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Ben Wittes | February 10, 2021

Ben Wittes | February 10, 2021


This event is being converted into a podcast by the Lawfare Podcast. When finished it will be available at:

David Hoffman joined Benjamin Wittes, a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, in a conversation about trust and technology development. Wittes began the discussion with a framework to think about elements of trust in technology; first, he noted there is trust in how the product performs and trust in that the formal model was correctly developed and operationalized, but this type of trust is too technical. Instead, consumers have to rely on brand and track record. Brand as a component of trust suggests that we trust software and hardware because we trust the company behind the products to be trustworthy custodians of our data and information. This is an imperfect surrogate, however; he pointed to Solar Winds as an example, noting that brands are trustworthy only until they are not. Second, he spoke about trust based on a track record; in this case, the trust is based on a long history of being secure relative to other products around it. Wittes also highlighted the circumstances of production as a source of mistrust. In this case, it is a question of the regulatory environment surrounding the production of a product; he gave the example of China, where the public law is vague and leaves uncertainty and discomfort with software and hardware made in China. Wittes summarized the implications of his argument on the constituent components of trust by noting that trust is a useful rubric to think about other issues, including privacy and cybersecurity.

The conversation then turned to questions surrounding the role of market dynamics compared to trust (with Wittes noting that “We trust because we use, not we use because we trust”) as well as concerns of European countries surrounding Facebook data privacy and the geopolitics of trust in technology. During the Q&A, Wittes answered questions relating to how trust in software and hardware played a role in contact tracing during the pandemic, the role of corporate governance environments, and the potential for the components of trust to be contextual based on the type of software or hardware being considered.


Event summary coming soon.