Whether you work in a tech startup in San Francisco or use managed IT services in Melbourne, you will likely face some interesting ethical challenges over the coming months and years.
How much employee surveillance is too much? What impact might deep fakes have on your company? Below, we explore these and other issues that have arisen throughout 2022.
1. Deep fakes and the spread of misinformation
If you haven’t seen those creepy Tom Cruise deep fake videos, we suggest you look them up (after finishing this article, of course). While celebrity deep fakes are primarily created for fun, their lighthearted nature belies the worrying reality of deep fakes.
Those skilled in deep fake technology could create believable videos of a company director making outrageous statements. This misuse of identity is clearly problematic, but it’s also just one of many channels via which misinformation can be spread. For this reason, many modern businesses, particularly those with a significant public presence, are developing strategies to combat misinformation.
2. Free speech vs. moderation
Completely unmoderated content can lead to lawsuits and legal issues for the platforms responsible. However, the line between appropriate moderation and encroachment on free speech is murky, to say the least.
As demonstrated by the Twitter debacle of 2022, unmoderated content isn’t even appealing to the people (like Elon Musk and Donald Trump) who claim to be champions of free speech. However, there are just as many problems with moderation on sites like Reddit and Facebook. This is one ethical IT dilemma that doesn’t have a quick fix.
3. Digital surveillance vs. privacy
Pre-pandemic, the rise of remote work was hampered by employer fears that their teams would be far less productive if they were allowed to work from home. Studies conducted throughout the pandemic have repeatedly proven that these fears were unfounded. However, the desire to monitor employees remains high.
This desire isn’t entirely unfounded as, historically, theft of time and resources has been a significant burden for many companies. Indeed, the invention of the cash register was an important step forward into the modern era, allowing business owners to reduce theft and invest the newly retained profits into growing their companies.
During the 2020s, one of the IT industry’s primary focuses will be striking the right balance between surveillance and privacy.
4. Addictive design features
You’ve probably seen the controversies surrounding the endless scroll feature on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit. However, this is just one of many addictive features web designers use to keep you hooked on their content (and the advertising that goes with it).
Attention is as valuable as currency in the digital space, so it makes sense that sites like Facebook want to claim as much as possible from users. However, considering the implications excessive social media use has for our mental, physical, and financial health, addictive design presents one of the most significant ethical dilemmas of the 2020s.
5. Algorithmic control
The algorithms that guide what we see and interact with online are often so complex that the designers themselves admit to not fully understanding how they learn and evolve. This is scary stuff considering that these algorithms select what we see and what gets buried. Considered in tandem with other concerns like misinformation and hate speech, the problem of algorithmic control is a big one for the IT industry to unravel.
Information technology is central to the success of most modern businesses. However, it also presents some intriguing ethical challenges. The moral dilemmas listed above are only the beginning. Over the coming years, we can expect many more ethical issues to arise.