Often as technology advances, the law scrambles to catch up. Of course, the law cannot necessarily be expected to see into the future or to anticipate all possible ramifications of the development and usage of technology. Most often, when individuals consider legal or ethical issues and adjustments to the law as they pertain to technology, they often think of the Internet and its many complications. However, long before the Internet exploded into prevalence the way it is now, the public, businesses and organizations, and the government were faced with other technology advancements which required legislation in order to adequately monitor and manage. This paper will examine two such pieces of legislation in particular and the technological advances which prompted their adoption – the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act of 1978.
The Cable Communications Policy Act (CCPA) of 1984 is actually an amended version of the Communications Act of 1934. Its primary goals are to regulate the cable television industry and to provide protections for cable consumer privacy. Like all good legislation, the CCPA attempts to protect the interests of all parties involved. In the case of the CCPA, the cable industry felt the government was over-regulating, while the government expressed concern regarding equitable competition within the industry. In other words, given that there were several personal communication services (PSC) providers at one time, it only made sense in the free market to give consumers a choice. It was a boom in PSC providers, and the overall boom in the cable television industry in general, which necessitated the amendment of the original Communications Act of 1934, which in its original form did not and could not account for the many variables associated with cable television, including the hardware and software associated with the provision of cable television service. The CCPA however enabled consumers to purchase the video devices of their choice which would be compatible with any and all services providing access or subscriptions to multichannel video programming. However, this freedom of choice – of both devices and deliverers of service – increased the vulnerability of consumers. Therefore, the CCPA also protects the interests and rights of the consumers, primarily by prohibiting cable providers from abusing the personal information/privacy of consumers with regard to the collection, storage, and dissemination of that personal information.
The Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) of 1978 is primarily intended to protect the rights of consumers who opt to use electronic means in order to conduct financial or banking-related business. Like the CCPA, the EFTA is also intended to protect the personal information/privacy of consumers. The necessity of the EFTA emerged as a result of the development of electronic funds transfers and other banking technologies. Electronic fund transfers (EFTs) were not well-regulated prior to the adoption of the EFTA, leaving consumers and other participants in EFTs vulnerable to loss, theft, and fraud. With the implementation of the EFTA, however, the rights and interests of consumers and involved parties were established.
In both cases, the rights of the consumers were of high interest in the creation of the legislation. Since the average consumer lacks the necessary clout to regulate industries or to manage multiparty transactions such as cable service provision or EFTs, the government had to step in make legal provisions for these circumstances. In both cases, amendments have since been made in order to continue to reflect changes in technology and the growing global environment. In both cases booms in previously established industries were the catalyst. In the case of CCPA, the increase in cable service providers and related devices necessitated legislation. In the case of the EFTA, the ability to transfer funds wirelessly required safeguards to protect the interests of involved parties.