Cross-border Movement of Data and Digital Assets

Cross-border Movement of Data and Digital Financial Assets 

Overview

As a part of the Emerging Technologies and Law (ETL) Department, the Research Strand on Cross-border Movement of Data and Digital Assets addresses data regulations and legislation applicable to digital (virtual) assets.

The digital transformation wave has engulfed almost every aspect of our economic life, and its intensity is only expected to increase. We recognise the prominent role of international data flows and cross-border movement of digital financial assets in building a robust global economic and financial system. Therefore, we are committed to producing high-quality and in-depth research, focusing on addressing regulatory concerns and curbing malpractice in these areas. In addition, our department is driven to provide insights into the latest developments related to data governance and financial technology. Consequently, we regularly release publications highlighting the systemic and legal implications of these developments.

Cross Border Movement of Data

Cross-border data flows are critical in enabling key technological innovations such as, but not limited to, cloud computing, the internet of things, digital products and streaming services, social media, the “app economy”, electronic commerce, crowd-funding activities and outsourcing of services. Across the world, effective use of data is fuelling innovation, increasing productivity, bettering social outcomes such as improved healthcare and creating more transparent and responsive governments. However, the practices of data sharing and data processing raise concerns related to various policy interests. For instance, uninhibited cross-border data flow provides leeway for its misuse and endangers the privacy of data subjects. Therefore, it is important to have effective data protection regulations in place to safeguard the privacy of individuals. Cross-border data flow regulation is also important to ensure access to information in the domestic territory for audit or other governmental purposes. Moreover, such regulations may be necessary from a national security perspective, especially in relation to the transfer of sensitive information of citizens. The importance of the co-existence of adequate data protection regulations and facilitation of cross-border data flows cannot be overstated.

Currently, differentiated sets of domestic and international rules governing international data flows have led to the ‘Balkanisation’ of laws. Furthermore, an outburst of data breaches and cybercrimes has promptly followed the advent of data-driven economies, exposing the inadequacies of the prevalent cybersecurity infrastructure and regulation. It is crucial that the cross-border flow of data takes place securely, with trust and legal certainty. Through our research endeavours, we are committed to providing clarity of applicable laws and contributing to the policy developments in the field. Our active research projects include investigating cross-border data flow regulations in the context of global digital trade liberalisation. 

Digital Assets

The definition of a digital asset is “anything that exists in binary data which is self-contained, uniquely identifiable, and has a value or ability to use.” When the term originated in the mid-90s, digital assets were items such as videos, images, audio, and documentation. Since then, technological advances have given the term new life.

The highly intertwined cross-border value chains and foreign investments of corporations have dramatically increased cross-border transactions. Digital technologies like distributed ledger technology and artificial intelligence are transforming the way we think about banks and financial transactions. The adoption of these technologies has also resulted in significant currency innovation in the form of crypto-assets and stable-coins. They have revolutionised cross-border payments by drastically reducing transaction costs and ensuring the integrity of such transactions. The influence of emerging technology in finance also extends to other banking processes like insurance, investments and credit analysis.

Digital assets are not limited to, financial instruments or blockchains. Consider, for instance, amongst other forms, digital assets in the form of a virtual world and in-game currencies or items. In 2011, Planet Calypso, a virtual planet in the game Entropy Universe by MindArk, was sold for an estimated USD 6 million. Since then we have, and still are, witnessing a proliferation of digital assets across geographies and industries.

Our Research Strand is committed to investigating the regulatory concerns triggered by the adoption of these technologies across industries with an emphasis on finance/business legislation. Currently, we are involved in investigating the rise in the prominence of digital currencies and assets in global finance. Our active projects include understanding the limitations of tax laws in the regulation of cross-border digital financial assets. We strive to pursue in-depth research pertaining to the regulation of cross-border payment systems and crypto-assets that is valuable for regulators, bankers, investors and consumers alike while identifying and developing regulation for various other forms of digital assets.

The Team

Our international team consists of determined, driven and high performing young professionals who deeply care about the pressing legislative and policy challenges affecting emerging technologies of today’s society.

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