An individual is ultimately responsible for the use of a technology. This is, in a few words, the conclusion of a decision issued by the 6th Appelate District of the California Court of Appeal.
The merit of the controversy was a legal action taken by the victims of a car accident against Apple accused – said the plaintiff – of infringing a duty of care in the designing FaceTime so that it didn’t stop working when users drive a car, thus distracting the driver a causing the accident.
In rejecting the claim, the Court found that not preventing the use of FaceTime while driving neither is matter of duty of care does nor constitute a proximate cause of injuries suffered in a car crash.
This finding is based on two pillars.
The first one is that the if a products work always in the same manner, it is the user who must adopt a proper care. Therefore, the Court said
Apple’s design of the iPhone, … simply made … use of the phone while driving possible, as does the creator of any product (such as a map, a radio, a hot cup of coffee, or makeup) that could foreseeably distract a driver using the product while driving.
The second pillar is the need of a balancement between the collective gain from a specific activity and the risk of individual injury. In this regard, the Court held that
A duty of care will not be held to exist even as to foreseeable injuries … where the social utility of the activity concerned is so great, and avoidance of the injuries so burdensome to society, as to outweigh the compensatory and cost-internalization values of negligence liability.
The very same principle should be valid too for all the “privacy infringements” claims allegedly committed by social networking platforms.