Legal Newsline

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Disruptive tech sector advised to self-regulate while policy makers and regulators try to catch up

By Ann Maher | Mar 29, 2017

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes laid out terms of an accord with innovators of the U.S. tech industry on Wednesday, advising them that self-regulation will go a long way in keeping law enforcers away.

He also paid tribute to what disruptive technologies are contributing in economic terms and in making life better, healthier and safer for everyone.

“I think innovation is a word that’s easy to say but a lot harder to achieve,” he said. “Real, true innovation takes real resources that are expensive. Real risk, real research and development.”


Reyes commended the industry for not backing down, in spite of policy makers’ and regulators’ lack of understanding and the potential that lurks for criminal and civil liability.

“All these things heaped on at times can be disincentives,” he said. “I just want to commend you for continuing to put resources in and accept failures along the way.”

Reyes was keynote speaker at the “Emerging Technologies and Torts of the Future” hosted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Topics included the evolving liability challenges related to the use of drones and autonomous vehicles as well as the Internet of Things – where interconnectedness with devices increases points of attack.

With resources often being scarce in consumer protection-centric state AG offices, Reyes said that tech companies that abide by rules, have good quality control and are willing to kick out bad actors demonstrate to him “hallmarks” of good self-regulation.

He said self-regulation might not guarantee immunization, “but if I see you are a member of one of those self-regulated respected bodies, it gives me a great deal of comfort. I might prioritize others.”

Reyes suggested that good self-regulation might also keep at bay the self-appointed enforcers of regulation – the plaintiffs’ bar.

He said that one of the “unfortunate ironies” for entrepreneurs who’ve already sacrificed to get where they are is that they’re opened up to new liabilities and become more vulnerable with new successes.

As an example of vulnerability, smart refrigerators will order milk when you’re running low and the milk will get delivered by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

“Think about all the different sensors and the billions of data points collecting and disseminating, and all the vulnerabilities,” he said

He offered the group a few other suggestions.

“Get to know your AG,” he said. “I assure you that my colleagues don’t bite. They want to interact.”

He said tech leaders should invite their AGs to places of business, plants and headquarters.

“We want to get to know the landscape, not just the industry but individual businesses on a micro level.”

He said they should be open to hard questions - not as “gotchas” - but to be open about processes and to not hide anything.

Reyes recently met with three companies that are developing autonomous vehicles and the experience was “great” as he got to learn what is going on now and what is planned in the future, he said. The meeting allowed him to “wrap his mind” around achieving good policy while protecting consumers and not stifling innovation.

He encouraged “conspicuous” compliance with the law and regulations. If mistakes are made, “no cover ups,” he said. “Own up right away. And make sure you have a refund policy.”

Reyes said his office doesn't want to serve as "your customer service" department.

"Take care of your customers," he said. "The human touch is incredibly important." 

Legal Newsline is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. 

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