FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.
We made it through 2016. So, what's in store in 2017 when it comes to hot tech issues? There are many hot issues, such as big data, intellectual property disputes, the sharing economy, and drones. But this blog covers the three potential biggest issues. Drum roll please -- here we go!
1. Security -- Cybercrime & Cyberwarfare
Hacking, hacking, hacking ...
Security on the internet is the first and foremost tech issue for 2017.
Hacking is penetrating all sorts of systems. For example, individuals are vulnerable to cybercrime, as their personally identifiable information is stolen when companies are hacked.
And cyberwarfare appears to be here and now, and not just some speculation about the future. Indeed, the Senate is preparing at this moment to hold hearings about the implications of apparent Russian hacking that meddled in our recent presidential election.
This year likely will be dominated by efforts to combat threats to internet security.
2. Social Media & Traditional Journalism
The second most important tech issue for 2017 is the threat to investigative journalism posed by social media.
The rise of social media has been astronomical. Indeed, by population headcount, Facebook now is the largest nation on the planet.
Practically anyone can be a commentator on world events. However, sensational and fake news tend to attract attention. People live within their own social media bubble of "friends" and thus often do not see other points of view. Attitudes can be hardened in singular directions, at times underpinned by fiction not fact.
Social media has threatened traditional journalism. Many people do not want to pay to subscribe to actual news services, when they can get their "news" for free via social media. Plus, to compete with social media, there is pressure on news services to go for sensational headlines.
Investigative journalism serves a valuable purpose in supporting democracies and the threat to such journalism is a threat to democracies. Constructive efforts need to be taken in 2017 to protect journalism and to reign in fake news showing up on social media.
3. The Online Human Cost
The third most significant tech issue for 2017 relates to the human cost of living our lives online.
As we march into 2017, we are conducting more of our personal and business affairs over the internet. Rather than go to the store, we click a button and goods show up at our homes. Instead of walking down the hall to talk to a colleague at work, we send an email. Rather than getting together with a friend, we send a text. In place of meeting someone in person to solve a problem, we engage in a fight with online posts.
While all of this is convenient, there is a human cost. We become more isolated and we spend less real time together in person, depriving ourselves of the benefits of true human warmth. Plus, when we deal with each other remotely, we can be more abrasive and rude than we would be face-to-face. Indeed, as we are witnessing, quick tweets certainly can rock the boat on a national and international scale.
Starting this year, let's hope that a movement might emerge encouraging us to learn to put down our devices and to make time to actually be with other people.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at email@example.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.