A Right to Repair or a Right to Hack Systems? 

A Right to Repair or a Right to Hack Systems? 
Electronic Security Association — April 12, 2023

The Right to Repair movement has one of the best names in the political advocacy business. Americans love their rights, and a right to repair things you have purchased sounds like a great idea. However, it just makes the job of those in the electronic security industry even more challenging. At ESA we are pushing back against extreme rights to repair bills. 

In 2022, New York state tried to pass one of these extreme rights to repair bills. ESA members and our allies in the industry were able to communicate our concerns with Governor Hochul and her staff. Thankfully, they understood and agreed with our concerns.  

This New York Digital Fair Repair Act, in its original form, would have forced manufacturers to provide sensitive and proprietary information and diagnostic equipment to anyone who requested it. Ergo, life safety and security systems would have been left vulnerable to hacking from nearly anyone, regardless of training or certification. 

Instead of that bill, we have an exemption for the industry thanks to Governor Hochul’s chapter amendment that we hoped for. The amendment appears to provide protection to nearly all alarm systems. While the final version of the bill needs to be officially passed, it is expected to move quickly.  

This is not the end of the right to repair movement though. In fact, ESA is tracking over 35 right to repair bills in 19 states. I expect this number to increase. Some of these bills are the extreme, all-encompassing versions, while others are “skinny” versions of them. Often focused on a specific item, such as wheelchairs, or a specific industry like agricultural. Many ESA members will be asked to get involved and express the concerns we have with lawmakers. 

Hopefully the victory in New York will be a major turning point. The exemptions provided from Governor Hochul’s chapter amendment will likely be referred to many times around the county. Nobody wants a mall kiosk repair shop breaking into alarm systems. Nobody should worry that when they go on vacation a neighbor can hack a system and walk in through the front door. While a right to repair sounds like a good thing, it is important that ESA members and their customers can rest easy knowing legislatures are not passing a right to hack into their life and security systems.