Digital News Bytes September 2021
Welcome to the September issue of our news bulletin highlighting recent noteworthy digital trends impacting the TMT sector.
UK ICO’s Childrens Online Code now in force – Inevitably, the devil will be in the detail of the implementation of the principles- based Code, particularly since those Information Society Service Providers coming within its ambit will need to determine the likelihood of access to their service by children. Hopefully, they will err on the side of caution.
FB launches Smart Glasses from its AR Reality Labs – For all the protections included by Facebook to try and limit misuse in public, is there still a potential risk of the misuse of personal data when using these glasses? Ray-Ban Stories collects email address and password of the users’ Facebook account, and additional data like how long a user spends taking videos can also be provided to Facebook. Facebook has said it would not access the media used by its smart-glasses customers without their consent, and neither will use the content of the photos or videos captured using the glasses and stored in the Facebook View app for personalizing ads. Given its track record on mishandling of customer data, Facebook has hopefully learned from the lessons of the past.
Ofcom’s review of net neutrality post Brexit – ISPs have long called for the ability to more effectively manage their traffic, through for example, differentiating more bandwidth-heavy services. Ofcom will, however, be mindful of the need to continue to comply with the Brexit terms agreed with the EU to access and distribute information and content, use and provide applications and services of their choice, subject to non-discriminatory, reasonable, transparent and proportionate network management.
UK ICO’s Childrens Online Code now in force – From 2 September 2021, the new Childrens Code will seek to protect minors under 18s from “online harms”. The Code provides guidance on safeguards for the online treatment of children’s personal data, under the auspices of the Information Commissioner and the UK GDPR. In advance of the Code’s implementation, social media companies have already been taking steps to improve the privacy of under 18s – such as, Instagram disabling targeted advertisements and restricting the ability of adults to message children, and YouTube automatically defaulting to private under 18 videos uploaded.
Whilst the introduction of the Code is to be welcomed, and will hopefully act as the impetus for global change to protect the online privacy of under 18s, age verification remains an area of concern. Measures proposed under the Code are potentially costly and open to further privacy abuse. Techniques which providers might use, include self-declaration, artificial intelligence, using third party age verification services and hard identifiers such as official photo ID. ICO is due to publish further guidance on this area.
FB launches Smart Glasses from its AR Reality Labs – Wearables are a growing consumer market, with increasing demand for everyday devices like fitness trackers and Smart watches. Smart glasses are not new, and some will remember the Google Glass, perhaps not favourably though given the backlash, not just on its clunky design, but also privacy concerns where glasses enabled the wearer to take photos of the world around. Facebook’s newly launched internet-enabled Smart glasses, Ray-Ban Stories, may look cooler – having collaborated with Ray-Ban – but privacy issues remain.
For what look at first glance like a standard pair of sunglasses, an impressive amount of functionality has been included (although not yet an AR experience) – two dual integrated 5MP cameras in the frames allow wearers to capture photos and video, listen to music or take phone calls and there is a Smart assistant. Facebook has been quick to allay privacy fears, stating that the glasses have been designed “with privacy in mind” – for example, a flashing LED light when recording up to a 30 second video/taking a photo, reasonably prominent cameras on the arms, wearer operation through pressing a button on the side of the glasses (short for up to 30 second burst video capture and longer for a photo), and there is a guide outlining how to use the glasses responsibly.
Ofcom’s review of net neutrality post Brexit
– Ofcom has issued a call for stakeholder and industry input for its review of the net neutrality rules. It doesn’t expect to publish its findings until next Spring 2022, and in the meantime, is casting its net widely to draw comment from ISPs, platforms, experts, users, and other interested organisations on the functioning of the net neutrality framework, relevant developments in technology and demand, and any issues and challenges that will support its understanding of the impact of the framework in practice.
Rules that were originally designed to ensure an “open” internet (implemented when the UK was part of the EU and now part of UK law) safeguard equal and nondiscriminatory treatment of traffic in the provision of internet access services and related end-users’ right, as well as guaranteeing the continued functioning of the internet ecosystem ss an engine of innovation. Ofcom’s review will focus on whether they will continue to have this effect over the next 5-10 years when existing and new technologies are continuing to evolve and develop, with services such as mobile 5G, cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT) offering new benefits to consumers and businesses and social changes in our online interaction.
And by way of postscript…. For those regular readers, as a follow-up to our July issue where we highlighted growing concerns with Outer Space’s long-term sustainability given increased commercial focus, Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, has announced the launch of a new company, Privateer, to “keep space safe and accessible to all humankind”. Is this Apple joining the “battle of the billionaires” or making a commitment to dealing with the ongoing issue of space debris, or both?