re: Where do you think ethics in tech is falling short? VIEW POST


Basic respect for user privacy is definitely lacking. Just because we can track our users, it doesn't mean we should. Personal data has become an incredibly toxic subject in recent years thanks to the likes of Facebook and Google.

Nowadays, "free" services (such as social media) have become a mandatory aspect of our predominantly digitally driven daily lives. Although we have always had the freedom to disagree with a platform's use of our data (as written in the appropriate terms of service), it is no longer feasible to disconnect oneself from the digital world.

If I were to be stubborn and reject all platforms that sell my data in exchange for "free services", then I wouldn't be able to keep up with the modern ways of communication. I'd literally be stuck in the past.

Case in point, surrendering our privacy is no longer a choice; it's a necessity. And that's where I think we have failed in tech.

Despite all the unreadable legal jargon that gives us the freedom to reject the terms of service, the modern lifestyle urges us to choose otherwise.

User privacy is an illusion. We have no choice anymore, and that's the disturbingly harsh, Orwellian reality of the "open" Web.


I came here to write this, thanks😊


I totally agree with this πŸ’―
Hell most of friends won't care joining privacy based alternatives because they are not that "good" (I mean if you are not going to use it, its not going to get better more users means more chances a company/community is going to make it better)


If I were to be stubborn and reject all platforms that sell my data in exchange for "free services", then I wouldn't be able to keep up with the modern ways of communication. I'd literally be stuck in the past.

Can you elaborate on this?

I can only think of WhatsApp, that doesn't have a privacy-friendly alternative, because it is a closed platform. Probably LinkedIn, but you can get some leads there and use email for the next steps.


Sure! What I meant by that was expounding on my point that "surrendering user privacy" has become a necessity at this point.

As you said, we have the freedom to choose other alternatives. For example, one can opt to use DuckDuckGo over Google for the sake of privacy, but that doesn't mean we always have that choice in other areas of tech. Moreover, it doesn't exactly mean the alternatives are the most practical and the most convenient solutions.

If one wanted to use a more privacy-centric OS, then they would have to jump through the hoops of Linux. Not everyone has the ability to tinker around, so most of us just settle with Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS.

We may opt to use DuckDuckGo in this case, but that doesn't mean we don't make trade-offs in other areas.

And that is the heart of the issue: it is simply easier to surrender user privacy. We have failed in developing the tech industry in such a way that makes privacy the easiest choice. Frankly put, user privacy is not the default (for various business-related reasons).

In turn, after years of domination (or dare I say "monopolization"), the "Facebooks" and "Googles" of the world have normalized the culture of trading privacy for their "free" services.

That is what I found unethical about it. We live in a world where this is an acceptable trade-off, perhaps even mandatory in most cases, especially with non-tech-savvy individuals.

I agree, but would argue you are congregating two distinct phenomena.

  1. Many services (WhatsApp, YouTube, Uber, Facebook...) are subject to two-sided markets or other network benefits. By being the largest they are a de-facto monopoly. This is an issue of lacking legislators who don't enforce competitive free markets through e.g. open communication standards.
  2. People know nothing about technology, in particular as it relates to potentials for data abuse in this example, yet still use it and have opinions about it. I've seen this in software engineers holding an MSc as well.

Google vs DuckDuckGo is caused entirely by the second issue, and could be considered a result of user choice. WhatsApp vs Signal is also caused by the first, and really isn't a choice.

There are further cases where users really don't have a (proper) choice, such as with mobile OS, or website who chose to use third party utilities who track as a side-effect, essentially because their devs are bad.

Ah, I see your point. However, either way we look at it, this issue on privacy is definitely an area in tech in which we have failed in terms of ethics.

It's not that we, as developers, are inherently "evil". Through the years, we simply have not addressed the privacy issues arising from the ubiquity of tech. Until only recently (thanks to legislation such as the EU's GDPR), we have fostered a culture in which it is totally acceptable to intrude on user privacy "by default". For some, as you differentiated, it is due to the lack of a "proper choice".

Thank you for adding the distinction. It initially did not occur to me that I have mixed the two phenomena. Perhaps I have been too caught up with my main thesis that over the years, the tech industry has normalized a culture of intrusion.

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