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Managing Partner, Juscutum Attorneys Association. Artem is actively involved in developing innovative law practice areas (legal security for business and IT-law). Attorney-at-law, member of the World IT Lawyers Association (Zurich, Switzerland)
All Goes Tech.
The End of the IT Law Era
IT Law no longer exists. The world is changing very fast. Only a couple years ago lots of articles appeared saying that the new legal practice has come. I personally compared the IT Law with a sleeping dragon in 2012. Now I see that the field of practice so much talked about is flying away.
There are no technologies just for the sake of technologies. Technologies have now penetrated into various fields of life to such an extent that they gave birth to new forms of social relationships, competences and jobs. The law fell apart right after the technologies. IT lawyers are still leading in technologies adoption support. However, this process has its flip side. Everyone tries to become an IT lawyer. It’s hard to work in any field and not to face the issue of technologies at least once. It is very careless for a lawyer not to know the legal status of a code. A lawyer may face these issues in the field of an agricultural holding company, in a drug store auxiliary or even in the middle of a divorce case. Lawyers cannot hide from technologies. If you are a lawyer and you have a smartphone, it means that you already know a few things about tech. And as IT Law penetrates into every field, the need for IT lawyers per se disappears. The “Confident computer user” characteristic is gradually vanishing from modern CVs and, in the same way, IT law becomes an obvious competence of a modern-day lawyer.
I formed some examples of the most interesting trends in new segments of technologies that give rise to some peculiar issues.
FINTECH is the oldest field. It is probably the ground zero of technologies. It is the veteran of tech-trends. There are conferences on it, plenty of start-up companies appear and serious financial institutions allocate considerable budgets for exploration of the fintech field. It all started with quite harmless cryptocurrencies and evolved into technologies for making payments. But fintech lives not only on transactions. The idea of financial credit documents and derivative financial instruments based on cryptotechnologies is gradually finding its way into it. Now affordable is starting to push aside classical ICO and elite IPO.
There is no sense in reviewing fintech as a whole, so here I will name just a couple of initiatives in this field that I find rather interesting.
Neat — mobile banking that provides various technological solutions as its feature:
— Biometric identity verification — facial recognition system (it’s enough to make a selfie with your smartphone to enter a personal account);
— The company has plans for applying artificial intelligence to processing the personal information of users. The application will evaluate various patterns of client behaviour and their geographical location and make personalized offers based on this information.
— Monetizing — cooperation with various brands is planned by providing them with information about the target audience.
Currency Cloud offers cross-border money transfers that are faster and cheaper than those that the banks offer, plus it offers a special software-application interface that can be built into the client’s websites, TCC Connect API (after the interface is built into a website, the company can receive payments or (if it is a bank) provide money transfer itself). Last year Sapphire Ventures and Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce giant, invested USD 18 billion in Currency Cloud.
Banking and finance lawyers were the first lawyers to feel fintech’s influence. It was sufficient to master the basics of national regulations before, but now it has become necessary to get familiar with different jurisdictions, their rules and also with the peculiar workings of process solutions. The technologies don’t care about state borders, they disdain conventional expertise of lawyers and make them retrain as specialists in international law with a basic technical education.
Health is the most valuable asset. It is the first thing to wish a person, and the rest will follow, as we say in Ukraine. The technologies have now followed and the result is medtech. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry has always been technologically advanced. But now it is a question not of drug production but of medical services. The following companies can be singled out here:
— Patients know best — the platform that keeps all medical charts in the cloud and is controlled only by patients. By using it a patient can show a doctor his/her complete medical records and, as the result, it promotes individual attention to healthcare.
— Zipline — drones that deliver donor blood and drugs to remote geographical areas. It works as any drone delivery.
— UMoove — software that allows any front camera device to watch its owner face and eyes. There are some neurological disorders that can be diagnosed via eye movement, so uMoove can turn many mobile devices, laptops and even video game consoles, into diagnostic devices.
— Tech Tats uses electroconductive ink to connect sensing devices that are pressed to the skin and monitor the vitals of an organism, which may include temperature, heart rate, etc. It’s a fitness tracker and a tattoo all in one. Over time any information can be added, such as credit card number, social insurance number, etc.
Actually, if you used any fitness tracker or filled in a form in some health application on your smartphone, you have already used medtech. Its most ambitious tasks lie in the field of patients’ personal data, medical malpractices and responsibility for the functioning of software. All in all, medtech gives lawyers a lot of headaches.
The sex industry has a turnover running into billions of dollars. It’s understandable that the technologies went after the money and lawyers followed. The industry is always teetering on the edge of criminal activity: what should and should not be allowed, the dissemination of pornography, nests of vice, rules for AppStore in case of mobile applications.
Only just recently the Svakom Siime Eye IoT vibrator was hacked (deliberately, for the sake of research). It has a camera on its tip enabling transfer of images to a computer, smartphone or tablet in real time via Wi-Fi. An interesting case happened in Geneva: the Fellatio café opened offering oral sex services performed by a robot alongside coffee. Sex work by a robot is legal but Swiss laws forbid combining it with food services.
OhMiBod Remote service for remote masturbation manipulations enjoyed success on Indiegogo in 2014, and it now offers a set of sex toys that can be controlled via a smartphone application (for example, a vibrator for a female partner).
Pure is a dating service, an application for iOS and Android for searching sexual partners “here and now” anonymously (according to the developers, it should be similar to calling a taxi online).
The most interesting cases in this industry are related to legislation on the safeguarding of morality. They are especially interesting in the face of the cross-border possibilities of technologies. Access to these services, [using] robots as the subjects of sex services and “assisting in debauchery” — all this stands on a fine line with criminal acts that lawyers try to save sex innovators from.
Technologies are in fashion now. Therefore, it’s quite consistent for the fashion industry to turn its attention to them. There are various fashiontech start-ups (mostly online shops with user-friendly features). I’d like to place greater focus of the following two.
1) Fits.me uses information about a client’s body and creates a 3D model of it to try clothes on online. The reviews of the project state that the clients were asked to send their photos during testing for better understanding of every client’s specific body type. A real world dummy has also been created that can be changed according to set parameters, which is a convenient solution for design companies. It is a robot that can make chest or shoulders broader or narrower, or make legs longer, etc.
2) EDITED is basically big data for the fashion industry. They create scanners of brands’ websites all over the world using machine learning and image recognition technologies, and create a huge databank. For example, you can drag the mouse over a dress and learn what shops and regions have it, in what size or colour etc., as the system already contains more than 330 million items of 90,000 trading brands all over the world. It is mostly used by the brands (such as GAP, ASOS and Target) themselves in order to keep track of their own products promotion and that of their competitors.
The main legal problem here is whether such a grand scale collection of information about goods of all these trade marks is legitimate. And, of course, there are still standard issues of legal backing for fashion projects.
There are several basic legal points that are to some extent present in all the start-ups mentioned:
— personal data gathering, its storage/distribution/other use — the technologies make gathering a huge amount of information about users/companies possible, plus it’s often necessary for the realization of the idea itself; the problem of security and privacy of such data is of great concern for a lawyer;
— AI responsibility — lots of projects use robots/other forms of AI performing certain actions in one way or another; this is both a legal challenge and opportunity at the same time;
— intellectual property issues as now they are basically a sort of weapon in the competitive fight for the market between companies;
There are lots of interesting technological solutions that simply can’t fit in the size of this article. Basically, you can take any word, add “tech” to it and with great probability you will have a real field. However, even this situation is temporary. Fusion with technologies is to become so obvious and mundane soon that there will be no need to specify the technology. A smartphone is now called just a phone because simple phones have almost disappeared, and you would probably be more specific talking about a push-button telephone to be understood by the person you are talking to. This trend is neither good nor bad for lawyers. It is a fact and it reminds us that lawyers should also change by following the world around. It is very unwise to remain constant in the modern-day world.