The Internet has changed the way people and companies conduct business. Commerce has shifted from brick and mortar, person-to-person engagements, to Internet-driven global transactions. Through laws like UETA, the HITECH Act, the GLBA and others, the US government encourages the shift from manual, analog, paper-driven undertakings to automated, digital, paperless transactions.
There is no doubt that as the use of the Internet continues to grow, it has become the primary medium for electronic communications, commerce and information exchange. There are very few businesses in existence today that can function without the Internet.
E-Commerce is Booming
E-commerce, or business transactions that take place online, is growing every day. Any form of business conducted online can be considered an e-commerce transaction. It can involve Business to Business (B2B), Business to Consumer (B2C) or Consumer to Consumer (C2C) transactions. Examples of e-commerce transactions may include:
Online shopping: Buying and selling goods or services on the Internet
Electronic payments: Paying for products online
Internet banking: Conducting banking transactions online
Mobile commerce: Transacting business while utilizing mobile devices with access to the Internet
There are many legal issues that can arise during an e-commerce transaction that may include:
Security and digital signatures: Digital signatures provide authentication for individuals involved in an e-commerce transaction.
Contract formation and development: Legal concerns may arise when developing an electronic contract.
Jurisdictional Issues: Global or national online transactions may implicate laws from various jurisdictions.
The Internet has created new opportunities that impact our economy and business growth, but it has also opened the door to new forms of legal risks that can hurt your business and your bottom line.
Disruptors Need to Understand Cyber Law
Disruptors such as Amazon, Expedia, AirBnB, Netflix, and Uber are all companies that used the power of the Internet to displace outdated service providers and traditional brick and mortar retailers.
These disruptors have inspired other start-ups and entrepreneurs to look for ways to destroy industries clinging on the "good old days." But every new disruptor looking to cause change still needs to comply with laws that govern trade and commerce (even in cyberspace). Entrepreneurs need to consult with a cyber attorney to assist with forging the future.
Let's not forget the influx of cyber-related incidents that are getting much attention in the media. Data breaches can range from hackers entering a corporate network system to an unauthorized staff member viewing sensitive or personal information about another employee. There are several laws and regulations dictating how sensitive information should be handled and the consequences for not following proper procedures.
If a person who is not authorized to view sensitive material does just that, the company responsible for keeping the information confidential has experienced a data breach. If the data breach causes identity theft or other violations, the company may face fines as well as civil claims or criminal charges.
There is no question that having an attorney on a company's cyber team is a wise move that can prevent or drastically reduce liability related to a cyber event.
Consulting with an attorney may trigger the attorney-client privilege. Any cybersecurity specialist retained by the attorney to address a company's cyber risks may also fall within the attorney-client privilege "bubble." The privilege is a powerful tool against curious investigative agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission.
Emerging Technologies Lead to Emerging Laws
Many evolving technologies -- artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, blockchain, autonomous vehicles -- rely on the Internet. With emerging technologies come new risks that company leaders may not yet understand. Risks such as complying with data retention policies, improper electronic contracts, cyber security, copyright infringement, invasion of privacy through the unauthorized collection of personal data, etc.
Emerging technologies and the accompanying risks will spawn new laws to regulate the activities of companies conducting business online.
Hire a Cyber Lawyer
It is important for business leaders to understand cyber/Internet law. Cyber laws govern legal issues involving data protection, privacy, cybercrime, electronic commerce, and intellectual property.
Hiring a cyber lawyer who is qualified to keep companies in compliance with existing and evolving laws is necessary for business survival in the cyber age.
Robert Stines, Florida Cyber Lawyer