8 Legal/Tech Issues for 2018

Blockchain (the technology behind Bitcoin) is in a hype phase. It has been touted as the solution to many issues around trust. To some extent blockchain is still a solution in search of a problem. Blockchain will, however, become an important technology, and perhaps during 2018 we will begin to see some practical uses.

CASL, Canada’s anti-spam legislation, has been under review. It is a horrible law where the cost / benefit ratio is way off. Most small businesses simply don’t have the resources to comply. And no matter how hard they try, larger businesses have a difficult time complying with all the technical and record keeping requirements. To me CASL is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly in a china shop. You may or may not kill the fly, but the collateral damage simply isn’t worth it. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology recently presented its report entitled Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation: Clarifications are in Order. The report recommends changes, but I fear the changes we will end up with won’t go far enough.

Mandatory breach notification under PIPEDA (the federal privacy legislation that governs in most provinces) should be in effect sometime in 2018. It will require mandatory notice to the privacy commissioner and/or possible victims when there is a serious privacy breach. It will also require entities to keep records of all privacy breaches, even if they are not reportable under the act’s thresholds.

Security and privacy breaches will continue to be a problem. Sometimes these occur because of intensive attacks, but sometimes they are caused by stupid decisions or errors. Authentication by passwords can work to reduce the risks if done right, but it is a very difficult thing to do right. Another solution is needed – might blockchain come to the rescue here?

We will continue to hear about security issues around the internet of things, or IOT. IOT devices can be a gateway to mayhem. IOT things include such disparate devices as thermostats, light switches, home appliances, door locks, and baby monitors. The problem is that far too often IOT device designers don’t design them with security in mind. That makes it easy for malfeasants to use these devices to break into whatever networks they are connected to.

Artificial Intelligence is now employed in many things we use – ranging from google translate to semi-autonomous cars. Voice controlled screen and non-screen interactions – which use AI – are on the rise. In the short term, AI will continue to creep in behind the scenes with things we interact with regularly. In the long term, it will have disruptive effects for many, including the legal profession.

Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies have moved from the geek phase to get more mainstream attention. Crypto-currencies will be ripe for fraud as more people dip their toes in. There has already been ICO (Initial Coin Offering) fraud. And “drive by currency mining” where software gets surreptitiously installed on PC’s and phones to mine currency.

Another thing to keep an eye on is whether people’s “freaky line” will move. That’s the line that people refuse to cross because of privacy concerns about their information. Will, for example, the advantages of the automated home (which combines IOT and AI) lead people to adopt it in spite of privacy and security concerns?


  1. Note that practical uses are well underway for blockchain tech. This is not far off from mainstream.

    Most people are familiar with bitcoin and wary of its somewhat anarchic roots, but Ripple is one blockchain tech backed by banking stalwarts… and it is already being used. This is news from November ( https://www.reuters.com/article/us-blockchain-amex-ripple/amex-launches-blockchain-based-business-payments-using-ripple-idUSKBN1DG1SX )

    “American Express said its FX International Payments (FXIP) business had partnered with Ripple to provide real-time, trackable non-card payments from the United States to Britain. Customers are already using the service, the companies said, and it would be extended in the future.

    This marks one of the first major uses of blockchain, a shared database of transactions maintained by a network of computers on the internet that is best known as the system underpinning bitcoin.”

  2. Yes, blockchain is being used. But (other than cryptocurrencies) arguably the uses so far have not been game-changing uses that live up to the transformative hype. I guess I should have said “more” rather than “some”.

  3. Great column, David. I especially agree on the emerging importance of blockchain and security.

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