Updated: Dec 19, 2020
This has been quite an interesting few days, if you are interested in law and technology – and, of course, developing your commercial awareness. Here are just a couple of things that have been happening this week (week commencing 14th December 2020).
European Commission Proposals: Digital Markets Act & Digital Service Act
On 15th December 2020, the European Commission (EC) presented its proposals for regulating so-called ‘gatekeeper’ platforms. The driver for these proposals appears to be the view of the EC that it currently does not have sufficient anti-competitive tools in its kit bag in relation to the digital marketplace. The EC’s legislative proposals in relation to dealing with this are called the ‘Digital Markets Act’ (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA). So, what are the main proposals?
Well, the new legislative regime would, it seems, impose greater obligations on providers of digital platforms, including those in 'GAFA': Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. The DSA proposal would aim to beef up the legal framework for digital services, which has remained largely unchanged since the E-Commerce Directive of 2000. The DMA proposal would aim to deal with ‘digital gatekeepers’ – companies that control ‘core platform services’. Although the GAFA group were not specifically named in the proposals, it seems fairly clear that they would be regarded as being ‘gatekeepers’ under these proposals.
Some of the obligations that are being proposed include prohibiting companies from favouring their own services over those provided by third parties in certain circumstances. Further, the designated gatekeepers would be required to allow ‘end users’ to uninstall any pre-installed software applications on their core platform service. There will also be data-related obligations for gatekeepers. The proposals would also beef up the EC’s enforcement and sanctioning powers, and investigative powers to prevent the ‘tipping of markets’. The EC would also be extended powers to impose fines and penalties of a significant proportion an undertaking’s worldwide annual turnover.
This is, of course, just the first step in this long-awaited process. However, the EC was clearly setting out its stall, as EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton made clear:
”With today’s proposals, we are organizing our digital space for the next decades.”
Cyber Attacks: Information Commissioners Office announces collaboration with the Global Cyber Alliance
One consequence of the Covid-19 health situation in 2020 is that many more people than ever before have been, and are, working from home and generally spending time in ‘cyberspace’; this may, of course, be for work purposes, online shopping and banking, personal entertainment, among many other reasons. Of course, not everyone in that space has good intentions. With increased usage come, inevitably, increased threats.
On the 11th December 2020, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Global Cyber Alliance, a non-profit organisation dedicated to making the internet safer by reducing cyber risk. Why has this collaboration come about?
One reason is that the ICO’s own data shows an increase in reported ‘cyber-related incidents’ for the second quarter of 2020 of around 36%, compared to the same quarter of 2019. There has also been an increase in reported ‘data breaches’. Neither of these developments are, obviously, welcome. Retail and manufacturing are among the most affected sectors.
According to Steve Eckersley, the Director of Investigations of ICO
"With cyberattacks on the increase on a global scale, there needs to be a more collaborative approach to tackling them. We therefore look forward to expanding the range of agencies we already have arrangements with and working with the Global Cyber Alliance to share and exchange information to achieve our common goal to reduce UK cybercrime, reduce cyber risk and improve cyber security. The aim is to prevent these harmful attacks which impact not just the organisations they are targeted at, but the people whose personal data is compromised. We know from our trust and confidence work that cyber-attacks are the highest cause for privacy concern of UK residents."
Singapore law firm in collaboration against rising cyber attacks.
Collaborations against cyber threats appear to be ‘a thing’. According to ZDnet.com [ https://www.zdnet.com/article/singapore-law-firm-offers-integrated-cybersecurity-legal-assistance/ ], Singapore law firm Rajah & Tan has entered into a joint venture with a local cybersecurity service provider Resolvo Systems, following rising cyber attacks in Singapore and the region generally. According to the firm’s website , new threats have been emerging “from a surge in online activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.” In a statement issued on the 16th December 2020, the firm said:
“RTCyber [the name given to the joint venture] is uniquely placed to help clients protect, mitigate against cyber attacks, minimise disruptions from a security breach, and effectively deal with a breach incident."
And, according to ZD Net:
“Worldwide, 91% of enterprises reported an increase in cyber attacks as more employees are working from home amidst the coronavirus outbreak, revealed a survey by VMware Carbon Black. COVID-19-inspired malware saw the highest jump, with 92% of respondents noting an increase in such threats compared to typical volumes before the outbreak.”
Given the current uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation, it seems likely that this situation is not going to change any time soon.
(c) Cambridge Legal English Academy 2020