Owning Networked Things

Tesla recently announced self-driving as an add-on feature for future models. Buried in the legal jargon is this: You’re not allowed to use your self-driving Tesla “for revenue purposes”. Who owns this car?

Tesla legal jargon

On Oct 21, 2016 a massive botnet took down DNS service Dyn, shutting down access to many large sites in North America.

2016 DDOS map

The botnet was mostly made up of zombie webcams infected by Mirai – viral malware designed to turn IOT devices into a DDOS army.

On Oct 24, the webcam manufacturer Hangzhou Xiongmai, recalled the insecure devices that had made up a large part of the botnet. But this single webcam model is hardly the root cause.

We live in a future where you can buy a $16 Linux computer the size of a stick of gum. Solar panels, webcams, cars, toasters, candles… Everything will be a little smart. Everything will be hackable.

Some questions:

  • Who will own these smart things?
  • What does ownership mean when a hacker can compromise them?
  • Is “ownership” a realistic goal for a networked thing? Is it desirable?
  • When everything we own is a little bit smart, will all those smart things have overlapping and competing legal agreements?
  • If so, who decides what is fair?
  • Who will be responsible when things go wrong?
  • How will we know what EULAs we are breaking and what EULAs we are keeping?
  • With thousands of competing EULAs, how will conflicts be enforced? Automated settlements?

  • Updated
    Oct 26, 2016