Testimony: Owen Rubel

The following is a transcript of testimony by SecuRepairs member Owen Rubel at the January 21st hearing of the Washington State Senate concerning SB 5799, a bill that seeks to enshrine a digital right to repair in state law. Owen joined SecuRepairs member Tarah Wheeler in testifying and educating lawmakers that repair does not pose an unacceptable security, safety or privacy risk to the public.

Hello thank you Mr Chairman and I want to thank Mr Nguyen from my district Senator Nguyen for bringing this to the floor. My name is Owen Rubel. I’m an original member of Amazon and I wanted to address some of the issues that the former panel brought up like, for instance, the issue of safety.

Owen Rubel was an original employee at Amazon.com and is an engineer in the High Performance Computing Lab at The University of Washington.
Owen testifying on January 21st, 2020 before the Washington State Senate.

I know for instance there are a lot of things that we can repair in the home like our microwave, our refrigerator or our car. But some of those things that we already can repair are extremely dangerous. I can make an e.m.p. device from a microwave. I can unleash the Freon from a refrigerator. I can drive a car into a crowd of people. All of these devices that we already can repair are extraordinarily dangerous, but that’s not going to excuse for repairing these devices. We can all repair these devices and learn and build new and better things from them.

In fact, my father used to do this. Google used to do this. In the 1960s we had hardware computers that actually ran to the end of life for the software that we had for them. We use that hardware and build super computers for them. We actually call them “the cloud” now.

I brought an example of that this is what the cloud looks like today demo this at System 76, a Linux computer company. This actually shows what we should be doing: we should be teaching children how to rip apart our our computers and build bigger and better computers because if we don’t show them what the inside of a computer is and how to build it and how to rip it apart and what it is inside of there, then that’s a disadvantage to our children and our children’s future.

The children in other countries are going to do that and only children in Taiwan are going to know about computers and how to build them. Our children are going to be disadvantaged as a result of that. There’s no excuse that we shouldn’t be doing this. 

If you have any questions for me thank you.