OFLS Closes Michaelmas Term 2020 with Events on Data Privacy, Digital Assets and Sustainability.
As Michaelmas Term drew to a close, the Oxford Fintech and Legaltech Society (OFLS) rounded out its term card with a trio of fantastic speaker-events. Reaching across fintech and legaltech, attendees were treated to thought-provoking discussions on data privacy, digital assets and sustainability.
For our first event, Anouk Ruhaak, a Mozilla Fellow, explored the externalities of mass data collection and use. Just like how one’s decisions during a pandemic can affect others, our decisions to make available our data online can have similar third-party effects. As a result, collective action is required to ensure data decisions are mutually beneficial for all in society. By way of solutions, Anouk promotes the potential of data trusts as a model for good data governance. A data trust is a structure whereby data is placed under the control of a board of trustees with responsibility to look after the interests of beneficiaries. The benefits of these structures include removing the burden of decision-making on the individual and unlocking the ability for collective negotiation through pooling data. However, data trusts remain in their nascent stage requiring greater development in relation to aspects such as data collection and access.
Our penultimate event saw Ksenia Sussman provide an overview of the key regulatory issues associated with digital assets. As the founder and CEO of LATTUDE, Ksenia provides specialised legal and business advice in commercial, transactional, and regulatory matters associated with blockchain and digital assets. Ksenia noted the significant lack of consistency in defining digital assets across the various regulators in the United States. The CFTC, SEC, FinCEN, IRS, as well as several state regulators have issued individual guidance or interpretations concerning digital assets, creating a patchwork of varying frameworks and rules. This creates issues of legal uncertainty for market participants, potentially inhibiting their potential for wealth creation. Ksenia also highlighted the rising potential of bespoke self-regulatory organisations for digital assets, such as the Association of Digital Assets Markets (ADAM) and Global Digital Finance (GDF). However, she notes that their roles may be limited where assets fall under the jurisdiction of existing self-regulatory organisations, such as NFA and FINRA.
For our final event, Dr. Mimi Zou, from the Oxford DeepTech Dispute Resolution Lab, presented preliminary findings of her team’s research on the relationship between legaltech and sustainable development. Primarily, their work focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and whether law firms are able to achieve SDGs by adopting legaltech solutions. While clients are the main drivers in making firms more sustainable, Dr. Zou identified other key factors such as cutting costs, improving efficiency, and increasing employee productivity. Mainly, legaltech contributes to Goals 10 (reduced inequalities) and 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) of the SDGs by improving access to justice and making legal services more affordable. Legaltech can also help improve work-life balance, contributing to Goal 5 (gender equality) of the SDGs. Overall, their research identifies how legaltech provides several important opportunities for improving sustainability - particularly for developing countries - which can inform the development of institutions in a modern, yet sustainable manner.
We have enjoyed the company of several terrific speakers throughout Michaelmas Term who have engaged our members and participants in inspirational and thought-provoking discussions related to fintech and legaltech. We have a similarly outstanding line-up of events planned for Hilary term which will include further speaker-events by eminent industry leaders, our Legaltech Workshop Series and many more to be confirmed. We wish all of our members a very happy and safe holiday period and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2021.