The tech industry is constantly innovating and creating. While it sometimes lags and runs into technical difficulties, it is generally an industry that keeps an impressive level of forward momentum.

Even so, the tech industry is not above the law. As such, it is absolutely crucial that tech companies are aware of recent laws as well as keep an eye on likely upcoming laws so they can anticipate and adapt to the changes.

While a comprehensive list of every law that touches the tech industry would be a dense and heavy read, here we will take a look at some of the most prominent and recent rulings as well as recent cases that are likely to lead to legislation soon.

Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act

In recent years, there have been a number of debates over accessing data of individuals by the government. The incident that eventually led to this law took place in a 2013 drug trafficking investigation.

The problem arose when the FBI ran into the hurdle of an inability to access evidence. This evidence was the emails of a United States citizen whose emails were stored on a Microsoft server located in Ireland. Microsoft refused to hand the data over, arguing that there were no laws that required them to hand over data stored outside the United States. This led to a Supreme Court battle. Before Microsoft’s lawyers could win or lose the case, though, the case was withdrawn with the creation of this law.

The end result was the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act or Cloud Act. This law allows law enforcement officials on a federal level use a warrant or subpoena to force US-based tech companies to hand over related data even if it is stored outside of the country.

Shortly after this law passed, the European Commission proposed similar laws referencing law enforcement gaining access to so-called “e-evidence”.

Potential Similar Laws to the Cloud Act

Another very well-known case in privacy was when the FBI wanted to access the iPhone of the mass murderer in San Bernardino in 2016. Much like Microsoft in the 2013 case, Apple argued against this. Their argument was that they promised their customers privacy and by writing software to unlock an iPhone, they were violating every customer’s privacy.

This case was never officially resolved. The argument continued and only died off when the FBI found a third party to unlock the phone.

This incident, though, has led to several proposals of laws. The most notable of these laws was a bill that was proposed in the Senate that would criminalize intentional concealing of information.

Bills like these are particularly concerning to technology built on anonymity such as certain cryptocurrencies.

laws impacting the tech industry

Virginia Tech by MUTI

Communication Decency Act Section 203 Amendment

The amendment to Section 203 of the Communication Decency Act was finally backed by major internet companies in a 2017 compromise. There are, however, some tech companies that still oppose this version of the amendment. This compromise was made to reduce the amount of online sex trafficking.

Why would large tech companies oppose a bill that reduces online sex trafficking, though?

The worry for tech companies is that an amendment such as this would make them liable for every user’s post on their platforms. In other words, tech companies don’t want to be punished along with the individual. Because of this, legislators trying to work with tech companies try to use language that reduces liability of tech companies for incidents such as these.

Upcoming Legislation on Driverless Cars

You might recall a case not to long ago in which a woman was struck and killed by one of Uber’s driverless cars. In this case, it was found that an Uber employee who was supposed to be working as a failsafe for the car failed to respond to the issue in time.

While this case didn’t lead to any legislation directly, it did bring the issue up. After all, if driverless cars pose such a risk to pedestrians and potentially other drivers, they need to be regulated in the eyes of the law.

As of right now, these laws are being discussed but aren’t in practice just yet. However, it is safe to assume that future regulations will change the path that companies such as Uber and Tesla are on to create driverless cars.


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