SWITCH Legal Consulting explained in five minutes

Anna Kuhn, head of the legal team at SWITCH, gave a lightning talk at the ICT Focus Meeting held on 12/13 November in Zurich. She offered an incisive explanation of how SWITCH aims to provide targeted legal consulting to the university community in the near future.

Text: Anna Kuhn, published on 23.11.2018

"Is a university offering email services considered a telecommunications provider? Is the GDPR applicable to Swiss universities? And if so, what are the consequences? If we use cookies on our website, what legal aspects do we need to keep in mind? Can I store data classed as official secrets with a US cloud provider?

These are just a few of the questions we receive from community members and other stakeholders on a regular basis. By ‘we’ I mean the SWITCH legal team. And my name is Anna Kuhn, I am a legal counsel at SWITCH and as of recently the head of the team.

Over the last few years, we have received similar requests for legal advice from higher education institutions that don’t have their own legal departments, those with under-resourced departments and those that simply need a second opinion. And at the meetings of our Working Group ICT Law, which convenes twice a year to discuss ICT legal topics, it has become apparent that there is a need for legal advice tailored to universities.

It was with these considerations in mind that the idea of a new service was born – ‘SWITCH Legal Consulting’. We are currently in the process of developing this new service. Because we are convinced that in legal matters, too, SWITCH has many advantages to offer our community, such as:

  • Sound knowledge of the higher education landscape
  • Direct access for SWITCH lawyers to technical know-how from our experts
  • An established network at home and abroad
  • Longstanding customer relationships and established trust
  • Preferential rate for community members

We plan to offer legal advice based on our own expertise, which means a focus on data protection law, telecommunication law, licensing law, procurement law, and so on. As well as answering specific legal questions, we want to offer legal assistance with large scale projects such as GDPR compliance and cloud storage.

We plan to offer legal advice based on our own expertise, which means a focus on data protection law, telecommunication law, licensing law and procurement law.

We are already working on a legal opinion for ETHZ and UZH regarding the Internet of Things and LoRaWAN technology. The idea arose when ETHZ and UZH approached SWITCH about a possible collaboration on an IoT service with SWITCH as the back-end provider. The two universities are considering offering an IoT network service based on the LoRaWAN protocol at their institutions. They are currently conducting proof-of-concept projects. When they come to decide whether to offer the service officially, they need to know the legal risks and constraints. So in our legal opinion, we will show the legal factors that they will need to keep in mind and suggest measures for reducing risks. It is also a very interesting project from a legal perspective, as there is very little jurisprudence or precedence regarding the Internet of Things. So it is a great opportunity for us and we value the collaboration with ETHZ and UZH on this project. 

The official start of our Legal Consulting service is planned for 2019. As soon as we are fully set up and ready for legal enquiries, we will be happy to provide you with further information.

I am very excited about launching Legal Consulting. And I look forward to extending our collaboration with our community to legal matters.

Thank you for your attention."

About the author
Anna   Kuhn

Anna Kuhn

Anna Kuhn has been working as legal counsel at SWITCH since May 2017 and as of October 2018 head of the legal team. She studied law at the University of Zurich and is licensed as an attorney at law in Switzerland. Before joining SWITCH, she worked at a Zurich-based law firm specialising in business law and at a District Court in the Canton of Aargau.

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