Weaponization(s) of emerging and exponential technologies in not a new phenomenon in human history. From European colonization of the Americas to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, human beings have sought to dominate each other by any and all means necessary, using whatever technological advances available.
But not all the dangers of exponential and emerging technologies are so obvious. With the evolution of Big Tech, we are all constantly being manipulated, monitored and monetized to the point where most of us are simply overwhelmed by the conversation.
In this article, I’ll talk about some of the legislation that covers the Ethical use of Technology, take a look at the human history of technology abuses and how we can move forward.
- The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years. This sweeping legislation issued billions of dollars of fines to Google and Facebook for violations – to date, I can’t find any proof that those fines have been paid.
- Executive branch employees of the Federal Government are upheld to a code of conduct under the Code of Federal Regulations 5 C.F.R. Part 2635. Part 2635. The list of scandals and violations by executive branch employees is so lengthy, it’s 38 pages on Wikipedia.
- The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal was a major political scandal in early 2018 when it was revealed that Cambridge Analyticahad harvested the personal data of millions of peoples’ Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes. It has been described as a watershed moment in the public understanding of personal data and precipitated a massive fall in Facebook’s stock price and calls for tighter regulation of tech companies’ use of personal data. Despite the results of this scandal, not much has changed in how companies are collecting and selling our information. As far as I can tell, Facebook’s stock price is doing very well.
- Over 300 data brokerage companies exist that are collecting information on all of us and publishing it on the Internet, with no oversight and no regulation. While some of these companies offer easy opt-out solutions, many of them seem very sketchy. And you must continue to opt out – it’s not a one-time effort.
- Google claims it’s persuasive artificial intelligence is designed to help users have a better Internet experience (a Wellbeing Initiative), but Congress and the American public aren’t convinced.
I’m frequently asked about what the content should be for more laws surrounding the use of technology. Techno ethics, the ethics of technology, is not a new field of study or policy. We have more than enough laws already in place.
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Since the 1970’s, UNESCO has an established policy to build ethics into science and technology applications.
- The University of Twente published an ethics policy that identifies applications before the implementation of emerging and exponential technologies.
- Numerous corporate scandals came out in 2018. In each one of these cases, the corporations involved published code(s) of ethics and conduct.
- The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 goes into law in January 2020. But nonprofit organizations are completely exempt and there is still time for lawmakers to change the language of the law.
We know that emerging and exponential technologies have the power to do harm as well as good. We’ve written any number of laws and policies for government and industry that propose how these technologies should be used.
So, what’s the problem?? Why do we continue to see violation after violation with no real change?? The answer is simple and it’s only two words: ETHICS WASHING. Ethics Washing is derived from “Greenwashing”, and means that an organization or government publishes a policy about ethical use of technologies and business practices, but in fact, does something totally different (and usually opposite).
We don’t need any more laws. We need the ability to enforce the ones we have. And we need to understand that Big Money is the driving force behind the collection and sale of information.
It’s discouraging even writing about these scandals and abuses. But as I think about the Everything Cities™ design and what other local communities are doing, I do see a hope for a better way.
Smart Cities have unlimited potential to make life better for a wider group of citizens, mitigate climate change and environmental concerns and once and for all address the disparity conditions that exist in our societies. But they are also going to be collecting massive amounts of information. From pollution and climate sensors, to water usage to restaurant spending, there is no limit to what information a Smart City CAN collect on its citizen population.
The Barcelona Digital City Initiative has defined a “technological sovereignty” policy: where technology should be oriented to and serve local residents rather than its current primary purpose being to extract profit and municipal technologies should be owned by public commons rather than by private companies.
This technological sovereignty policy is something that citizens can demand from their cities. It’s a new paradigm. I for one haven’t ever really believed I had the power to make change in my community or my government (if you don’t believe me, call your Senator or Congressperson office and ask to speak directly to them – I hope you have a lot of time to waste/wait). But Smart Cities demand Smart Citizens. These citizens will not just eat, play and live all in one place, they will have to contribute. Accountability for government, business and people will be the guiding principles of smart cities – they have to be. Lack of oversight, lack of enforcement, corruption and lack of accountability have gotten us all to this place in human history. Check out the World debt clock. How long does anyone realistically believe this can continue?
Solutions for the Ethical use of Technology
- A commitment to Technological sovereignty.
- Change the apathetical, ineffective government agencies we currently have into pillars of compliance and enforcement, subject to measurement, performance and accountability metrics.
- Stop lobbying of government officials ENTIRELY. When government officials can be influenced by money or favors, they can’t possibly be impartial.
- Citizens committed to holding their governments and their cities accountable by participating in the conversation.
- Take responsibility for protecting your personal data and limit the amount of questions we answer “yes” to:
- Protect your driver’s license It’s become common practice for retailers, medical practices and grocery stores to scan driver’s licenses. ASK – why do you need this information? What are you doing with this information? Your driver’s license magnetic strip contains Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and you have the RIGHT to protect that information.
- Opt out of data broker services.
- Don’t overshare ANY personal information, vacation plans, etc. on Social Media
- Review all the application permissions on your Smartphone. Only allow permissions that are absolutely necessary. WHY do games need access to my microphone????
- “I can’t remember all those different passwords” is not an excuse. “Purple” is not a password. Use a password manager application to protect your accounts and access.
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