What a Month that Was: March 2020

March 2020 is the month that we will all remember for Covid 19. It is sobering to recall that, like the First World War,  the fatal time appeared to start so relatively uneventfully. Here are a personal selection of the events of the month that are relevant to those involved in access to justice.

2 March

ABA Journal publishes the popular quick fire ’60 in 60’ final session of the ABA TechShow. It also published the accompanying slide deck covering such innovations as a sleep headphone eye mask to how to speed up your iPhone charging. Less fun, I assume, than if you were there but still diverting enough.

3 March

Report of Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisation’s digital check up programme. ‘Digital evolution is a long-term project – An ad hoc approach to digital change can lead to two kinds of problem: Small and firefighting: many ‘small and stuck’ charities are stuck in firefighting mode – they’re aware that lots of things need to be improved but find it hard to prioritise and shift to longer-term planning and investment; Unfocused dabbling: Some charities are stuck at the ‘dabbling’ stage – trying out a wide range of tools without committing to any strategic changes. This means digital remains a ‘nice to do’ rather than a core part of the way these organisations are run.’

Guardian interviews Professor Pali Hungin, head of the Changing Face of Medicine project, AI is necessary but not sufficient in medicine: ‘We cannot replace doctors with technology alone’.

5 March

Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI says ‘we are working to acquire all US mugshots from past 15 years’.It has already scraped billions of photos from the internet.

The Geek in Review broadcasts podcast about chatbots.

Daily Mail reports that FaceBook takes down more than 6.5bn fake accounts in 2019.

9 March

Australia’s Information commissioner sues Facebook of alleged privacy breach on 300,000 Australians.

11 March

US state of Vermont sues Clearview AI for breach of privacy – following class action in Illinois, New York and California. Its website continues to insist (as at 1 April) ’TESTED AND COMPLIANT Clearview AI helps law enforcement to accurately, reliably and lawfully identify criminal suspects, as well as the victims upon whom they prey. Clearview AI’s image search technology has been independently tested for accuracy and evaluated for legal compliance by nationally recognized authorities. It has achieved the highest standards of performance on every level.’

Singapore commits $11m to legal tech research programme.

Toronto based group, the Law and Design CoLab working with the Action Group on Access to Justice, uses 6 hour design sprint at the Law Society to find ‘new ways to create enthusiasm for bail reform’. ‘At this juncture in Ontario’s story of bail reform, the CoLab identified an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration, i.e. how might design, digital media, and marketing help build momentum for widely-agreed-upon reforms.’

12 March

‘Founder of the Internet’ Tim Berners-Lee calls for urgent action to make cyberspace safer for women and girls. Berners-Lee highlights three areas that need ‘urgent’ attention. First is the digital divide that keeps more than half of the world’s women offline, largely because it is too expensive, or they do not have access to the equipment or skills to use it. Second is online safety … more than half of young women have experienced violence online, including sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent. The vast majority believe the problem is getting worse …The third threat comes from badly designed artificial intelligence systems that repeat and exacerbate discrimination. ‘Many companies are working hard to tackle this discrimination. But unless they dedicate resources and diversify teams to mitigate bias, they risk expanding discrimination at a speed and scale never seen before’.

16 March

France fines Apple $1.23bn for unfair sales practices.

Veteran US court consultant John Greacen publishes report on ’18 ways counts should use technology to better serve their customers’.

18 March

Law Technology Now podcast on how lawyers should more engaged with legal technology and how to get started.

Legal Education Foundation (which funds this blog) publishes ‘Briefing: Coronavirus Bill, Courts and the Rule of Law’ which recommends safeguards and protections for cases shifted to virtual courts and tribunals – see  https://law-tech-a2j.org/odr/coronavirus-courts-and-legal-services/.

19 March

Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales announces that ‘The default position now in all jurisdictions must be that hearings should be conducted with one, more than one or all participants attending remotely.’

The Engine Room reports on Digital ID schemes – these ‘have the potential to either affirm or threaten a broad range of human rights. In order for civil society to advocate effectively around digital ID systems – and ensure that they uplift rather than tear down rights – we need a deep understanding of how communities are affected by these systems.’

Coronavirus Tech Handbook publishes as ‘a crowdsourced library for technologists, civic organisations, public and private institutions, researchers, and specialists of all kinds working on responses to the pandemic. It is an evolving resource with thousands of expert contributors.’

UK consumer advocate Martin Lewis puts out video on employment law at a time C19.

27 March

Lawyer Carolyn Elefant puts up praised two hour zoom presentation on law practice in the time of Covid.

30 March

Litigation Futures publishes Top Tips for remote hearings and meetings.

1 April

Law Society of England and Wales updates its list of Covid 19 advice.


The illustration is by Paul Nash

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