Writs on the Wall

By Bradley Tusk  |  March 21, 2016

Tomorrow, the case between Apple and the FBI over encryption and privacy will come before the courts. The judge will have to decide whether to read the underlying statute at hand — the All Writs Act — liberally or strictly. A liberal reading likely means ruling for Apple whereas a strict reading likely means a win for the FBI.

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Regardless of the outcome, there’s a fundamental problem here. The All Writs Act was written in 1789. And while it seems to have served us well, relying on two hundred year old laws to resolve very modern issues of technology and innovation is problematic. The world evolves. Things change. And trying to fit square pegs into round holes doesn’t always work.

That’s why we should use this dispute as the start of something new and productive — updating our laws to reflect the world we live in. While we can’t go back and change every statute in every jurisdiction across the country, we can identify the top ten or twenty issues in technology today that are likely to run up against old statutes and modernize those laws.

It’s not hard to predict regulatory and legislative challenges and problems around drone usage. Or worker classification in the sharing economy. Or, as telemedicine continues to advance, state laws around Medicaid reimbursement. Or, as the ability to deviate from a broken public schooling model increases, how states should regulate and fund online k-12 instruction.

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We’ve seen some government agencies thinking creatively — for example, the US Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities program. But far too many are stuck in outdated modes and even more outdated attitudes. For once, let’s think ahead and solve a problem before it becomes a crisis.

Which new technologies and platforms do you think should merit forward thinking legislative and regulatory changes? Tell us what you think in the comments section or email us at info@tuskventures.com. We’ll publish the results and incorporate your ideas into our work.