Hidden Engines of Destruction

49 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2008 Last revised: 1 Feb 2014

See all articles by Andrea M. Matwyshyn

Andrea M. Matwyshyn

Penn State Law; Penn State Engineering; Stanford University - Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: March 19, 2009


This article explores whether a duty to warn should exist in the context of digital products. It argues in favor of creating a "reasonable expectation of code safety." Section I explains the dominant ways that digital products can harm consumers through their code and not their content, focusing on functionality and information security harms. Section II reviews existing regulation of digital products and highlights their focus on improving information parity and consumer control over digital product relationships. Section II then sets forth the scope of the duty to warn and protect from harms in real space owed by possessors of land to their business visitors upon it and argues in favor of importing these concepts into the digital consumer protection context. Finally, Section II proposes a "reasonable expectation of code safety," comprised of a duty of code inspection, a duty to warn of code harms and a duty to repair code promptly. It also proposes a three-tiered framework inspired by systems theory and the land-based duty to warn and repair. Section III considers the primary challenge against the proposed framework - on First Amendment grounds - and finds the framework to fully comport with First Amendment protections.

Keywords: information security, technology, internet, First Amendment, speech, identity theft, spam, communication

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Matwyshyn, Andrea M., Hidden Engines of Destruction (March 19, 2009). Florida Law Review, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=958437

Andrea M. Matwyshyn (Contact Author)

Penn State Law ( email )

Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

Penn State Engineering ( email )

101 Hammond Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

Stanford University - Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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