The round-up of the stories that a budding Student Lawyer should be aware of this week. Sign up here to get these updates in your inbox every week.
Article by Beth Zheng (Law Student at Durham University)
Google have recently announced that they have successfully eliminated their entire carbon legacy, following their achievement of becoming carbon-neutral in 2007. By eradicating one’s carbon footprint, Google has in essence compensated for all carbon it has ever created through investing in high-quality carbon offsets.
In this video, CEO Sundar Pichai emphasised the importance and need to tackle climate change before it is too late. So far, Google has achieved its previous targets including matching all annual electricity consumption with 100% renewable energy in 2017. However, Google is determined to do more and Pichai’s next goal to operate on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030 is certainly ambitious.
To achieve this, Google will be utilising its technology capabilities and applying Artificial Intelligence to reduce energy use. Through operating carbon-free energy, Pichai anticipates over 10,000 green jobs would be created, aiding communities. This is reflective of Google’s commitment to investing in tools to help 500+ cities to reduce 1 Gigaton of carbon annually by 2030. Furthermore, Google is committed to helping 1 billion people live more sustainably by 2022.
Google’s announcement reflects the upwards trajectory of environmentally-focused announcements as companies such as Apple and Microsoft have also pledged to become carbon neutral and carbon negative respectively by 2030. Although technology provides a wealth of opportunities, the electricity consumption from such projects must be controlled. Apple has therefore committed further to negating energy consumption in the entire lifecycle of all products.
It is clear that companies are taking climate change seriously. Aside from Google, Apple and Microsoft, Amazon has also pledged and set itself a goal to become carbon neutral by 2040. With Google issuing $5.75billion in sustainability bonds resulting in the largest corporate sustainability bond in history, companies around the world should now begin to realise the dedication Google has to support genuine initiatives which tackle critical environmental issues.
Article by Zyeraph Bucalan (Final Year LLB student at the University of Leicester)
On September 16th the cloud database company, Snowflake, made history as the largest ever software company to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. The firm exceeded its market valuation on the first day of trading, from $33bn (£25bn) to $70bn (£54bn) with shares trading at $245. More than double its IPO price of $120. The biggest tech IPO of the year. Backing from Warren Buffet and Salesforce has also given the shares greater credibility for traders. The impressive growth rates of cloud software companies this year, despite the economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19, seems to forecast a boom in the tech industry.
The California-based tech company began eight years ago as a data warehousing and analytics start-up and has grown rapidly over the last few years. They are one of the first firms to transfer database systems from company in-house data centres into the computing clouds. Snowflake stands out among other tech firms. Its USP of providing a ‘multi-cloud’ service means storing data in multiple cloud services, which includes the big three Amazon, Microsoft and Google. This limits risks of being solely locked into any one of them. Companies moving their data ‘off premise’ from physical infrastructures and into virtual houses benefit from less maintenance, reduced costs and greater flexibility. The database market is expected to expand rapidly as data becomes the ‘new oil’.
However, greater advancements in technology does not exist without its own risks. The expansion of data services also possesses significant risks in the event of data breaches. To minimise vulnerability to the company and the impact of cyber-attacks, they have to invest in robust cyber security, knowledge training for staff and swift data breach procedures. For law firms, this can mean increased work for tech lawyers. Snowflake has set a new precedent in the potential of data warehousing firms. Only time will tell if this phenomenon will soon melt away.
Article by Aleksandra Nowicka (LLM graduate & Legal Blogger | Founder of fromlawyerslife.com)
The bill published on September 9 raises a lot of controversies as it overrides parts of the EU’s legal divorce deal, known as the Withdrawal Agreement, which came into effect on 31 January 2020.
What is the idea behind it? Simply to change the law in order to ensure that goods will move easily between the UK’s four nations after Brexit. According to the public, by introducing the bill British government is planning to override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.
Sections of the internal market bill eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs. According to the withdrawal agreement, the UK must notify Brussels of any state-aid decisions that would affect Northern Ireland’s goods market, and compel businesses in the province to file customs paperwork when sending goods into the rest of the UK. But clauses in the internal market and finance bills will force the UK courts to follow the new UK law rather than the EU deal, diluting the ability of the protocol to intrude on UK state-aid policy.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that “a precise implementation of the withdrawal agreement” was vital for the success of trade talks and a key issue of trust between the two parties. Furthermore, Brussels has issued Boris Johnson with an ultimatum to scrap his plans to override the UK’s Brexit treaty by the end of the month, warning the move had “seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK”; whereby, the European Commission on Thursday threatened legal action unless the British prime minister withdrew controversial clauses.
Despite deep misgivings by some senior Conservatives and all five living former prime ministers, MPs voted on 14 September to give the bill a second reading, with a government majority of 77 – although two Tories voted against it and 30 abstained.
Nevertheless, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday (17 September) said she was convinced a trade deal with the UK was still possible despite the “distraction” caused by Boris Johnson’s move to violate the Brexit withdrawal treaty, however, “The ball is in the field of the UK to restore trust”.
Article by Advaita Kapoor (3rd year B.A. LLB (Hons.) student at Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, India)
On September 2nd, 2020 India took the appalling step of banning 118 mobile applications, majority of which were Chinese, for allegedly being engaged in activities which are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”. The Indian Government had previously banned 59 Chinese apps on June 29, 2020 and 47 apps in July giving the same reason, totalling the number of banned apps to 224.
Why has it happened?
In the wake of renewed boundary tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), of accusing each other of failing to commit to disengagement terms and initiating gunfire, the Indian government found it appropriate to take this retaliatory measure of banning Chinese apps.
Under Section 69A, Information Technology Act, 2000, the Indian Government has the power to block public access to any information online on websites or mobile apps after receiving complaints regarding ‘offensive’ content. The IT Ministry claims to have received many such complaints of “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India”. This step was taken with the aim of protecting the privacy of the citizens of India and safeguarding them against private company apps collecting personal information which the Chinese government has unfettered and unlimited access to without any real independent judicial oversight.
How did China respond?
China has highly condemned this act by the Indian government and has termed it as an economic retaliation instead of a national security concern. China expresses that this act may violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. The Commerce ministry of China asserts that this action violates the legal interests of Chinese investors and services providers and has urged India to rectify this mistake.
What commercial impact is the same likely to have?
This move is widely believed to be punitive in nature as the ban cut off the world’s largest foreign market for many Chinese apps. Simultaneously, Indian government has launched many apps as replacement for their Chinese counterparts including ByteDance’s TikTok and Tencent’s PUBG. Tencent’s shares witnessed a downfall of more than 2 percent on September 4, 2020 after the ban. This ban has also stalled business operations of several Chinese companies in India including Alibaba. It is predicted that this move will deter Chinese investment in India.
The Confederation of All India Traders, welcoming the ban, has further request the IT Ministry of India to look into Chinese Investments in 141 Indian start-ups.
This move is likely to take a toll on the already deteriorating Indo-China relations and also adversely impact international relations with the US openly supporting it.