Digital Ethics

A curated catalogue of resources

Hello 👋

We are collecting and cataloguing resources about digital ethics. Everyone is welcome to contribute.

Pick the topics you are interested in. We will sort the resources accordingly. Or just scroll through all of them.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

Books
Privacy

The book exposes the exploitative commodification of personal data with the core purpose of profit-making.

Tad Lispy
Tad Lispy at 2022-03-13T22:09:51.000Z

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https://ethicalos.org/

Processes

Silicon Valley's approach to the 8 greatest risk in software.

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https://switching.software/

Tools

Ethical, easy-to-use and privacy-conscious alternatives to well-known software.

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Sam PhillipsSam Phillips

https://matrix.org/

Tools

An open network for secure, decentralized communication.

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https://mastodon.social/

Tools

Follow friends and discover new ones.

Tad Lispy
Tad Lispy at 2022-03-18T17:55:41.000Z

How would a ~Economics label look on the page?

What about a link to another resource: #11


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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics_of_technology

Articles

The "Ethics of Technology" Wikipedia article.

Sam Phillips
Sam Phillips at 2022-03-21T11:16:09.000Z

This article is very basic and comprehensive. I think it would make a very good starting-point for anyone interested in digital ethics.

@dowberkabak and I read this article together and had some thoughts and questions regarding the ethics theories listed. How can these theories be applied to the various topics in digital ethics?

As a thought experiment, we tried to apply each of the three theories to one technology, the smartphone, to imagine what considerations each would impose.

In the case of Utilitarianism, we asked, how does the smartphone maximize or reduce happiness, or maximize or reduce suffering, and how could we know? The smartphone allows people to stay connected with friends and family, and creates new connections between people. This, one could imagine, increases happiness. On the other hand, use of smartphones is linked to addiction and depression, both of which increase suffering. The question, how can we know if and when smartphone usage increases happiness or suffering, seems like a very difficult one to answer. People chose if and when to use their smartphones, which suggests find value in their smartphones. However, the addictive nature of the smartphone might suggest that there are other motives at stake, other than happiness in these decisions. Who would be invested with the authority to decide whether a choice freely made by people is increasing or decreasing their happiness? Perhaps this is a decision we all make collectively over time. An analogy might be made to drugs, which people use freely, but create obvious concerns regarding whether they bring happiness to their users.

In the case of Duty ethics, we asked, does the smartphone assist or prevent us in fulfilling our obligations to society, and does it introduce any new obligations? Data protection is a relatively new concern which seems to impose a new set of obligations to smartphone users and app developers. We imagined that duty ethics would be fairly categorical here, that an app developer has a responsibility not to handle user data in a non-transparent way. The utilitarian, on the other hand, might take a more case-by-case view: if a developer sells user data to a company working on medical technology, for example, even if the user isn't aware of this fact, the developer could argue the benefit outweighs the harm.

In the case of Virtue ethics, we asked how would a virtuous person handle a smartphone, and does a smartphone help people become virtuous? A common observation is that people tend to be more inclined to behave in anti-social ways when online. We imagine, virtue ethics would say, each of us has a personal responsibility to behave in a hospitable, friendly, helpful way when online. What exactly this means would have to be determined on a case by case basis. A question that arises is, how can app developers build platforms which encourage virtuousness in their users?

A related question regarding technoethics we had is, how can ethical standards in digital spaces be achieved? If we imagine that we could create something like a perfect standard for how people ought to behave online, how could this standard be applied in practice? Should it be written into legislation? Should educational campaigns be organized to teach developers and users what it means to behave ethically?

Something that feels to us like a fundamental issue is the tension between freedom and security. For example, we want freedom of speech to be maintained in digital spaces, and we want to keep digital spaces free of hate speech. We want to be able to connect with people online freely, without becoming addicted to the quick social feedback provided by online platforms. How to achieve an ethical standard without sacrificing either freedom or security isn't at all obvious.

We'd be very curious to hear what others think about these issues.