Facebook and Ethics

Zuckerberg’s face is all of the media right now.  Quite a few items remarking on his poor social abilities.  He’s clearly on the autism spectrum and if I recall it’s more in-line with Asperger’s.

That generally means that the switch inside the head doesn’t register non-vocal feedback, and that the social skills never truly develop.  Socially inept.  We’ve all met people where social cues just go right by.  This is more evident in high school and college settings, where everyone is showing tremendous social growth, while others seem stalled.  As adults, the social aspects are usually screened out during the hiring process.  Or in.  Or the individual has learned some tricks to manage that lack of skill.

Or, they deploy a data harvesting tool with the guise of connection building, and become a billionaire.

Privacy

I work in IT.  Specifically at the intersection of consumer functions and security/privacy controls.  I know more than I should, or at least some days I’d prefer to know less.  First point – if you’re online you are giving up privacy.  Full stop.  Either you pay to control it (part of it at least, or the appearance of control), or you do it for free and give up that control.

There’s a reason it’s so easy to DOX someone.

The internet may be temporary – sites come and go – but it’s all archived somewhere.  It is both permanent and impermanent at the same time, making it really quite hard for people to navigate.  What people were doing 10 years ago is still being used to screen new hires.  That is not going away anytime soon.

Ethics

Ethics are a social construct.  We don’t eat dogs in North America, rarely eat horse.  In other parts of the world it’s a regular meal.  Ethically we have issues with that, while other do not.  That’s at the national level.  Even at the community level this changes.  Find two churches and you’ll find two different sets of ethics.

Now throw in someone who has no ability to understand the social implications of ethics.  They are not un-ethical in the sense that they purposefully go against ethical norms, but more so in that they just don’t understand the nuances of ethics.

For better or worse, this also means that they are immune from international ethics.  Say in one country, it’s entirely acceptable to scrape all user related data to make a giant database of behavior (China).  In another, the company must disclose all private data to the users (Germany).  A company working in both areas has to find the right balance, let alone their corporate policies to manage their service.  That Facebook said it would apply GDPR is a good step.  Considering that they fought it tooth and nail, is more like a thief admitting guilt after caught, but it’s still some progress.

I will say that for all the faults, the EU seems to take this more seriously than most other countries.  Canada would be wise to integrate those policies, as we tend to align the same way.  I mean that in the context of post-national ethics.  We’re all humans before we’re nationals after all, much more alike than dissimilar.

Silicon Valley

Generally run by people with poor social skills focused more on the what can we do, rather than why should we do it.  There’s a really good reason why so many harassment issues have come out of the woodwork in these companies.  A psychopath is someone who lacks empathy – they are not not just serial killers.  A lack of social skills is right in line with that behavior.

Many people are driven by power/money, and once bitten by that bug, it’s hard to go back.  People get blinded by their own agenda that they lose sight of the impacts of their decisions.  Uber simply didn’t care that there were existing markets, they just dropped down illegal cabs, paid a few fines and disrupted an entire market.  There’s only a small difference between that and WalMart moving into a small town, closing all the mom and pop shops, milking the town dry, then closing their shop down for good.

And we let them.  Because it’s practical.  Or it’s cheaper.  We’ll sell our souls to the devil without a blink of an eye.  Most times, we won’t even realize we’re doing it.  Or we think it doesn’t affect us.

Some Progress

The conceptual idea of adding more connections is certainly good.  It’s the foundation of the internet after all.  We are too soon into that space as compared to other social advances, for a web of ethics to have developed.  By breaking down the geographical barriers, we have exposed the sensitive nerves of ethic boundaries.  It’s much easier to ignore dog eating in China if you don’t ever hear about it.  Much harder to do when it’s on the newsfeeds, websites, and social media.

We’re growing.  We’ve taken a long swim in the infinite ocean and lost our footing at times.  The “go local” movement is meant to ensure we have both a foot inside our real space and the virtual one, and a better appreciation for both worlds.  There’s still a lot of work to do.  I’ll be spending my time educating myself and my family on the risk/reward facets of internet use.  Paying more attention to the terms of use, changing permissions on my devices, removing myself from some tools.  Still being involved, but under my terms.

And if it costs me more, or takes more time.  So be it.

2 thoughts on “Facebook and Ethics

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