Internet, telecoms, and tech law predictions for 2022

Things I predict will happen in 2022:

  • Telecoms companies, Internet service providers, and device manufacturers will start to get to grips with new government security requirements, in some cases needing to make significant architectural changes to their networks, and the way they operate their services.

  • There will be a review of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, but there will be few, if any, significant changes. Debate around mandatory retention of communications data will continue.

  • The final implementation points of the UK/USA data access agreement, linked with the USA's CLOUD Act, will be resolved, but will have relatively little consequence for most telecoms operators in the UK.

  • We will see an increase in the rhetoric against online service providers and encryption, and a continuation of the ongoing "debate" over the Online Safety Bill, with more people trying to shoehorn their own particular concerns into draft legislation. The outcome - if there is one - will be a law which treats all online services providers as if they have the resources and complexities of Facebook, creating a significant barrier to entry/operation for smaller providers, and Free / open source projects.

  • The judicial review challenge against the government's delay in implementing the age verification / pornography provisions of Part 3 Digital Economy Act 2017 will either not succeed, or will prevail but to no consequence. Ongoing discussion about online age verification will lead to increasing numbers of people investigating VPNs, Tor, DNS proxies, and other privacy-preserving approaches.

  • There will be a reality check about "lawtech", with firms recognising that helping lawyers use the tools they already have more efficiently is a better investment than splashing out on a fancy new "AI-powered" platform.

  • Numerous law firms will claim to be the first law firm to be present in the "metaverse". Most will be a "virtual office" with a sign directing people to the firm's website.

Things I predict will not happen in 2022:

  • Major changes to the UK's data protection law. A desire to maintain adequacy will prevail over largely unsupported accusations about apparent problems with the UK's current framework.

  • will accept payment in cryptocurrency.

  • The National Gallery will be renamed the NFT Gallery, displaying only pictures of "stolen" apes.

  • A credible, non-financial, use case for blockchain.

  • The ePrivacy Regulation.

  • The year of the Linux desktop (for most people).