Changing legal landscape - more questions than answers?

What if you crash your company–supplied car whilst using Google Glass to catch up on emails (as it directs you to your next destination)...

Who is liable if a delivery drone, carrying your vital supply of first edition paperbacks, crashes into a wall adjoining two properties because it may (or may not) have been affected by some as-yet unidentified electro-magnetic field?

BCS recently asked its members to comment on how they see the next five years in terms of the changing legal landscape - it could (read ‘will’) get ever more complex.

We posed a few questions and got a few answers, and a then a lot more questions.

Let’s get those top concerns out of the way first. They were (unsurprisingly) cloud computing (cited by 39 per cent or respondents), mobile technology (5 per cent), big data (23 per cent), security (18 per cent). Smaller concerns were wearable tech and smart machines, which garnered eight per cent each.

There were a number of commonly occurring themes: the storing and manipulation of personal data across legal jurisdictions being a huge one. Use of automated processes across jurisdictions and other geo-location issues were mentioned many times as a chief concern. The problem lies in determining liability for loss, unintentional sharing, divulgence of key data (including financial information) and personal information. What safeguards or recompense will an individual have against the ‘tick here to accept terms and conditions’ approach?

Another issue mentioned were the weak legislation covering the use of wearable tech - particularly HUD-style (heads-up display) systems, especially as even now 8 per cent of respondents said that they use augmented reality devices. For the record the hardware specifically name-checked was:

  • Google Glass;
  • Boeing’s HUD display system;
  • Go pro cameras with a helmet relay for quad-copter control;
  • Oculus Rift headsets for video game development.

However, as one person said: ‘Whether it’s mobile, cloud, wearable tech - data management is the hub issue - get this right, the rest become safer.’

The impacts of potential legal changes were largely seen as negative, although there could be some new opportunities. For example, to provide cyber-risk insurance, extending cover to include risk of legal breach. Open source software adoption may benefit with its strongly protective licences (e.g. GPL) and legislation around banking rules could create additional opportunities for enterprise data analysis companies.

Getting futuristic

We asked whether respondents thought augmented reality devices would have an impact on business. Yes, said 36 per cent, with 31 per cent saying no and an unsure third at 33 per cent.

Of those who felt that augmented reality would have an impact on business, the reasons given are along the lines of those we’ve seen develop as the smartphone and tablet markets have matured.

Like other consumer oriented computing devices, eventually they will become accepted by end users and offer opportunities for exploitation - whether for better or worse. New lines of business are already being created, and will continue to be, especially as these devices allow personalised presentation and interaction in the physical environment and potentially opportunities for increased productivity.

But be careful how you drive you driverless car...oh.

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About the author

Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

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