Liable for Data Loss

When I first installed Windows 7, I was thrilled. Finally, Microsoft had slimmed down and improved the OS performance rather than continuing to bloat it larger. After Vista, Windows 7 was a welcome change. Windows 8 was different, but for me as a desktop user, it wasn’t much different. I moved to Windows 10 as a beta user and thought it performed well. A little slower than 7, but overall a good move. I was glad to get the upgrade notice on a second machine, but it was annoying. Trying to easily delay or avoid the change in the middle of some travel was hard. I certainly could sympathize with the users that complained they didn’t want the upgrade and couldn’t easily avoid it. I’m glad Microsoft changed this process a bit.

There were people that accidentally, or felt forced, to upgrade. Among those, some of them lost data and decided to sue Microsoft. Let’s leave aside the Windows upgrade process, Microsoft’s decision, and the merits of this particular case. Those are separate issues from the one I want to discuss, which is the liability for data loss. At the core of the lawsuit, the time and information that people have lost is an issue that few of us have had to deal with in our careers. At least, most of us haven’t had to worry we are liable for the issues our software might cause.

Are we moving to a place where a person, or more likely a company, is going to be held liable for the data loss from upgrades or patches? There is the ability of customers to initiate legal actions, but strong EULAs and prior legal decisions seem to indicate that much of the liability resides with customers and vendors aren’t at fault. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure, but I do think that as data becomes more important and is used to justify decisions or drive business actions, there will be a push to ensure that anyone performing data changes with their software during patches and upgrades is liable for issues.

I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of accountability from software firms to date, but I think much of the legal issues have been settled without much fanfare and strong non disclosure agreements. I’m not sure this is the best solution for anyone, as to force some improvement and better quality for software, we need to take better care of our data. I don’t want us to move slower with software development or deployment, but I do want quality to improve.

Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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