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Involuntary Technological Encroachment

By Peter Clarke, JD on March 19, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Once upon a time, the advent of the radio was considered a major advancement, and families in the evenings would huddle together and listen to favorite radio shows. Not that much later, television became the big thing. And with TV, it was easy to sit passively by as a couch potato watching one show after another.

Indeed, there is the following joke: A man says to his wife, "Honey, if I ever became a vegetable, please pull the plug." So, the wife walks past her husband on the couch over to the television set and pulls its plug from the wall electrical socket.

Of course, nowadays, there are so many more ways to be distracted from technology beyond radio and television. Indeed, our smart phones alone can perform many dozens of functions across numerous apps.

And while the technology described so far can be quite addictive, it is voluntary. A person can turn off or separate from her smart phone, she can turn off her television, she does not need to listen to her music in the car, etc.

But what about involuntary technological intrusions? Many aspects of technology cannot be easily avoided voluntarily.

Even if a person turns off or leaves behind her phone, other people out in the world will have their smart phones on them -- meaning that she must listen to their conversations nearby, or worse, she may have a video or photograph taken of her without her consent. Employees often are heavily monitored electronically in the workplace. There are many other such examples.

The point about involuntary technological intrusions was really brought home to me just the other day. I decided to get away from it all and go for a walk in nature near the university where I teach. I just wanted an hour away from all the stimulus of modern life. While out on my walk across the grass between some beautiful trees, I heard a buzzing sound. I looked up, and above the treelike was a drone flying around. I decided to keep walking, but then someone starting screaming at me. I continued walking, and the screamer yelled that I was ruining his drone videography because I was getting in the way of the nature scene he was trying to record. Ironic, eh?

While technology is very important for and improves many aspects of our lives, we still need sanctuaries, technology refuges, where we can be briefly free from all the noise so that we can center ourselves. And when we start getting yelled at for being in nature while ruining a drone recording of nature, well, that is not ok.

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 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.

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