Big Brother, Cars, Face Recognition and Riding Like the Wind

pexels-photo-720815.jpegSince its inception the automobile has always been a romantic figure in American popular culture and emblematic of the American way of life. In short, the automobile has been freedom incarnate. On our sixteenth birthdays, we Americans take the day off and go straight to the DMV to take our driver’s exam. With our newly minted license, we are set free from the bounds of our parents and their ever-watching eye. It is our first right of passage.

As explained in an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, car companies can now store and mine lots of information about car owners, from how fast you are driving to where and when you are traveling. That means it becomes much harder for you to use your wheels to be free. Your spouse or your parents may not know where you are going or where you have been, but your car company does. If you’re cheating, you better hope your spouse doesn’t have a friend at your car company. And what if the police get a warrant to search your car company’s data on your vehicle’s performance? Forget contesting that speeding ticket in court. Who needs the Fifth Amendment when your car can incriminate against you instead?

Am I overreacting? Maybe, but the U.S. Senate did just approve with support from Democrats the extension and expansion of Donald Trump’s ability to spy on U.S. citizens and that includes reading your emails without a warrant. In fact, there were Democrats who said the matter didn’t even deserve to be debated. I would imagine that means mining data from our car companies as well.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post also reported on China’s intention to use facial recognition technology to keep a watchful eye on all citizens to help predict and combat crime. We should all be concerned about the government and private companies as Big Brother, but with facial recognition there is also the issue of accuracy.

facial recognition

False positives can mean that certain people are regularly stopped and potentially harassed by the police. Now imagine that the biometric engineers who set the algorithms are all from the same racial and ethnic groups, whether on purpose or not, their biases will be factored into the accuracy of the results. This will likely translate into minority groups taking the brunt of the false positives. For artificial intelligence and machine learning to be effective, it needs to be accurate at least 80% of the time. When that happens it will always be better than humans. But still, if we move to a system of Big Brother with ubiquitous cameras capturing our facial images 24/7 and the system is only 80% accurate, that leads to arguably an unbearably high threshold for potential abuse. Democracies are supposed to accept some criminals getting away with crime in exchange for the innocent not being locked up. It’s the authoritarian regimes who place law and order above the protection of the innocent.

Between companies, governments and new technologies, the potential for opportunities, efficiencies and abuse are endless. It is a Brave New World.


Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble

This is a fantastic article from the New York Times Magazine on Blockchain arguing that (i) cryptocurrencies (in particular Bitcoin) are being driven by greed, but (ii) they may be creating lasting value, and (iii) the focus on Bitcoin is masking the true significance of Blockchain technology. It is highly recommended.

Why the Entrepre-Lawyer Blog?

Monk Underground 2Twenty years ago this year, I earned my Juris Doctorate and then took and passed the New York bar exam. Since then I have worked in a variety of fields, capacities, and with all sorts of talented people. I have worked as a lawyer and on the business side. During a large chunk of that time, I have drafted and negotiated lots and lots of contracts, and to be quite frank, at this time in my career arguing a liability clause or typing “for avoidance of doubt” or “including without limitation” or “arising out of or in connection with” or “which shall not be unreasonably withheld” are not what get me out of bed in the morning.

What does get me up in the morning is being part of the action, helping to find solutions and identifying new opportunities. In other words, I love playing the part of lawyer as business partner. But in order to be an effective business partner, you need to know your client’s business and you need to be in the loop.

With that in mind, in my current role as Senior Legal Counsel at Amadeus IT Group, I have assumed the leadership of a virtual team called “Tech Watch” where my colleagues and I in the legal department discuss and monitor new technologies and innovation in order to be better business partners. In doing this, we have also sparked an increased interest in following the trends in our marketplace (and of course, one of the most important things about being good at what one does professionally is enjoying the subject matter of one’s work).


In particular, I have been looking a lot at Blockchain, Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence and how user generated data can be used both for our benefit and our detriment. There is already so much about Blockchain, for example, as it applies to Fintech but not in relation to other use cases, so I seek out news on these topics in different contexts. With this blog I hope to share some of what I find. Sometimes I will simply re-post articles that I think are interesting for those who wish to learn more, and other times I will write about my own impressions about how these technologies may shape the market, the law or society.

Finally, this blog is not exclusive to lawyers and isn’t focused on legislation or regulation. Its main link to the legal profession is that its author is a lawyer who believes that lawyers should be better acquainted with new technologies in order to be more effective entrepre-lawyers and business partners.