.

2. The need for humane tech

by Louise Hart

Envision hands have used technological advances to change the lives of children while benefiting the environment. Milk bottle tops, soft drinks tops and water-based tops are recycled by Envision hands who use 3-D printing to turn plastic waste into unique and colourful mechanical hands and arms for children around the world.

In Bristol the Hero Arm has been engineered and developed by Open Bionics. The Hero Arm provides multi grip functionality with a socket which is comfortable, adjustable and breathable. The Hero Arm is an affordable myoelectric prosthesis. Special sensors within the Hero Arm detect muscle movements which enable the bionic hand to be controlled effortlessly. The Hero Arm is light weight and available for children aged eight and above

In the future advances in prosthetic technology should enable prosthetics to have reduced size and weight as well as increased battery efficiency. It is likely that prosthetics will be developed which have an increased range of ankle motion which means that prosthetics will be suitable for higher levels of activity/impact. More waterproof designs are becoming available which will open up new opportunities for amputees.

Prosthetics are also being developed which are likely to have improved communication with the body with hard wiring to the nervous system, implanted sensors and external sensors.

Louise is a Partner in our Personal Injury team.

3. The drone experience

by Phil Banks-Welsh

Unquestionably drones offer up exciting technological opportunities. The positive applications of drones are almost limitless but the industry needs to face up to the challenges if the technology is going to be exploited to its fullest potential.

The imperatives are to develop a legislative framework that is capable of accommodating drones in our limited airspace, particularly in urban areas; to demonstrate the safety of drones through alignment with industry standards, and to continue to develop anti-drone technology to reassure society that the technology can be trusted.

As part of this process, the law will also need to evolve in the fields of privacy and GDPR, as well as in areas such as liability and insurance to deal with the radically different challenges that drone use on a large commercial scale will present. There are significant challenges ahead but the benefits of a properly co-ordinated and controlled unmanned aerial vehicle environment are potentially enormous and have the capacity to turn science fiction into reality.

Phil is a Partner and head of our Drones team.

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