Advice from the MD of Inpractice UK on coping with the current crisis, with insights from several other PMS suppliers.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt by all of us to varying degrees. People should work from home if they can but that may not be possible yet for everyone in your practice. As many of you will be doing this already, there is advice here to help refine that experience. Also, on the different set of challenges that everyone will face now to maintain a healthy working environment for people not used to working from home in relative isolation.

On 3 March 2020 the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, made a written ministerial statement welcoming the report of the Law Commission on Electronic Execution of Documents (Law Com No 386). That report concludes that there is no need for formal primary legislation to reinforce the legal validity of electronic signatures on documents, and that the existing framework makes clear that businesses and individuals can feel confident in using e-signatures in commercial transactions. This is consistent with guidance given by the Law Society on 21 July 2016 and established practice, and supported by case law.

Can technology improve our health and transform healthcare? A whole panoply of tech companies are working on a range of products and services which aim to answer these questions in the affirmative. The burgeoning industry which has been dubbed “medtech” has already led to some fascinating (and controversial) partnerships, perhaps most notably involving Google Deepmind being granted access to NHS patient data. It has been estimated that the medical device and technology sector could be worth around $500 billion to the global economy by 2021. But despite the potential for healthy growth, there are also many concerns associated with medtech, not least in terms of data protection. These are discussed below, including a section on how health data is being used in the fight against coronavirus.

The dreaded Covid-19 is causing panic, and as digital marketers, we may be facing leaner times as our businesses are putting a laser focus on profitability, and ensuring every cost gives the great return on investment.

Businesses are looking more carefully at budgets, making sure we can squeeze every penny of profit out of our investments, and looking for the most cost-effective ways of delivering our products and services.

Marketing budgets may appear to be a soft target for businesses looking to make budget cuts. But a cut in marketing activity is a short term fix that is sure to have long term consequences. Maintaining visibility in your market is essential for long term profitability and continued investment.

And our customers are also watching the pennies, but they are still spending money. They may be spending less, but we need to figure out what they’re spending their money on. And they don’t want to risk wasting a penny. They want to buy the right products, from companies they can trust.

Increasingly, the information we need and use every day is stored, accessed and controlled online.

We have become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of being able to access significant swathes of information about ourselves, our business and the world at the tap of a button.

Many of us accept that such convenience comes at a cost, with some platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube primarily being funded by advertisers.

We understand that, in order to provide a free service, we must endure some form of targeted advertising, assuming this is just the same as old fashioned TV or bus stop advertising, albeit in a different form.

Every day we volunteer information about ourselves, whether by completing an online enquiry form, subscribing to social media platforms or simply by opening an app on our phone.

But do we really know what happens to the information we share? Do we actually know what information we may be inadvertently revealing to others when we log on?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent 25 March and is at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/7.

The Law Society’s Coronavirus advice and updates are here.

The Bar Council’s Coronavirus advice and updates are here.

The government recently indicated a willingness to diverge from EU regulations post-Brexit. Perhaps one of the more significant moves in this direction is the announcement by Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore that the UK will not implement the controversial EU Copyright Directive.

It was recently reported that the European Commission (EC) was considering a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public places. A draft white paper on artificial intelligence had reportedly stated that the “use of facial recognition technology by private or public actors in public spaces would be prohibited for a definite period (eg three to five years) during which a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed”.

To launch a new edition of a legal textbook in the very month that the UK is about to leave the EU – let alone a book focused on the internet at the height of the techlash – may seem a little reckless.

Or perhaps not. Internet law stays still for hardly a moment anyway. The couple of months since the 5th edition of Internet Law and Regulation went to press have already seen two domestic High Court decisions, one CJEU judgment and an Advocate General Opinion all on copyright communication to the public; not to mention three CJEU Advocate General Opinions on government powers to mandate communications data retention for law enforcement and security. As I write, regulations have been laid to implement the UK-US Agreement facilitating cross border data and interception requests direct to online service providers. A textbook in this field is inevitably a snapshot of a rapidly changing landscape.

Public Information Online (PIO) at publicinformationonline.com is an online database provided by Dandy Booksellers, who are well established suppliers of official government print publications. The PIO database collects and provides access to digitised parliamentary papers going back for more than a century.

“I read it on the internet” has become a phrase which often generates mockery and epitomises gullibility or naivety about the online world. In the 1950s science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon proclaimed that “ninety percent of everything is crud” which came to be known as Sturgeon’s Law. One can only speculate as to how Sturgeon may have adapted the percentage value of his law had he lived in the age of cat memes and online trolls.

In August 2015, a British journalist and cameraman were travelling in Turkey, making a documentary for Vice News. As is often the case, they were working with a local agent, a “fixer” who was responsible for getting them access to the locations and subjects they wanted to include in their documentary. All three were arrested and, in September 2015, charged with deliberately aiding an armed organisation. The primary justification for the charge was reported to be the presence of sophisticated encryption software on the devices of the fixer, of a type alleged to be commonly used by terrorists.