Trends and problems in internet & IP law

Guest post from Gannons, a specialist law firm for business offering commercial legal advice for entrepreneurs, shareholders, directors and employers.

Social media brought vast changes to the online world not only for the users but perhaps primarily to those who need to shape the law to ensure that sufficient safeguards against personal data misuse exist.

Although, the law has not yet been settled and well-tested there is very little time to do so. The dynamic growth and implementation of new technologies and solutions in the online sector has been booming and is heading towards its peak.

Popularisation of cloud services brings the Internet user experience onto a new level and puts more challenges on policy makers and data protection activists. Shift towards e-money also requires careful attention from governmental institutions and poses some unique multi-level problems associated with data privacy, anti-money laundering and fraud.

In this article we will discuss a number of existing and potential future legal challenges that the law is facing due to rapid progression in the Information Technology industries.

Social Networks

Development and popularisation of social networking websites such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter or Bebo have brought some unique problems in different areas of law. There are a number of concerns regarding potential risks of stalking, identity theft, fraud, employment, sexual abuse and data privacy. To a large extent the above mentioned risks are dependent on individual user’s willingness to participate in the social networking websites and the amount of personal data that the user is prepared to share with other members of these online communities.

Fraud and ID Theft

Personal profiles of users on many social networking websites allow fraudsters to easily analyse individuals and build their profiles. The data makes it easy then to obtain further more sensitive details such as national insurance numbers and in severe cases banking details.

Another issues arises in relation to hacked accounts. Many celebrities have had their Twitter accounts hacked and abusive information posted. Hacking in this context poses severe threat and can result not only in identity theft but potential damage to one’s reputation.

Data Security

In modern times dominated by computers and the Internet data is the gold. It allows companies to analyse users’ behaviours, habits and preferences in relation to a number of different areas of their lives from their personality type through shopping patterns to financial status and political views. Naturally, such information is one of the most valuable assets for private commercial ventures that want to target specific audiences with the best matches for their individual personalities. There have already been a number of investigations launched in relation to Facebook’s policies over data collection and retention. It has been observed that Facebook makes it difficult for users to drop out of the service and delete account. In addition, Facebook’s policy regarding data storage specifically stipulated that the company reserved the right to retain user’s details even after their account had been deleted. Furthermore, the same policy accepted by users stated that Facebook could freely trade the information with other third parties.

E-money

On 19 September 2011, Google announced the release of its new tool – Google Wallet. E-money is definitely going to be growing rapidly now. Some banks have already invested heavily in transition of their current IT systems. Barclays Bank plc has released its brand new iPhone application Pingit which allows users to transfer money from their banks accounts using their telephone numbers that are associated with their bank accounts.

The current regulatory regime is based on the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 and the Payment Services Regulations 2009. Both of the instruments are relatively new and have not been thoroughly tested, yet new changes have already been announced to meet the demands of new technologies.

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