Legal Problems and Advances in Technology

Something that I often think about in the technology field is that laws never seem to be able to keep pace with the changes in technology. Often in the news we read about problems arising because either actions taken online or how someone used a new piece of technology. We have had cell phones for how long and only recently has there been laws about talking on the phone or texting while driving. We are continually adding various screens to help us navigate or find resources nearby, but laws start not wanting us looking at screens. How do we deal with more screens in the car or flashier billboards that might be considered distracting?

Then there is the use of online presences and communications. We know how to deal with harassment in person, but what about online. There have been cases where people have been bullied online and we tend to not treat it as harshly as in person harassment. Then there is jurisdictional issues that will always be problematic. Do we charge based on where someone is acting from or the space where the servers are housed? Or if the company is based in another country and operates mostly to people in the United States and it is illegal one place, but not another how do you handle it.

Concept of Space

Online space functions very differently than physical space. You can be talking to people from all over the world and when you are talking to each other you exist outside of your physical space. You are writing on your computer, the information is stored on a server, and read by a person in a different location. All the interaction exists in a space that cannot be pinpointed to a specific location or in some ways exists everywhere. Photos, videos, really any item that exists online exists everywhere and every when all at once. These are items that while posted at a specific time do not exist simply at that moment, they are there for people to view over and over again. They can be removed, but there evidence can live on after removal.

Now what does this do for someone else posting a photo of you that you don’t want posted? Or posting a photo that you didn’t know that they took? While you can get them removed, someone could have saved a copy of the photo or taken a screenshot. If this image shows a violation of your rights how do you track it down. The original that got posted may be long gone and it is just copies that keep getting passed around. It does not necessarily exist in a specific solidified space, which can make it a lot more difficult for legal issues that might come up.

Understanding Technology

Part of the other problem that we have, and that will change somewhat as time goes on, is the people who are making the laws do not always fully understand the technologies that they are either ruling on or trying to regulate. I think as time goes on this has changed, and will keep changing. At the same time there are a lot of people who do not know how to use technology or how people would use technology. This creates problems when you are trying to interpret legal issues that happen using those technologies. If you do not understand there purpose, use, and significance it might mean that you jump to conclusions about what happens with those technologies. It can also mean that situations with those technologies are not treated as seriously. Online crimes can sometimes be treated more lightly because some people do not see it as seriously because it happened online.

Harassment Online

This brings up an interesting point when it comes to online harassment. Suddenly instead of just getting bullied by other students at school your harassment can happen online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from people all over the globe. If someone gives out your information or you do not know how to set up your privacy settings then something happens and you are getting harassed. Not just at a specific time or specific place either, anytime you check your email, messages, social media, etc, you get something that is bullying or harassing. How is this not just as bad if not worse than being harassed in person? Often you can run away or move from someone harassing in person, but there is no where to go unless you want to completely disconnect to hide from online harassment. At the same time it is hard to prove what is happening and do you go after the instigator and how do you know who that is?

Shaping Change

Technology is changing the way we interact with each other and the world, in good and bad ways. Almost Human partly looks at how technology advancements can outpace our legal system. When criminals can get a hold of devices and inventions that have either not been regulated or are on the black market that cause major issues for the police. As technology gets cheaper and cheaper then it is easier to get a hold of items that could be used for selfish and potentially illegal purposes. With 3D printers, google glasses, and other advancements people can create there own items, and be online and in person all at once. These creates solutions and problems as technology moves forward.


5 responses to “Legal Problems and Advances in Technology

  1. Very interesting. I saw an episode of a TV show that revolved around someone using a 3D printer to make a gun, then dissolving the weapon in acetone when they were done.

    The legal problem is a persistent one. Legal development always lags behind cultural change (and so do a lot of other formal institutions, like public education). Since technology is driven by the acquisition/application of knowledge and the hunger for profit, it will continue to change at a rapid pace until we reach a plateau in our application of new knowledge, or until something happens to make it unprofitable.

    I do think you’re right about laws being made by people who don’t understand technology and how we use it. That’s a significant part of the problem.


  2. Reblogged this on Sourcerer and commented:
    There’s lots to think about here. Even though it’s about legal problems, I think it has some bearing on that Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants conversation that we seem to come back to every couple of weeks.


  3. Just thought you might like to know, someone I’ve never met before picked up my reblog and linked to it here: It’s near the bottom of the page, on the right.


  4. Speaking of harassment, the Pacific Standard had a great article about online harassment a couple weeks ago:


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