The Ethics of Facial Recognition Software


"OMG, you guys, it's Burpy Snorkleface!" your friend exclaims (at least that’s what it sounds like). We've all been there: Someone’s excited about a famous-person sighting or the latest morsel of celebrity gossip … and you have no idea who it is.


Is Big Business the Biggest Threat to Consumer Privacy?



The public generally blames obscure, faceless and nameless online hackers for breaching online accounts and distributing personal data. However, these small-time criminals are barely making a dent in the unauthorized access and dissemination of personal consumer information. The biggest threat to consumer privacy is not rogue hackers and seedy, scam artists, but legitimate companies on the Dow Jones, NASDAQ, and Standard & Poor’s indices.

Pricing, Fairness and Digital Data


The Internet has been praised as being “The Great Equalizer,” for leveling the playing field by providing a platform for the free exchange of information, and for being a global marketplace without borders that provides consumers with unprecedented levels of choices. However, in the eyes of some retailers, it appears that all consumers are not created equal.


Geolocation Tracking: Your Cell Phone Footprint is Bigger Than You Think


Recent revelations by Edward Snowden have turned an international spotlight on the U.S. government’s cell phone surveillance capabilities. However, this issue was gaining steam long before the 29-year-old IT contractor’s allegations of overstepped boundaries. Ethical questions regarding cell phone surveillance by the government, marketers, and even other mobile phone owners — especially geographic location tracking — have been hotly debated for several years.

Oh No. I’m on Google!


Have you ever Googled yourself?

You should. You might find some interesting information.

The New Job Requirement: The Ethics of Monitoring Your Employees' Social Media


The advent of social media is rapidly changing the way we live and relate to each other and those changes have crept into the relationship between the employer and the employees. The tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media that people publish to or share with the public can expose employers to backlash from the public and sour the relationship between the employer and employee. Even the cook at Burger King can cause outrage by posting a photo of himself standing on exposed lettuce that garners national attention and thus causing a major headache for the corporate. What might have been intended as just a prank, became a nightmare for the store and its employees, as the store’s location made national headlines likely deterring customers and costing the company potential dollars and jobs. Behavior like this cannot be tolerated, but are there any ethical limits for ethically minded businesses? Ethically conscious businesses want to allow employees to properly and cordially express themselves, but the employee’s right to self-expression does not surpass the business’s right to be free of employee’s reckless social media behavior that can irreparably damage the business, brand or bottom line.

Cyberloafing, BYOD, and the ethics of using technology devices at work


Employer policies regarding personal use of employer-owned phones and computers aren’t all flexible enough to apply to employee-owned phones and other Internet-connected devices. Usage of employee-owned devices at work raises ethical issues, regardless of employer policies.

Petraeus and E-Government Ethics


“In the past, a spymaster might have placed a flowerpot with a red flag on his balcony or drawn a mark on page 20 of his mistress’s newspaper” wrote Nicole Perlroth in a recent New York Times article. “Instead, Mr. Petraeus used Gmail. And he got caught.”

Catfish, Te'o and Deception


Fakery, misrepresentation, pretending to be someone you are not. It’s a phenomenon as old as recorded history.

Mug Shots


I have never been arrested. Because of that, there are no police mug shots of me in existence. That is a very good thing, because if I ever had been arrested, it's a safe bet the photo taken at the time of my incarceration would be featured on at least one of the many mug shot galleries that litter the internet, and my—most likely— disheveled and disoriented portrait would be a permanent fixture in this ever-growing online photo album of shame.

When CEOs Tweet


When the CEO of a publicly traded company posts a message on Facebook, Twitter or any social media network, it could be an illegal act, or also incur a civil lawsuit.

The Ethics of Scanlation


Digital piracy affects almost all forms of media, from books to film to music. Digital piracy has a particularly long and complicated relationship, though, with an art form that is less familiar to mainstream audiences — manga.

Who’s Behind That Tweet?


One of the most common complaints I hear about America — from print, radio and television pundits on both ends of the political spectrum — is that we now live in a society ruled by political correctness.That statement is really only half true, however, because most people, excluding those who make a living creating controversy, are only concerned with being politically correct, or even civil, when their reputations, careers or finances are at risk.

 Is fact checking dead?

It’s Jan. 8, 2011, and the fictional journalists in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama series “The Newsroom” are reporting a real-life event. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others have just been shot in the parking lot of an Arizona grocery store.

We Are What We Click


In W. Somerset Maugham’s coming-of-age novel, Of Human Bondage, Philip, the young protagonist, is in conversation with Mildred, a young artist with whom he’s fallen in love. They speak briefly of a suicide that has affected the heartbroken Philip. Mildred, breezy as she is, says, “They’re a funny lot, suicides. […] Thing I’ve always noticed, people don’t commit suicide for love, as you’d expect, that’s just a fancy of novelists; they commit suicide because they haven’t got any money.”

Do Cloud Ethics Exist?


Cloud computing has been widely beneficial for sharing information and creating globally interconnected networks. It allows companies and consumers to access software and information that is stored remotely on a server, saving businesses the expense of having to install the software on every computer for every employee. While cloud computing has revolutionized the way in which global corporations operate, it has also jeopardized consumers’ digital privacy.

Do Not Track


Advertisers may be watching our every move on the Internet. And privacy advocates want it to stop.

Whatever we seek, buy, sell or click online is diligently tracked and used to accumulate huge databases reflecting our preferences, pastimes and proclivities for everything from books to clothing, to our general spending levels and specific buying habits.

Pro-Ana and Social Media


British actress Kate Beckinsale once said, “I believe anorexia is the form of breakdown most readily accessible to young girls.” Indeed, it is during the teenage years that females are most emotionally vulnerable, and at risk for developing an eating disorder. In the Western world, we are continuously bombarded with not-so-subtle ideas that one of the staple requirements for being seen as sexy and desirable is being thin. In modern America, slimness connotes ethereal qualities like delicacy and grace. But when the media showcases supermodels with gaunt, undernourished bodies, the aesthetic takes a dark turn.

Bradley Manning and the Ethics of Secrecy


February 23, 2013 marked the 1000th day of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s incarceration. In May 2010, Manning was arrested for passing classified information to Wikileaks, a nonprofit organization that has gained notoriety for exposing a multitude of secrets from various governments and regimes. The materials Manning sent to Wikileaks included videos of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 airstrike in Granai, Afghanistan,  250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, and 500,000 army reports, often referred to as the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Logs, respectively. The video of the Baghdad airstrike later was later condensed, edited and released by Wikileaks, in an effort to expose what both Manning and Wikileaks operatives saw as crimes against humanity. On February 28, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, including “misuse of classified material.” Among the charges, one of the most inauspicious is “aiding the enemy,” which could mean life in prison for Manning. Notably, he did not plead guilty to that charge. Manning also read from a 35-page statement, which claimed that he intended to spark domestic debate regarding military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first time Manning openly admitted to releasing the documents.

Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t shy away from a fake Twitter account - so why should you?


In early February, Facebook reported that 76 million of their accounts were found to be fake last year. Just over 7 percent of Facebook accounts were duplicates or not held by real people, the company affirmed in a regulatory filing. And there’s a similar scenario with Twitter: over 27 percent of the top 10 Twitter accounts’ followers are fake, according to Status People, a social media management platform for businesses. Status People recently released a “fake follower check,” which allows any Twitter user to find out how many of their followers are counterfeit. Though Facebook and Twitter are some of the social media sites most affected by the underground economy of unauthentic profiles, other social networks, including YouTube and LinkedIn, are by no means immune.

Is Mommy Ethical?


I click “post” on my latest blog entry and a pang of regret hits instantly. I wonder if perhaps I shared too much about my daughter in that post. I click “edit” and begin to pare down the details. After all, some aspects of our lives together are too private, too precious for public consumption. Moments later, as I am scanning Facebook, I click on a link that leads me to a blog post containing a photo of a red-faced, screaming child, accompanied by a mother’s rant about her “toddler from hell.” I flash forward to what this child might think if he or she were to come across this blog post in ten or twenty years. My focus immediately turns inward. What will my daughter think of what I’ve shared about her life on the Internet? Even though the things I’ve written about her are flattering, is it my right to share anything about her online? Or am I participating in an ethical breach that will impact both of us in the future? I close my browser, filled with more questions than answers.

The Ethics of Digital Dating


The Internet makes it easy to find love but hard to leave it behind. In less than a minute, I can search thousands of OkCupid members’ profiles for the word “feminist,” click on a cute one (let’s call him Progressive84), stumble on his Twitter account with the same username, and read his 140-character thoughts all the way back to 2010. And if dating Progressive84 doesn’t work out, I can torture myself -- with a glass of wine in me on a lonely Sunday night -- with his cute new LinkedIn picture (hmm, he looks good without facial hair) and the inside jokes on his Facebook wall with some girl I’ve never met (but already resent). It’s enough to make a seemingly sane person shake her fist at the sky and thunder theatrically, “DAMN YOU, INTERNET!”

Is Free Speech Free Everywhere?


The Internet has opened wide the doors of communication. It has revolutionized the way people access information, interact with others and disseminate knowledge. However, some governments go to great lengths to censor the type of information that its citizens can access. And some attempt to silence those who choose to openly criticize the government and its political leaders. In this light, freedom of expression and the right to access all parts of the Internet becomes an issue of digital ethics.

Neuromarketing - Is Big Brother in Your Head?


In the 1950s, marketing consultant and huckster James Vicary introduced the world to the idea that words, sounds and images hidden in advertising could compel people to buy. Two decades later he’d admitted that his research was a hoax, but the idea of subliminal messages still struck fear into the hearts of consumers. More than 200 scientific studies have been conducted that show there’s no evidence that subliminal ads motivate consumers, but now there’s a new monster in the closet: neuromarketing.

Eating, Ethics and Food Reviews


“This place is so disgusting. The waitress hated me. I forgot the name of the sandwich I had, but it was really good.”

The Ethics of Fashion Photo Manipulation


When my wife worked at a women's magazine, there was an issue where the publisher wanted a Gillian Anderson cover. So the staff went looking for pictures of Gillian Anderson. Unfortunately, they couldn't find any pictures that were exactly what the publisher wanted. So they improvised. The staff took a photo of Anderson's body and added to it someone else’s more substantial cleavage.

How Do We Work Towards the Ethical Evolution of Technology?


In wondering what we've achieved over the past century of technological progress, Philip K. Dick puts it best: Do androids dream of electric sheep? That phrase was the title of his 1968 book that later inspired Ridley Scott's iconic future-noir, Blade Runner. But Dick was asking it of the age where modern computing was just then breaching the horizon of popular consciousness. And the question itself, which packed all of contemporaneity's irony, gloom and anxiety into a six-word phrase, is perhaps now more pertinent than Dick ever imagined.

I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did by Lori Andrews


Lori Andrews' book "I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy" (2012) fits nicely on the bookshelf between Daniel Solove’s "The Future of Reputation" and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger’s "Delete."

We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson


Parmy Olson’s fascinating book "We Are Anonymous" will prompt readers to concoct impossible-to-remember passwords and to disguise their online identities as it takes them on an excursion through the muddy cyber land of hackers.  In their attempts to take on governments and ridicule the gullible, they take few prisoners.  Members of the loosely organized collective Anonymous have been “credited” with a plethora of cyber attacks, including one on Paypal that cost the company millions of dollars.

The Circle by Dave Eggers


Dave Eggers’ new novel, “The Circle,” follows 20-something Mae Holland through her first days as a new hire to her increasingly public role at “the most influential company in the world.” By the time Mae steps foot on the company’s 400-acre campus—complete with pristine glass and steel offices, picnic areas, tennis and bocce courts, dorms, parties, a day center and health clinic—the Circle is already well known and admired for having transformed the web by combining social media profiles, payment systems, passwords, email accounts, user names and preferences into one unified system. As described in the novel, the Circle “put all of it, all of every user’s needs and tools, into one pot and invented TruYou—one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person…One button for the rest of your life online.”

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy by Robert McChesney


The book under review offers persuasive political economic analysis of the Internet, and its complex (and ongoing) inter-relationship with capitalism and democracy in the United States. Placing his work under the rubric of political economy, McChesney charts a detailed analysis of the alliances and interplay between private/public institutions, policy and legislative debates, government, and media conglomerates that have shaped the evolving Internet architecture. In fact, McChesney’s main task in the book is to show the workings of the complex relationship of the Internet to actually existing capitalism, and how this relationship has far-reaching consequences for democracy.

Who's a Journalist?


You can't practice medicine or the law without a license. If you set up shop as a phony doctor or lawyer and the authorities catch you, a prison term and a substantial monetary fine may be imposed upon you.

PyCon and the ethics of harassment in the tech industry


The tech industry’s dark, misogynist underbelly has repeatedly made headlines lately, revealing just how scary a place it can be for women, and how social media can be a tool used to share experiences of injustice and abuse. From serious allegations of rape to critiques of seemingly harmless jokes said to a friend, women are using relatively new outlets to expose harassment. However, they're inevitably subjected to a wave of dismissal, criticism, victim-blaming and even death threats, being called whiners and much worse. Where do digital ethics come in? Is using social media this way unnecessarily and publicly shaming someone?

Filtering free speech in public libraries


My son just celebrated his first birthday. I guarantee that before he is 10, he will see some very disturbing things online, no matter how closely his mother and I watch him, and no matter how many filters and blocks we apply to his Internet access. He's already a very inquisitive child with a willful mind of his own, and I can only imagine some of the dark roads of the information superhighway he is going to roar down. It's a scary thought, and as parents, I only hope that my wife and I can be smart about protecting him as much as possible, while also preparing him for some of the truly twisted things he is bound to see.

Cyber-shills and the problem with authenticity


We are a culture hooked on the idea of authenticity. This is nothing new, but the Internet has altered the way we measure and define authenticity. But an obsession with equating crowd approval with dependability impacts the way we choose where to shop, what brands to favor, and any host of other consumer decisions.

The Black Market of E-Waste


My mom’s old Compaq has been sitting on a desk alongside her new Mac for several months now. I promised to clear her files and get rid of it as soon as I found a local recycler. It was the same process I went through last year when I replaced my five-year-old Sony VAIO, a computer that seemed archaic at the time. We’re just two of the many people who accumulate electronics and purchase new ones every time something goes wrong or it’s “about time” to upgrade.

America Wages A New Kind of War


America is waging a new kind of war on battlefields at home and abroad: Cyber war.

Drone Warfare: Remote Control Killing


It's cheap, neat and efficient — but not entirely — and it saves U.S. lives while taking the lives of our enemies: drone warfare.

Chefs vs. Cell Phones


You’re on vacation, and you’ve just made it to that restaurant that you’ve heard so much about. You’ve anxiously awaited the well-known dish. It arrives, and all of your senses are enticed. The aroma is intoxicating, and it looks too good to eat. But before you dig in, do you pull out your phone and snap a quick picture of it? Do you change your status on Facebook or Twitter to something like, “Can’t wait to dig in to this! #delicious”?

Social Media Rules for Teachers


Teachers in our society are in an odd position. On the one hand, they are, in theory, being paid to convey information. On the other hand, teachers are not really trusted to speak freely. The classroom materials they use are often regulated or censored. Their exams, quizzes, lesson plans and curriculum are increasingly designed by bureaucrats or administrators. And through restrictive rules on participation in social media, even teachers’ private discussions and actions outside of the classroom, on their own time, have become subject to oversight and control.

The Morality of the NSA’s PRISM Program


Edward Snowden, current fugitive and former government intelligence employee, gave the press classified information about a surveillance program known as PRISM. Snowden’s motivations, justifications, credulity and credentials are all being heavily scrutinized, and his global game of Carmen San Di-leaker has turned him into a high-profile man, his ethics picked apart.

RIP Trolling


There are good reasons for turning on the comment feature of a website: It’s a place for users to engage with content. It promotes discussion and feedback. The comments are sometimes good for a laugh. And they indicate that people are actually visiting a website. But the merits are overshadowed when trolls enter these modern-day public spheres.

The Ethics of Facial Recognition Software


"OMG, you guys, it's Burpy Snorkleface!" your friend exclaims (at least that’s what it sounds like). We've all been there: Someone’s excited about a famous-person sighting or the latest morsel of celebrity gossip … and you have no idea who it is.

Take this job … and post it.


On September 28, 2013, Marina Shifrin posted a video on YouTube called “An Interpretive Dance For My Boss Set To Kanye West's Gone.” The video opens with a close-up of Shifrin’s face and a caption: “It’s 4:30 am and I am at work.” It ends with the words “I QUIT” superimposed over Shifrin dancing in front of a row of empty cubicles. Then she walks to the door, turns off the lights and the screen goes black: “I’m gone.”

Deceptive Entertainment: The Ethics of Video Manipulation in the Online Arena

In his 1896 book "In the South Seas", Robert Louis Stevenson famously concluded that, “The picture of an event (on the old melodramatic principle that ‘the camera cannot lie, Joseph,’) would appear strong proof of its occurrence.” I wonder what Mr. Stevenson would make of the dancing Pepsi Next baby or the pronouncements of the E*TRADE stock-selling wunderkind.

Surveillance on Aisle 3


You’re grocery shopping as usual when one of the shelves starts talking to you. “Would you like to try our new fudge-center Chips Ahoy cookies?” it says. “They’re very popular with women in their late 20s like yourself.

Ethics of Revenge Porn


While she was attending Lamar University in Texas, Meeghan Falls sent countless nude photographs to her boyfriend. Two months after their two-year relationship ended, Falls found out that her ex-boyfriend had posted many of the images, along with identifying information, on the Internet. "My stomach dropped," Falls said. "I started shaking. I started crying immediately. I felt like the whole world had seen me naked."

Ethical Binds in a Digital World


In this new digital age, information travels fast. The only limitations are the speed at which reporters and whistle-blowers can type and send their respective correspondence, and the speed at which we read them, often with a certain impotent rage. And ours is a culture where misinformation travels with the same vivaciousness. So how do we decide what’s important? With a torrent of unsettling scandals and discrediting news items now forefront in the national consciousness, how do we begin to make sense of what is happening in this country? Maybe the answer rests somewhere in the noise, somewhere in between the lines.

The Ethics of Facial Recognition Software


"OMG, you guys, it's Burpy Snorkleface!" your friend exclaims (at least that’s what it sounds like). We've all been there: Someone’s excited about a famous-person sighting or the latest morsel of celebrity gossip … and you have no idea who it is.