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Does the law need to develop faster to keep up with changes in technology?

From Apple watches to Google driverless cars, exciting new technologies are being developed at an astonishing rate. Technology has evolved so rapidly over the past few decades that it is little surprise the law has struggled to advance at the same pace. However, the fact that a new law is not passed every time a new kind of technology is invented does not render the law meaningless or unworkable.

The UK's legal system, founded on common law, is better placed than civil law jurisdictions to keep on top of changes in technology, as judges can interpret legislation on a case by case basis. An example of this is the recent Uber case where the High Court interpreted the relevant statute in a way that meant the popular app could be declared legal, thereby not thwarting the new technology.

Legislators are also constantly trying to advance and adapt to modern day society. This has been demonstrated by the impending General Data Protection Regulation, which is set to replace the Data Protection Act 1998 following recognition that a data protection regime created 17 years ago is no longer sufficient.

Therefore, whilst it is not feasible for the law to keep moving at exactly the same pace as technology, it is also not always strictly necessary. As long as the law is regularly reviewed and tweaked to remain relevant in modern society, much of what is being developed can still be covered under existing legal obligations and remedies.  

A perhaps more pressing issue is the fact that technology has made the enforcement of existing laws more difficult. For example, defamation law applies in the same way to the users of  Facebook and Twitter as it does to newspaper journalists. However, although there has been a sharp rise in the number of reported defamation claims over online material, modern technology has made it almost impossible for this law to be enforced at the same rate it is broken.

We have commissioned a Technology in Retail research report, which surveyed over 250 retailers and technology providers. Click here to download the report.