The 2018 World Technology Conference took place in Seattle recently and I was lucky enough to attend this mind meld event. Read on for observations and highlights.
I recently participated in the 2018 World Technology Conferencein Seattle. It was a great opportunity to meet lawyers fluent in digital and hear their diverse perspectives on digital regulatory challenges. Personally, I was in awe of finding 240 professionals in one room who could talk as long as I wanted to about policy; a geek fest of sorts, but in a relatable and good way. Professionally, it was an opportunity to confirm the vast challenges that global organizations face when working on their websites, social media, mobile application and artificial intelligence channels while balancing fair trade, privacy, and other issues de jour. Here are some of my takeaways.
No surprise that Microsoft (a key sponsor of the event) is heavily focused on regulatory and legal issues. The company is especially attentive to the compliance levels of companies it might acquire. The Redmond-based organization looks at target companies through the lens of risk and opportunity, applying mitigation strategies as needed. Some of those strategies include: putting an agreement in place that releases Microsoft of any legal responsibility for the target’s pre-acquisition compliance issues, using escrow for matters that might arise post-purchase, and having the acquired company pay off a “compliance fee” over time to help set things right.
The Microsoft strategy solidified in my mind the importance of policies for companies looking to be acquired. Companies, especially startups, interested in being bought out can speed up the acquisition process or gain an advantage in the evaluation process by having policies in place. If not policies, create some type of documentation that references the thought process around digital risk and opportunity evaluation. While companies are viewed by Microsoft as being more favorable if they have digital policies in place, startups ought to at least create memos on how they intend to become compliant with legal, regulatory, and industry best practice requirements. This helps jump-start the acquisition discussion.
Ahead of the panel discussion on which I participated, there was only one question I had for our moderator: is there any topic we should avoid? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the predictable answer. While we collectively tried our best, it only took 11 minutes before GDPR came up in our conversation. It is impossible to avoid. Every session had at least one mention of GDPR, with some sessions heavily focused on the regulation. What questions are lingering?
Currently, for the large, global organizations that I work with, their key concerns are websites, mobile applications, social media, and potentially customer relationship management and email channels. But there are so many more policy issues coming down the road for many of us.
There were so many fascinating subjects at the conference and I could spend hours losing myself in all of the trademark, fair competition, data and regulatory details that were buzzing around. My addition to the conference was centered on expanding that conversation to consider the breadth of digital that goes beyond legal and regulatory yet needs to be added to the conversation (e.g., brand, technology selection, publishing rights and approvals, etc.).
In the days since the conference, I have continued to reflect on emerging topics such as the afterlife of data and what happens with technology ownership, blockchain, cryptocurrency and regulatory governance of data-based business models. There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue the conversation with many colleagues from the event through one-on-one conversations as well as upcoming ITechLaw webinars and collaboration calls. I am also excited to bring some of my new insights to client engagements and conversations with you and other colleagues.
If you are interested in hearing more about any of the above observations or need consulting support for your organization’s policies, please get in touch.
Photo Credit: Brady Harvey/Museum of Pop Culture
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