Journal of Information & Privacy Law

Are Privacy Concerns Thwarting Technological Growth?

By Zayna Nubani, Symposium Editor on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013
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We live in a world of technology.  We live in a world of smartphones, GPS, and robotic check-ups. Technology is a vital part of our everyday lives.  Consumers continuously expect to see new technology, while inventors, innovators, and companies continue to work on providing us with that new technology.  As consumers of technology, we expect more.  We expect to see sophisticated technology.  We expect increasing technological medical advancements.  We expect to see smarter smartphones.  There is a supply and demand.  Both consumers and sellers of technology are benefiting.  So, what is the problem?  The problem is privacy concern.

Sure, we envision technology to grow, but at what price?  Although there are some consumers who do not use, or at least try not to use, the Internet, smartphones, or other technological gadgets because of privacy concerns.  There are also consumers of technology that are complaining of privacy and security issues.  Yes, users of technology are complaining.  New legislation is being put into place, new lawsuits are being filed, and new barriers are being established due to the privacy concerns that have been created because of increasing technological development.  Suppliers of technology are being held accountable for privacy and security issues.  We want and expect this technology, but we also do not want the privacy issues that accompany it.  Are consumers of technology thwarting technological growth?

Is there a happy medium?  If there is, what is it?  There needs to be a happy medium if we want to continue to see new technology.  Take rollercoasters for an example.  They are scary, fun, and thrilling.  However, the most important component is that they are designed to be safe.  They are carefully engineered in a way that places safety as the top priority.  That is what we want.  We want to be able to freely search the Internet without worrying that a company is collecting data on our search patterns.  We want to be able to make phone calls without worrying that someone is listening to our every word. We want to shop online without worrying about identity theft.

I am not proposing the ultimate solution, because the ultimate solution may be as complex as the programming code required to create an executable piece of technology. Nevertheless, I am offering a slice or…a part of a solution. That solution is the passing of state or federal legislation that requires inventors and innovators, of technology to design technology that is safe.  Seems easy, right?  Not so quite. First, what does the word “safe” mean?  I am in law school. I know an ambiguous word when I see one. Second, should new technology be federally regulated or should states be able to decide how they think technology to be regulated within their states?  As consumers, we want to utilize technology, but we also want and need laws that would protect us.  Therefore, these laws should be drafted and implemented in a way that could create that happy medium.

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