The ethics of digital: round up #3

September 17, 2014

I’m not a gamer. Scrabble is about my limit. And I mean real Scrabble with real plastic pieces you can pick up and hold in your hand. But I do follow some people from the Games world on Twitter so I was half aware of “#gamergate” .

For a summary of #gamergate, this Forbes article is one place to start (thanks to Steve Bowbrick). Zoe Quinn who was unfortunate enough to be at the centre of it all, gives her take here: “Five Things I Learned As The Internet’s Most Hated Person”

This is an unpleasant example of what happens when a closed community gets challenged by outsiders, and then turns on them. How do we stop young men behaving like this?

Google’s consultation about the right to be forgotten continues its European tour. Here’s an interesting example of a Google takedown from the Worcester News: “Dan Roche’s plea to Google about the art he’d rather you forgot”

It’s easy to see this as frivolous. But search removes one sort of context and adds a different one. Isn’t the implication of any top Google search result “this is the most important thing about this subject right now?”. In this case that’s clearly wrong.

Lucy Bernholz’ focuses on “Apple’s Watch and the Ethics of Data”:

“…letting the data be used for “medical research” without specifying by whom and under what conditions doesn’t protect you in the least.”

Thanks to Martin Geddes I found this article: “The future of the internet is decentralised”. Right at the end there’s this:

Decentralization initiatives, by their very nature, do not favor any one application over another. There is no authority to dictate what should be published and what should not. The network, being autonomous, can be used for any purpose.

That can include jihadi forums, revenge and child pornography sites, or neo-Nazi propaganda. Typically with offending websites, law enforcement find out where the server running it is located and seize it by sending a legal demand to the hosting company. On a decentralized network, such actions become impossible because there is no server to target.

“It’s just not possible,” Irvine says. “Terror things, child porn—the real evil side of society could exist there. They’re going to be completely protected.”

Those campaigning for digital rights, however, think that the trade-off is worthwhile.

“The difference is that the average user will also have the ability to protect themselves from losing information or their privacy,” says Danny O’Brien, international director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “and there are far more average users than there are political dissidents or horrible criminals.”

I don’t think the trade-off is worthwhile. I’m also getting a strong sense of déjà vu. But it does point once again to one of the key ethical dillemas in digital. How much freedom is too much?

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