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Matheson / UCD Leadership Conference

Date: 09/11/2023

"Regulating the digital economy, the nexus of law, innovation and business"

While the regulation of AI will be a top priority for the majority of Irish businesses during 2024, Ireland has a unique opportunity to act as a gateway between the EU and the US and to strike a balance between regulation and innovation in order to drive European competitiveness in the area of digital innovation.

That was just one outcome from the Matheson / UCD Leadership Series Event – "Regulating the digital economy – the nexus of law, innovation and business", held in UCD this week.  The hybrid conference heard insights and experiences from leading professionals on the latest developments in the digital economy, from a regulatory, legal and business perspective.

An online and in-person poll of attendees showed that;

  • Nearly 90% of respondents said that the burden of identifying rights and obligations under the latest digital regulation legislation has become more complex.
  • Cybersecurity and Operational Resilience (37%); GDPR and Data Protection Law (27%) and AI regulation (23%) will be the top priorities in the digital landscape for respondents during 2024.
  • Nearly one quarter of respondents (23%) have reviewed their insurance cover to include cover for new risks and obligations arising from digital regulatory changes.
  • The vast majority of businesses (75%) are now required to engage with multiple regulators in dealing with regulatory compliance issues.

The conference featured a panel discussion on the topic of regulation.  This was followed by a one-to-one conversation with Meta's Head of Public Policy in Ireland, Dualta Ó Broin.  A second panel discussion then focused on antitrust, digital regulation and intersectionality issues, and looked at how businesses could navigate complexity and multi-regulator oversight.  Conference chair, Carlo Salizzo, partner in Matheson's Technology and Innovation group also took the opportunity to introduce the launch of Matheson's new Digital Economy Group.

Carlo Salizzo, partner in Matheson's Technology and Innovation Group, and member of the firm's new Digital Economy Group said, "Matheson is honoured to once again host a Leadership Series event in conjunction with UCD.  The area of digital transformation is a fast-changing and ever-developing one, and today's conference treated us to valuable insights from experts in the areas of regulation and business.  We are delighted once again to partner with UCD in this Leadership Series, and I would like to thank Professor Laurent Pech from the UCD Sutherland School of Law and his UCD colleagues, who welcomed us so warmly here today."

Professor Laurent Pech, Dean of Law at the UCD Sutherland School of Law said; "Today's event is a great example of UCD and Matheson working together to discuss the most pressing legal issues relating to the regulation of the digital economy.  The coming into force of the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act is of special significance in this respect and indeed, these two EU legal instruments are already covered in our graduate curriculum as they are bound to create new obligations which lawyers and aspiring lawyers must be aware of."

"With Ireland's role as a centre for data protection regulation and content regulation also due to evolve when the Digital Services Act comes fully into force, close collaboration and engagement between academics from different fields and those within industry will be required more than ever", he said.

Regulation is at the heart of digital innovation

The first of the two panel discussions dealt with regulation.  Chaired by Deirdre Crowley, partner in Matheson's Commercial Litigation department, it featured contributions from Niamh Hodnett, Online Safety Commissioner at Coimisiún na Meán; Katie O'Leary, Assistant Commissioner at the Data Protection Commission (DPC); and Michael Byrne, partner in Matheson's Commercial Litigation department

Recently appointed Commissioner for Online Safety Niamh Hodnett, spoke about the significant breadth of Coimisiún na Meán's regulatory responsibilities, which span key digital economy legislation from the Digital Services Act to the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act and the EU Anti-Terrorism Regulation.  She also said that the legal landscape around what constitutes harmful and illegal content is a concept that will develop over time and welcomed the publication of the online safety codes in this respect in due course.

Assistant Commissioner Katie O'Leary from the DPC discussed the important and welcome consultations taking place to establish a regulatory cooperation group in the digital services space.  Finally, we heard about the new wave of digital economy-related litigation that is coming in the near future.

Opportunity for Ireland to be a bridge

Next, the attendees saw a one-to-one conversation between Dualta Ó Broin, Head of Public Policy for Ireland at Meta and Matheson partner, Carlo Salizzo.  Ó Broin spoke about the potential for Ireland to build on its role as the “transatlantic bridge” to encourage further engagement between the US and Europe to bring closer cooperation in the area of digital regulation and new technologies such as AI.

He said, "there is a balance to be struck by the European Union between the excellent progress which has been made in the important area of regulation, by the co-legislators and bodies such as Coimisiún na Meán and the Data Protection Commission in Ireland, with the need to encourage innovation and the future competitiveness of Europe at a global level."

Compliance and antitrust enforcement

A second panel discussion, chaired by Calum Warren, partner in Matheson's Competition & Regulation department, heard from Úna Butler, of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC); Eoin Kealy, Head of Compliance at Ryanair; Alexandre de Streel, CREEE Academic Director at the University of Namur; and Ian O'Mara, partner in Matheson's Financial Institutions Group.  The panel discussed how antitrust remains a key pillar of the overall digital regulation landscape and how general antitrust enforcement, the Digital Markets Act and other digital regulation legislation (in particular, the Data Governance Act and the draft Data Act) sit alongside each other.

The panel also discussed the intersectionality between compliance obligations under the various regulatory regimes including the GDPR and how this could give rise to questions in the context of the future administration of these regulatory regimes.

Attendees also heard about the CCPC's enforcement priorities under its new competition regime, its expected role in the administration of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the fora through which the CCPC will continue to liaise with other Irish and EU regulators.  Finally, attendees also heard about how antitrust enforcement and digital regulation is impacting the travel and fintech sectors. 

Matheson's Digital Economy Group

Matheson partner, Carlo Salizzo, who chaired the event, took the opportunity to introduce Matheson's new Digital Economy Group, a collaborative group of experts from across a wide variety of practice areas who are at the cutting edge of legal experience and innovation in the digital area.  He outlined how the new group of senior Matheson partners will ensure that Matheson's clients will come to connect with the right team.  "We have taken the opportunity to create a unique group of experts to help our clients.  Because this is not a neat package of legal reforms which stays within strictly defined boundaries, having access to diverse and expert group will ensure that our clients can interact with the right team to meet their specific demands, whether that be a new product launch, a compliance project or a response to an incident."

"We are excited about what this means for our industry, and about the opportunities that new technologies will bring for us to work on the most interesting, challenging and cutting-edge legal matters with our clients," he said.

About the speakers

  1. Professor Lauren Pech

    Professor of Law, Dean of Law and Head of the Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin

    Laurent Pech is Full Professor of Law, Dean of Law and Head of the Sutherland School of Law. He is also a Visiting Professor of Law at Bordeaux University, a Senior Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute in Budapest, and the co-director of The Good Lobby Profs which he co-founded in 2021.  From 2018 to 2022, Laurent was a member of a H2020 funded four-year multidisciplinary research project on "Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and the Rule of Law" (RECONNECT).  He is currently a member of the editorial board of the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, a member of the advisory board of RECLAIM (Human Rights NGO based in Brussels) and a member of the international advisory boards of GEM-DIAMON (EU Horizon funded research project) and RESILIO (Resilience observatory on the rule of law in Europe funded by Stiftung Mercator). Laurent has been a visiting professor at many institutions, including his alma mater: Aix-Marseille University and most recently, the University of Bologna.

    Professor Pech specialises in EU Public Law and has lectured in a variety of subjects including EU Constitutional Law, EU Internal Market Law, EU Competition Law and European Human Rights Law. He was Jean Monnet Chair of European Public Law from 2014-17.  Prior to his appointment at Middlesex University, Laurent was Jean Monnet Lecturer in EU Public Law at the National University of Ireland Galway.  During the course of his academic career, Laurent also worked in Canada (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Canada Research Chair on Globalization, Citizenship and Democracy) and in the United States (Emile Noel Fellow at NYU Law).  He has worked as a legal consultant in many post-conflict or EU candidate countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Latvia and Montenegro.  He has also worked as an external examiner at many institutions including the Law Society of Ireland and regularly works as an expert evaluator for national research funding bodies as well as the European Research Executive Agency.  Laurent is the author of one casebook, two monographs, multiple commissioned reports and studies, and more than one hundred scholarly publications, on such subjects as rule of law backsliding in Europe, the right to an independent tribunal established by law and the right to free speech in comparative law.  He also regularly provides expert advice on rule of law matters, including in the context of judicial proceedings either before national or European courts.

  2. Niamh Hodnett

    Online Safety Commissioner, Coimisiún na Meán

    Niamh Hodnett has extensive experience in designing, enforcing and managing compliance with regulatory obligations in the online and communications fields.  Her experience includes measures to block access to child sex abuse material and to protect people at risk of gambling addiction, as well as regulation related to data protection, cybersecurity, competition and consumer protection in the communications sector.

    Niamh’s most recent role was Chief Legal and Regulatory officer at Premier Lotteries, the operator of the National Lottery.  She was previously Head of Regulatory Affairs at the mobile phone company, Three Ireland, a senior legal advisor with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), a regulatory lawyer with An Post and a member of the EU, competition and regulatory law teams at Mayer Brown in Brussels and Matheson in Dublin.

    Niamh qualified as a solicitor in 1998 and is an expert in regulatory law with extensive knowledge and experience of both Irish and European law.  She studied Law and German at UCC and has a master’s in law from Universität Passau in Germany.  She has co-authored European Law published by Oxford University Press and Regulatory Law in Ireland published by Tottel.  She is also a qualified mediator.

  3. Katie O'Leary

    Assistant Commissioner, Data Protection Commission

    As Assistant Commissioner in the DPC, Katie works on large scale domestic and cross-border inquiries into multi-national technology companies and public sector organisations.  She also assists the Commissioner’s decision-making function by researching and drafting decisions about whether there had been an infringement of data protection law.  Katie is a practising solicitor and prior to joining the DPC, she worked in a top Irish law firm, advising on privacy and data protection law.

  4. Dualta Ó Broin

    Head of Public Policy for Ireland, Meta

    Dualta Ó Broin is Meta’s Head of Public Policy for Ireland, a role he has held since 2019.  Prior to joining Meta he had an 11 year career in the Irish Civil Service in a variety of different roles.  He holds a BA in Journalism, and postgraduate qualifications in Business, IT and Public Management.

  5. Úna Butler

    Member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission 

    Úna Butler is a Member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.  As well as collegiate decision making with other Members on all aspects of the organisation, she currently oversees the CCPC’s Cartels Division, Competition Enforcement and Mergers Division, and Forensic Technology and Data Analytics Division.  She was previously Director of Legal Services and General Counsel at the CCPC since 2014.

  6. Eoin Kealy

    Head of Competition and Regulatory, Ryanair

    Eoin Kealy is Head of Competition and Regulatory at Ryanair.  He advises on and manages litigation related to antitrust, State aid, and sector regulation issues impacting on Ryanair��s business.

  7. Alexandre de Steel
    Academic Director, Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE) and Professor of European law at the University of Namur

    Alexandre de Streel is professor of European law at the University of Namur where he chairs the Namur Digital Institute and visiting professor at the College of Europe (Bruges) and SciencesPo Paris. He is also academic director of the digital research programme at the Brussels think-tank Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE), chair of the expert group on the online platform economy advising the European Commission and a member of decision panel at the Belgian Competition Authority.

    His main research areas are regulation and competition policy in the digital economy (telecommunications, platforms and data) as well as the legal issues raised by the developments of artificial intelligence.

    Previously, Alexandre held visiting positions at New York University Law School, European University Institute in Florence, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and the University of Louvain.  He also worked for the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, the Belgian Permanent Representation to the European Union and the European Commission.

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