Exploding Gas Tanks: Risk, Liability and Internet of Things

We like to construct Hollywood friendly plots around a lot of the seminal moments in our collective history. For Civil Rights, we like to picture the integration of Little Rock High School, Rosa Parks’ courageous protest on a Montgomery bus or the March on Washington. For environmentalism, we talk about Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or, maybe, the burning Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. (This vintage news footage of the 1969 fire calls it the fire that “sparked the environmental movement” without any apparent irony.) For automobile safety, we imagine Ralph Nader and the image of a 1972 crash test that shows the gas tank of the Ford Pinto exploding in a rear impact collision, engulfing both cars in flames.

But those memories are often way oversimplified. Little Rock and the Montgomery bus boycott were just two battles in a fight for civil rights that went back to the end of the Civil War. Likewise, the Cuyahoga fire in 1969 was just one of a string of similar fires on the same river, going back decades. By some accounts – it wasn’t even the worst of them. And the fight for better automobile safety, likewise, began long before Ralph Nader or the Pinto came onto the scene.

In other words, progress is slow and almost always incremental, rather than revolutionary.

And so it will be with the kinds of privacy and security issues we face today as a whole universe of new, intelligent and Internet connected technology invades our homes, workplaces, automobiles and clothing. At least that’s the opinion of  uur guest for the latest Security Ledger Hangout: Paul Rosenzwieg, the founder of Red Branch Consulting and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security. Paul is a regular contributor to Lawfare – one of the best sources for thoughtful analysis of cyber-legal (my term) issues. He’s a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute and serves as a Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University, a Senior Editor of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, and a Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Paul is also a member of I Am The Cavalry, a group of security researchers and other experts who is pushing for more transparency around security and data integrity in everything from connected vehicles to critical infrastructure.

Check out our whole conversation by clicking on the embedded video below!


  1. Picky, I know, but the bus boycott that Rosa Parks sparked was in Montgomery, not Birmingham, Alabama. Good article in any case.