SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY LAW

Former Homeland Security chief warns of technology risks

Michael Chertoff, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, challenged lawyers to “think through” and address the new legal problems posed by technology during his keynote address at the Internet of Things National Institute, in Washington, D.C., last week.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff

“Oftentimes, we try to fit new technologies in the old models and we discover that the old model doesn’t really address the important issues, so we have to rethink them,” Chertoff told attendees at the fourth annual institute sponsored by the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law.

Chertoff mentioned several new technologies that hold promise, ranging from health sensors that alert doctors when medical problems arise to “smart” devices that can reduce traffic congestion in cities. But he warned that increased connectivity creates risks “to individuals and risks to society.”

Vulnerabilities are caused by gaps in software development, configuration and failures to update and upgrade devices, he said. Chertoff believes that unless technological risks are addressed, they could ultimately threaten privacy and freedom.

Chertoff encouraged lawyers to take the lead in establishing the rules and laws around technology “before you’re in crisis.”

He added, “This is the time to think about what is a reasonable set of principles to govern liability before we have a catastrophe.”

Chertoff is co-founder and executive chairman of the Chertoff Group, which provides high-level strategic counsel to corporate and government leaders on security topics ranging from risk identification and prevention to preparedness, response and recovery.

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