Who can be trusted with our personal data?

November 19, 2018 | Kate Baucherel

There are shivers in Silicon Valley as the data protection winter approaches. Hard on the heels of the implementation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in May 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act 2018 (CCPA) passed through the state legislature in August. The long and difficult labor which preceded the birth of the CCPA is well documented by Nicholas Confessore in his New York Times article, and raises a serious ethical question: Who should take responsibility for data privacy in this connected age?

Self-Driving Car Ethics

October 10, 2018 | Karis Hustad

Earlier this spring, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking her bike across the street in Tempe, Arizona when she was hit and killed by a car traveling at over 40 miles an hour.

There was something unusual about this tragedy: The car that hit Herzberg was driving on its own. It was an autonomous car being tested by Uber.

How Big is Big Tech?

September 24, 2018 | David Stockdale 

In April of 2018, Jeff Bezos was interviewed by German business executive Mathias Döpfner for Business Insider. When Döpfner asked Bezos how he felt about calls to reign in Amazon and the other big tech companies, Bezos responded, "I think we humans, especially in the Western world, and especially inside democracies, are wired to be skeptical and mindful of large institutions of any kind…It's just that they have a lot of power and control, and so you want to inspect them. Maybe that's a better word. You kind of want to always be inspecting them."

Live streaming & live tweeting: a pragmatic approach to ethical considerations.

July 27, 2018 | Bastiaan Vanacker

Anyone who has ever taken an intro to ethics class knows that there is no shortage of opinions on the foundation of ethics. Kantians believe that moral principles exist a-priori and can be known if we just use our reasoning ability. Utilitarians think that what brings most good to the greatest number of people should be the focus of an ethical system. Aristotelians are of the opinion that cultivating the right character traits, i.e. virtues, will lead people to making the right decisions. I could go on, but I’ll save it for the class room.

The Death Algorithm — Will Google Influence Your Lifespan?

July 17, 2018 | Nicki Williams

Google Brain and Stanford University researchers unveiled a new algorithm in the journal Nature earlier this year to great excitement. According to their paper, it appears that Google’s new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm is able to predict, within 95 percent certainty, what the outcome of your next hospital visit will be.

Accuracy and ethics in reporting the Boston bombing

July 2, 2018 | Randy Minkoff

In an era of instant news and reaction on social media sites, it is natural for journalists to use sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a gateway. But ethical questions have evolved: is it proper to use the information received without proper attribution? More importantly, it is safe to trust this information when you have not actually seen the event yourself?

Digital Supermodels - Fake it Till You Make It

June 15, 2018 | Nikki Williams

Any girl who’s ever doubted her own attractiveness after comparing herself with the surgically-enhanced, photoshopped female beauty in today’s media now has a new nemesis — the digital supermodel.

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Why Your Data is Still for Sale

June 7, 2018 | Karis Hustad

First introduced by Senator Al Franken in 2011, the bill prohibited companies from collecting or disclosing location information from a device without a user’s consent. It sought to undermine so-called “stalking apps” such as SPYERA and FlexiSpy, that allowed users to install software on someone’s phone without their knowledge and track their location. In testimony, Sen. Franken shared an example of how this software had been used against victims of domestic abuse.

Uncle Sam Wants Your Phone? Military Funds Smartphone App to Monitor Health

June 1, 2018 | Nikki Williams

The secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently funded a program aimed at tracking the health of soldiers on the battlefield using sensors inherent in all smartphones. In addition to tracking sudden injury, the app will also monitor evolving health for early detection of disease.

Sentence by Numbers: The Scary Truth Behind Risk Assessment Algorithms

May 7, 2018 | Nikki Williams

Although crime rates have fallen steadily since the 1990s, rates of recidivism remain a factor in the areas of both public safety and prisoner management. The National Institute of Justice defines recidivism as “criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, re-conviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence,” and with over 75 percent of released prisoners rearrested within five years, it’s apparent there’s room for improvement. In an effort to streamline sentencing, reduce recidivism and increase public safety, private companies have developed criminal justice algorithms for use in the courtroom. These tools — sometimes called “risk assessments” — aim to recommend sentence length and severity specific to each defendant based on a set of proprietary formulae. Unfortunately, the algorithms’ proprietary nature means that neither attorneys nor the general public have access to information necessary to understand or defend against these assessments.

Gold! Gold! Gold from the Blockchain River!

April 20, 2018 | Kate Baucherel 

In 2017, $5.6 billion was raised for blockchain-based development projects through a new funding mechanism dubbed an ‘ICO’ or Initial Coin Offering. By comparison, $240 million was raised by the same method in 2016, while it’s estimated $1 billion has already been invested in the first two months of 2018. There is a rush for digital gold and with it comes a hefty dose of snake oil. Ethics takes a back seat in the dash for cash as the authorities scramble to keep pace. How can regulatory policy protect the unwary without stifling innovation?

The Role of Social Media in Adolescent/Teen Depression and Anxiety

April 3, 2018 | Terri Williams

The adolescent and teen years have always been a challenging time. Peer pressure, insecurity and hormones are just some of the issues facing those in these age groups. But does social media exacerbate these problems?

The Logan Paul Question: Teaching Teens Morality through Epic Fails

March 21, 2018 | Michael Cullinane

When asked, “Who do you most admire in the world?” every year more and more of my students respond to my first-day-of-school survey with the unlikely answer of YouTube celebrities. Like most adults, it took me some time to figure out what being famous on YouTube meant. YouTube stars rank above traditional celebrities in their influence on 13-18 year-olds.

Facebook is a media company, but what’s a media company?

March 6, 2018 | Benjamin van Loon

When Facebook says that it’s a tech company and not a media company, a silent shudder echoes across the internet.

It’s like the reaction that, say, Morton Salt would get if the C-suite was to declare that it’s running a logistics company, not a salt company. The audience might nod and applause (as they often do whenever Facebook makes a public statement) but under their breath, they’d be laughing. How can we not be a salt company? That’s literally part of our name.

When a Dictator Goes Online

February 8, 2018 | Elena Rodina

In December 2017, Instagram suspended the account of the head of the Chechen Republic (Russia), Ramzan Kadyrov (kadyrov_95), under the Magnitsky Act; the law that allows the U.S. government to impose sanctions upon Russian politicians who commit human rights violations. At the same time, Kadyrov has been named the most media-cited blogger among Russia’s regional leaders (according to a 2017 ranking published by Medialogia). What is the purpose of this notorious autocratic leader’s connection to social networks, and what does it teach us about political use of the online space?

Google’s New Chokehold on Health Data Privacy

January 31, 2018 | Nikki Williams

Search engine giant Google, with its saturation of the global market at 77.43 percent (the nearest competitor, Baidu, has a measly 8.13 percent market share), is on the fast track toward a monopoly of dissemination and distribution of data.

Is It a Feature? Is it a Bug? No, It’s an Antifeature.

January 16, 2018 | Owen King 

This past summer, as Hurricane Irma threatened Florida, Tesla Motors provided some of their customers with a free upgrade. It was a software update to some of their vehicles to increase those cars’ battery capacity, making it less likely that their owners would be stranded as they attempted to flee the giant storm.