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How Biden’s Executive Order Impacts Right To Repair


Right to Repair meets Executive Order

The Biden Administration recently issued an executive order which directly affects cybersecurity. But the order goes beyond software and security and even affects consumers. Rob Hirschfeld, CEO and Co-founder of RackN, says about this, “There’s clearly a lot of consumer and market angst over major players. There’s been a lot of talk about the power of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook to actually change the market behaviors of how things are going. One of the biggest culprits that are being pointed out here is John Deere with tractors and agricultural products, or Tesla with cars.” The problem, according to Hirschfeld is, “Those vendors are able to operate them with a degree of impunity that is causing concern with consumer groups.” He continues, “…and I think that also causes concern with the administration and how they want to regulate or even if they can regulate those companies.”

The problem with how companies like John Deere deal with Right to Repair is they take the stance that the tractor is actually John Deere’s intellectual property and you (consumers) can’t change it, touch, or fix it. Hirschfeld says Tesla approaches this in the same fashion. “Even though you bought the car, they still own the software and the control systems that are inside that car. And this creates a really interesting paradigm shift,” he adds.

This is where Right to Repair creates tension between consumers and vendors, so much so that if you try to repair, patch, or even run diagnostics on certain products, you are considered in violation of the right to use the product.

Unfortunately, according to Hirschfeld, this executive order cannot change a society that has gotten very addicted to not fixing things. However, he goes on to say that the administration is on the right track with the executive order. “The administration is taking a thoughtful approach on this and not just in Right to Repair but across the board in healthcare, agriculture, Internet access, and energy. And we need to find ways that foster innovation within the systems that we have. If we don’t do that, we are at a competitive disadvantage.”

One very important aspect of Right to Repair is how it affects the life cycle of a product. To this end, Hirschfeld states, “The fact that you have to budget $1,000 every two years to replace your phone technology…is a privileged position for most people.” He also mentions how hardware can reach End of Life (EOL) and no longer receive patches. When consumers (or businesses) cannot take ownership of those devices, and firmware goes unpatched, those devices become vectors for malicious attacks.

Video Summary was written by Jack Wallen

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