NTSB’s Final Report on Pedestrian Fatality Involving an Uber AV Highlights Obvious Programming Missteps
On a dark street in Tempe, Arizona just before 10 p.m. on March 18, 2018, an Uber vehicle being tested in autonomous mode hit and killed a pedestrian. This was the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle, and it triggered a media firestorm that caused Uber to suspend its autonomous vehicle program for nine months as it worked with the NTSB to understand the causes of the crash. With the adoption by the NSTB of its final report on the crash on November 19, that work is now complete.
The NTSB’s final report paints a vivid picture of programming and human missteps that belies the argument commonly advanced in legal scholarship about AV liability — that crashes involving AVs will be impossible for the judges, juries, and doctrines that make up our current system of tort law to “understand.” Indeed, the errors that led to the crash were all too simple. Continue reading “Autonomous Vehicle Malfunctions May Not Be So Complicated After All”
Recently, I attended the Compliance & Ethics Institute of the SCCE in Las Vegas. One of the keynote speakers was Amber Mac, a well-known public speaker for business innovation, internet of things, online safety, artificial intelligence (AI), and other topics. That morning, her keynote address was titled “Artificial Intelligence: A Day in Your Life in Compliance & Ethics.”
It was completely mind-blowing.
From her comments, I had a profound realization that ethics will be extremely important for AI and other emerging technologies as society progresses towards integrating these technologies into our daily lives. Note that this integration is starting to be, or is already, in our homes and workplaces. “Alexa” might already be part of your family. This development is growing in an exponential rate, and there’s no slowing it down. In fact, Waymo (the self-driving subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet) is launching the first ever commercial driverless car service next month. Yet, have we stopped to consider if an ethical “backbone” to all of this progress should be put in place as a guide for AI and all emerging technologies?
For example, a few years ago Microsoft released an AI chatbot on Twitter where the AI robot named Tay would learn from conversations it had. The goal was that the AI would progressively get “smarter” as it discussed these topics with regular people over the Internet. However, the project was an embarrassment. In no time, Tay blurted out racist slurs, defended white supremacists and even advocated for genocide. So, how did this happen? Well, the problem was that Tay’s learning was not supported with proper ethical guidance. Without proper guidance, such as the difference between truth and falsehood or the general knowledge of the existence of racism, it was vulnerable to learning unethical thought and behavior. Continue reading “A Bible for AI: The Need for Ethics in AI and Emerging Technologies”
Some refer to Bitcoin as the internet of money. Why? Because they believe Bitcoin will revolutionize the way we transact with each other the same way the internet revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. Some critics argue otherwise. But, quite interestingly some of Bitcoin’s biggest critics are the same institutions and industries that stand to be disrupted by Bitcoin. To some, the idea of Bitcoin replacing our current mediums of exchange is too far-fetched. I would argue that our mediums of exchange throughout history have suffered arguably more drastic changes. As a human race we went from bartering, to exchanging precious metals, to paper money, and most recently to plastic cards with magnetic strips. How do you think people reacted when they were told they would not be buying and selling goods with precious metals, but instead they would be using paper? This was a substantial aberration in the manner people transacted with each other, and it took hundreds of years for there to be consensus on this transition.
On that note, what is Bitcoin? Most people will say that Bitcoin is a digital currency. While at its essence this is not a false statement, if Bitcoin is simply a digital currency it would be inconsequential. Most of our currencies today are already digital. Bank accounts today are digital databases, and we use those bank account to transfer money to and from each other, in electronic form. That is digital money. The reality is that only about 8% of total world currencies exist in physical form. It would seem that if Bitcoin is as revolutionary as some claim, it would need to offer something beyond the digitalization of money, and it does. Let’s discuss some of these characteristics and possibilities. Continue reading “Bitcoin and Money: An Advocate’s View”
Currency on a blockchain was the logical first step, and while it may well disrupt the way our financial systems operate, it was just that – the first step. Public and private industry adoption of blockchain and smart contracts is not dependent on the price or market capitalization of cryptocurrencies. Just this year blockchain popularity increased by 11% among large enterprises, while the cryptocurrency market capitalization, from early January to today, has decreased by an estimated $600 billion. Let’s talk emerging uses. Continue reading “Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Smart Contracts – Part 2”
Over the past year and a half Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been taken a place under the mainstream spotlight, meaning the public at large has witnessed the speculative behavior in the cryptocurrency market. In December 2017 the price of one Bitcoin surpassed $20,000, only to encounter a bear market where the market price today is around $6,500. This volatility is not new to Bitcoin. For example, on December 4, 2013, Bitcoin was $1,175 and shortly after, on February 10, 2014, the price hit a low $100. I point out price volatility to show that the cryptocurrency market is a unique speculative market. With that being said, let’s put money to the side and focus on the technology on which the Bitcoin network runs – blockchain technology. As we will see, using blockchain to create and maintain a currency is only the beginning.
At its essence blockchain technology is linked data between computers. It is defined as a digital, decentralized, append-only, distributed ledger that allows unrelated individuals to transact with each other without the need for a third-party or controlling authority. Because no third-party transaction confirmation is needed, the network becomes trustless. I want to make a note on the ‘append-only’ characteristic because it is crucial to the high security value blockchain provides. Append only means that data can only be added to the blockchain, it cannot be removed. Blocks that are already on the chain cannot be altered in any way. You can only make a change by noting it on a future block that is not on the chain yet, and every participant of the blockchain can see this change. At very technical levels advanced cryptography is what allows blockchain to exist, but diving into a discussion of these technicalities requires a scientific discussion, which, while interesting, would not serve a legal purpose. However, something of high-relevance to the legal community is a discussion of smart contracts. Working closely with coders and blockchain experts, attorneys can draft smart contracts that provide a more efficient, secure, and cost-effective way of facilitating transactions between individuals. Continue reading “Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Smart Contracts – Part 1”
We have all gone to a website and, in accessing the website’s services, have agreed to “terms and conditions” that include a litany of policies, including privacy policies governing how the company maintaining the website will use our personal information obtained while accessing the website. And let’s be honest, even as attorneys or soon-to-be-attorneys, many of us usually do not actually take the time to read the laundry list of items we are agreeing to just so we can obtain a 20% coupon. I know I’m guilty of regularly clicking “I agree” without reading every term and condition.
You only needed to read the title of the 2016 Nies Lecture in Intellectual Property presented Tuesday at Marquette Law School to know that Brad Smith was offering a generally positive view of the future of technological innovation. “A Cloud for Global Good: The Future of Technology—Issues for Wisconsin and the World” was the title.
Indeed, Smith spoke to the potential for what he called the fourth industrial revolution to improve lives across the world. But he also voiced concerns about the future of privacy and security for personal information in a rapidly changing world, and he called for updating of both American laws and international agreements related to technology to respond to the big changes.
All of this came from a standpoint of unquestionable knowledge of the subject matter. Smith is the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft. The Appleton native has been with the company since 1993 and his duties include overseeing corporate, external, and legal affairs for the global technology giant. Continue reading “Microsoft President Calls for Protecting Privacy as the Cloud Reshapes Lives”
Okay, I admit it. I’m playing Pokémon Go. It’s frustratingly addictive.
For those who don’t know, Pokémon Go is an app for smartphones; the app is free, but players can make in-app purchases. The idea is for each player to “catch” creatures known as Pokémon, which the player does by “throwing” what is called a Pokéball at them. Once you catch the creatures, each of which has its own special powers and abilities, you can “evolve” them into stronger, more powerful creatures and you can go to gyms to “battle” other players.
Pokémon Go uses GPS to figure out where a player is located and presents the player with that “map.” Pokéstops (where players can go to get free goodies they need to play the game) and gyms are represented on the map as actual places, usually public places like parks, sculptures, or churches. To get to a Pokéstop or to battle at a gym, a player needs to physically move herself to that location. For example, the Marquette University campus is full of Pokéstops—e.g., a few sculptures on the southeast side of campus, one of the signs for the Alumni Memorial Union. Dedicated players certainly get some exercise.
Pokémon Go is also interesting because of how it mixes your real-life location with the mythical creatures. When a creature appears, you can take its picture, as if the Pokémon is right there in your real world. (See the pictures in this post.)
But Pokémon Go has been at the root of a number of accidents and incidents and it raises a number of interesting legal issues.
Continue reading “Legal Issues and Pokémon Go”
Apple is marketing its newest smartphone operating system, iOS 8, as a bulwark of personal privacy. Apparently, not even Apple itself can bypass a customer’s passcode and extract data from an iPhone that runs the new operating system. This means that even in response to a court order, the company will be powerless to comply. Competitors are likely to follow suit.
This is a development with profound implications for law enforcement, which views the ability to obtain such data with a warrant as crucial in its efforts to combat crime and terrorism. Defenders of the new technology point out that law enforcement may be able to obtain the same data in different ways; for example, if the data is stored “in the cloud” or if the password can be deduced somehow.
Continue reading “You Knew Your New iPhone Was Cool, but Did You Know….?”
All of the interest in the Supreme Court tomorrow is likely to be focused on Hobby Lobby and, to a lesser extent, Harris v. Quinn. But I’ll be watching something that happens before either of those decisions is announced. I’ll be looking to see if the Supreme Court granted cert in the StreetView case. I hope the answer is no.
The StreetView case — Google v. Joffe — is one that I’ve blogged extensively about over the past year. See Part I, Part II; see also my coverage of the Ninth Circuit opinion, Google’s petition for rehearing, and the filing of Google’s cert. petition.) Briefly, Google’s StreetView cars intercepted the contents of transmissions from residential wi-fi routers whose owners had not turned on encryption. A number of class actions have been filed claiming that the interceptions were violations of the federal Wiretap Act. Google moved to dismiss them, arguing that radio communications (like wi-fi) basically have to be encrypted to be protected by the Wiretap Act. The district court and the Ninth Circuit disagreed, holding that the exception Google points to applies only to traditional AM/FM radio broadcasts.
Although I disagree with the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning and would find it professionally advantageous if the Supreme Court decided to take the case, I hope it denies cert. Here’s why. Continue reading “The Supreme Court Considers Google Street View”
Rebecca Tushnet points to this column by Cory Doctorow arguing that Hachette is being held hostage in its fight with Amazon over e-book versions of its books because of its “single-minded insistence on DRM”: “It’s likely that every Hachette ebook ever sold has been locked with some company’s proprietary DRM, and therein lies the rub.” Doctorow argues that because of the DMCA Hachette can no longer get access, or authorize others to get access to, its own books:
Under US law (the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and its global counterparts (such as the EUCD), only the company that put the DRM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon’s DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you’re Amazon. So while it’s technical child’s play to release a Hachette app that converts your Kindle library to work with Apple’s Ibooks or Google’s Play Store, such a move is illegal.
It is an own-goal masterstroke.
Everyone loves irony, but I can’t figure out how to make Doctorow’s argument work. First, I can’t figure out what the anticircumvention problem would be. Second, I can’t figure out why Hachette wouldn’t be able to provide other distributors with e-book versions of its books. Continue reading “Is Hachette Being Hoisted by Its Own DRM Petard?”
I noted back in October that Google had hired “noted Supreme Court advocate Seth Waxman” as it was preparing its petition for rehearing in the Street View case, “indicating perhaps how far they intend to take this.” (For background, see my earlier posts Part I, Part II, after the panel decision, and on the petition for rehearing.) My suspicions were accurate — after losing again at the rehearing stage in late December, Google has now filed a petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit.
Google’s petition primarily makes the same substantive arguments it made in its petition for rehearing. The Ninth Circuit in the decision below adopted what I’ve called the “radio means radio” approach — “radio communications” in the Wiretap Act means only communications that you can receive with, you know, an ordinary AM/FM radio. I’ve argued that that is mistaken, and Google unsurprisingly agrees with me. Google provides three reasons why the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation cannot be sustained. Continue reading “Google Files Cert. Petition in Street View Case”