The words “reckless disregard” have recently been thrown at several large technology companies, including Apple and PayPal. In legal terms, it means willfully ignoring the possibility that performing actions may have dangerous consequences. It is considered harsher than standard negligence because there is a conscious awareness of the issue, and yet the problem is neglected. Technology companies should be aware of this term in order to avoid legal ramifications, but also to ensure their customers are not affected by such actions.
Examples Of Reckless Disregard In Technology
Several high profile instances of reckless disregard have recently been in the media. PayPal was forced to pay $7.7 million to the U.S. Treasury for failing to follow sanctions that forbid financial transactions with terrorist organizations. Thankfully, Chase Payment was not on the end of similar accusations. Apple was heavily criticized by the U.S. government for not assisting the FBI in unlocking a cell phone that was used to commit terrorist acts. In each instance, these technology companies were accused of knowingly allowing dangerous actions to occur without stopping them. Had the companies done as they were told by the U.S. government, it is likely they would not have been accused of reckless disregard.
How To Avoid Reckless Disregard
Negligence is an issue companies strive to control. However, mistakes occur in all walks of life; the technology industry is no exception and legal teams are employed for this exact reason. When possible concerns are uncovered, they must not be ignored. If problems are brushed aside, negligence can easily become reckless disregard. Technology companies should encourage an open-door policy for employees to address such situations.
Who Is Affected By Reckless Disregard?
Anyone can be affected by reckless disregard, even the Phaeton. In most cases, there are direct consequences but also much broader, indirect consequences. In the PayPal case mentioned above, the U.S. Treasury was affected because its sanctions were ignored, creating legal issues between the two organizations. Considering the case was related to financing terrorist activity, PayPal’s reckless disregard could have much larger consequences if those funds related to terrorist actions that injured or killed people.
In the Apple case, the U.S. government had to use workarounds to unlock a cell phone, possibly incurring higher expenses and causing legal issues for the parties. However, in this case, the victim of reckless disregard is not so clear. Apple maintains that it would not provide the means to unlock the cell phone because of the possible future ramifications towards individual privacy. They argued that once the government had these tools, they may use them to invade individuals’ rights. The direct consequence of this case is that Apple were ordered to court over the dispute, but the much broader consequences could affect anyone that owns a smartphone.
One of the most common companies susceptible to reckless disregard is car companies. Often times, car technology has the ability to save more lives. Another example of this illegal action is placing seat belts in the car. Although this is a basic feature, car companies must provide it because it is a necessary safety feature. With the new cars coming out like Hyundai cars that can stop automatically, it will be interesting to see if car technology requires enhanced safety features to save lives.
Another area of tech companies that could definitely be soon be experiencing the consequences of reckless disregard is companies responsible for some of the top IoT gadgets on the market. Faster and higher bandwidth wireless networks are promising to become an even bigger part of our life. However, as the use of these smart home gadgets rise, so too does the concern for security. The examples of failures in this industry have been numerous. This presents another area to beware of committing your own reckless disregard faux pas.
It is important for technology companies to be aware of reckless disregard and to take action to avoid it, just like a certain VMware partner. There are legal and financial ramifications for companies that knowingly commit dangerous actions. When developing new technology, companies should examine the possible outcomes of their actions to ensure customers, employees and any possible stakeholders are not negatively affected by their actions. Learning from other companies’ past mistakes is one way to combat the possibility, another is to allow critical feedback to reach the appropriate team members. Failure to address situations in which reckless disregard may occur could result in unfortunate (and expensive) consequences for a technology company.
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