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Alex Heshmaty

Alex Heshmaty is a legal copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in legal technology. He runs Legal Words, a legal copywriting agency based in Bristol.

The gig economy has garnered heavy criticism since it became an integral part of the world of work over the past decade or so. On the one hand it has been credited with providing flexible work for millions of people unable or unwilling to secure full time employment. On the other hand, it has been likened to a modern form of slavery, with the tech giants as the masters of an online version of Victorian workhouses.

Currently, each social media platform has its own set of policies regarding what kind of content can be published by its users. Since many politicians are now heavily reliant on these platforms to bolster their support and reach out to new voters, the ability for the big tech deities such as Zuckerberg to decide on the political discourse which can or can’t take place on their networks is highly significant for democracy. Facebook, Twitter et al, may claim to be agnostic platforms rather than publishers, but the reality is that they are de facto gatekeepers of political (and social) debate.

There have been a couple of interesting developments recently relating to apps on the Apple and Google app stores, both of which potentially threaten self regulation of these platforms.

Alex Heshmaty asks Belinda Lester, founder of Lionshead Law, and Annie Joseph, a trainee solicitor at a top 100 UK law firm, to consider some of the key opportunities and challenges that remote working poses for lawyers.

In the last issue of the Newsletter, I made a case for individual lawyers cutting back on use of social media. Let’s now consider some alternative marketing techniques to which firms’ social media budgets can be diverted, which may deliver more bang for the buck.

We previously reported on a controversial digital services tax (also known as the GAFA tax) which was implemented in France towards the end of 2019, which levies a 3 per cent tax on digital services gross revenue (as opposed to profits) made in France by companies with total worldwide revenues of more than €750 million – of which at least €25 million is generated in France. The aim is to close the tax loopholes which effectively allow large technology firms to avoid paying tax by basing their regional headquarters in tax havens.

It was recently announced that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to host the Secretariat of the new Global Partnership on AI (GPAI).

The GPAI consists of a collection of countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, UK and USA) along with the European Union. It aims to “guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.” The GPAI brings together experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia, to work across four broad themes:

Alex Heshmaty asks Joanne Frears, partner at Lionshead Law, and Will Richmond-Coggan, partner at Freeths, about the implications of various emergency measures being taken by the government in the fight against Covid-19 – many of which are enabled by technology.

The UK Government launched the NHS Test and Trace service on 28 May 2020 in England and Scotland, with Wales following on 1 June; Northern Ireland already has its own system. However, there is one glaring omission: the smartphone app.

2003 marked the dawn of mainstream social media, with MySpace and LinkedIn both launching the same year and Facebook hot on their heels in 2004. Since then, social media (or “social” for short) seems to have permeated every aspect of our culture and daily lives, simultaneously bringing people closer together and driving them further apart. Business has been using social media as a marketing tool ever since its inception and, although the legal sector was a late adopter, many lawyers are now regularly taking advantage of social media channels to promote themselves, find new clients, stay on top of trends and to recruit new talent. But do the benefits of staying connected outweigh the disadvantages?

There has been a lot of debate about the thorny issue of automated facial recognition in public spaces (see Internet Newsletter for Lawyers, October 2019). Much of the criticism has been levelled at the spectre of surveillance creep and the danger of creating a Big Brother state (which has arguably already happened in China with their social credit system).

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.