Quinnipiac Assignment 13 – ICM 552 – Right to Privacy vs. Right to be Forgotten

Right to Privacy vs. Right to be Forgotten

In 2014, a European Court of Justice ruled that there is a right to be forgotten on the Internet. Essentially, older information can be removed from searches if –

…the data appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.

The ruling is vague and passes the individual judgment calls regarding relevancy and adequacy from the courts to the search engines themselves. In practice, because of its dominating market share, this means that this European Court of Justice has almost ceded jurisdiction to Google.

There is no such ruling in the United States. As Jeffrey Toobin put it in The New Yorker

In Europe, the right to privacy trumps freedom of speech; the reverse is true in the United States.

But why?

The Balance Tips Toward Privacy

Quinnipiac Assignment 13 – ICM 552 – Right to Privacy vs. Right to be Forgotten
English: Courtroom at the European Court of Justice Deutsch: Gerichtssaal im Europäischen Gerichtshof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Europe, the balance tips in favor of privacy (and at the expense of the freedom of written and oral expression) because of recent European history. On a continent where the memory of the Holocaust is still fairly fresh, courts are reminded that the Dutch government kept a comprehensive listing of its citizens. The list was gathered under utilitarian motives, in that there was a desire to maximize benefit, e. g. to provide a better delivery of social services. But when the Nazis came, they used that self-same list to track down Jews and Gypsies.

Furthermore, under Communism and its surveillance state, European individuals found their privacy rights being violated, particularly by the Stasi in East Germany. Personal information was used to harm individuals and to pry into their private lives. Hence there is an overall mistrust of data gathering.

The Balance Tips Toward Free Expression

The opposite is true in the United States. Here, where the Holocaust did not directly come, and where the history of free expression goes back to Peter Zenger, the balance spills toward free expression. There is no ‘right to be forgotten’ law in America, and it seems unlikely that such a right would ever become recognized in the law. Instead, the push is in favor of expression, and if a request for an article, image, or website to be taken down is made, it is made on a copyright basis. Aggrieved parties are encouraged to seek a remedy of asking a webmaster to take down an image, article, or link as a courtesy. Barring that, parties also will attempt to take over copyright and demand a take down that way. This was the strategy employed by lawyers when unauthorized photographs of actresses Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence were leaked.

When Worlds Collide

Or, at least attitudes do. Without a world court or global consensus about the Internet, Google and other search engines are going to have to comply with differing and potentially conflicting rulings about what can and cannot be indexed. As more courts get involved, and dissimilar legal philosophies are imposed, Google’s attempts to be in compliance will get more and more complicated. There is a very real possibility that search will splinter even more, and searchers in, say, Tijuana, Mexico would see different results from searchers 30 minutes away in San Diego, California. And, potentially, those searchers could cross the border and find suppressed (or not) information online.

For an international phenomenon like the Internet, this sort of parochialism probably won’t last long.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM 552 – Content Moderation and Ethics

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM 552 – Content Moderation and Ethics

Content Moderation Principles

Ratings systems are not new. Even before the Internet, film reviewers like Siskel and Ebert would routinely award stars or thumbs up or down. Book reviewers would favor a work with placement in a well-known periodical, such as the New York Times Review of Books.

But there’s been a change. Reviews are now big business. Under social technographics theories, Critics encompass over 1/3 of all users online.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM 552 – Content Moderation and Ethics
Critics (Social Technographics) – Image (http://image.slidesharecdn.com/vamsocialmediafinalcombined-100317211719-phpapp02/95/virginia-association-of-museums-vam-2010-conference-museums-building-communities-through-social-media-combined-presentation-11-728.jpg) by slidesharecdn.com and use of Social Technographics verbiage are claimed under fair use for educational purposes.

I believe that there are differing ethical considerations, depending upon the type of content being critiqued. There are fundamental differences between works of art and consumer goods and services.

Rating Consumer Goods and Services

For the rating of consumer goods and services, a lot of the measurements are quantitative ones. E. g. a size 10 shoe is supposed to be within certain length parameters. Those don’t change if the shoemaker is a large company or a tiny one-person cottage industry. The same is true if the manufacture of the shoe is promised within a certain time frame. Either it’s delivered on time, or it’s not. The one-person operation and the huge multinational conglomerate both have the same seven-day week. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the contractarian ethical theory, whereby ethics are based on mutual agreement. The shoemaker tells the consumer that the shoe fits a size 10. The consumer purchases the shoe based upon reliance that the shoemaker is providing a product that is within the accepted length parameters. If the shoe is too long or too short, then the shoemaker is in breach.

There are subjective qualitative measurements as well. Is the shoe stylish and comfortable? Is it in fashion? Some of those variables are under the control of the shoemaker. Others, like the whims of fashion, are not.

But the reviewing of consumer goods and services is generally in the objective and quantitative realm. If the shoe doesn’t seem to be in fashion, or the consumer doesn’t like the color, the consumer doesn’t buy it in the first place. Reviewing after the fact is usually of fit, durability, and other measurable considerations. That’s not quite the case with works of art.

Rating Works of Art

For rating works of art, there is virtually nothing that’s measurable or objective or quantitative. While a film critic might dislike, say, the Lord of the Rings films because of their length, that’s generally not the only reason a professional critic will supply. Instead, the critic will mention whether the plot held their interest, whether the characters were true to the source material, whether the actors’ performances were credible, and whether a parent can safely take their children with them to the picture. About the only one of these review elements that is quantitative is the latter, and even the question of suitability for children is a subjective one.

Further, a bad review for a consumer good or service can (and should) lead to improvements as the company attempts to make amends. According to Beth Harpaz’s article, Debate over ethics of deleting negative reviews, companies should actively try to improve their customer service after a complaint.

TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter said businesses are instead encouraged to reply to reviewers publicly on the site. It’s not unusual to see a negative review followed by an apology from a business detailing what’s been done to make amends.”

But no such option truly exists for works of art. A reviewer who doesn’t enjoy the scenes of the burning of Atlanta isn’t going to get an official new version of Gone With the Wind unless the reviewer personally edits the work. Even then, the edited version would be seen as unofficial and unsanctioned (and likely a copyright violation). All that the reviewer can do is (a) dissuade people from voting with their wallets for certain works of art and, possibly, (b) convince the artist to try better next time.

For works of art, it’s more of the Eudaimonism theory of ethics – the well-being of the individual has central value. Does the work entertain? Does it enlighten, uplift, or inspire? Gone With The Wind can. The Venus de Milo can. Shoes, however, cannot.

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 552 – Wal-Mart and the PR Disaster on Wheels

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 552 – Wal-Mart and the PR Disaster on Wheels

In 2006, Wal-Mart got into major trouble when the company published a fake blog without divulging its origins or backing. Wal-Mart’s PR company, Edelman, apparently was behind the creation of an entity called Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM). In turn, WFWM put together the promo.  Continue reading “Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 552 – Wal-Mart and the PR Disaster on Wheels”

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 552 – Charlie Hebdo and Ethics

Charlie Hebdo and Ethics

For the benefit of those who have been living under rocks, it’s time to talk about Charlie Hebdo and Ethics.

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine. It is a place where controversial cartoons and commentary are unleashed. The magazine prides itself on being irresponsible.

History

In 2006, a lawsuit was brought against Charlie Hebdo for its works. At the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to the court, championing France‘s tradition of satire.

But then in 2011, the offices of the magazine were fire bombed, and their servers were hacked.

And now, in January of 2015, a dozen people were shot to death.

Tragedy and Free Speech

Wrapped up in this obvious tragedy are considerations of free speech. People around the world were outraged, and they took to the streets to protest, yelling, Je Suis Charlie! Or they would hold up signs that said the same. The three-word sentence simply says, “I am Charlie.”

Free speech means that all speech is free, and that includes satiric and uncomfortable speech. Racist screeds are protected, as are cartoons showing world or religious leaders doing God only knows what. And Charlie Hebdo and its cartooning staff certainly seemed to take pride in that as well, at showing the famous and the powerful and the well-known and the worshiped at their worst.

Preparations

I have to say, though, that the magazine’s actions were more than a little irresponsible. They had seen a history of escalation, and things had already gotten violent. Four years ago. Hence I have to wonder, what were the preparations? And where were the precautions?

Abortion doctors who have seen their colleagues shot sometimes stop performing abortions. Or they will also take sensible precautions and wear bullet-proof vests when they go to work in the morning. While living in fear is unpleasant (there’s an understatement), the precaution is an intelligent one. I am not saying that unprotected abortion doctors are shouting out to the world, “Come on and take your best shot!” But a smart precaution isn’t caving. If anything, it’s just being practical. And it is respecting one’s family, too. Yet I don’t see the dozen victims as having done that. Why not? It sure as hell would have made some sense.

This is not me blaming the victims. This is more like – couldn’t something have been done? Hindsight is, of course, 20/20. These people cannot be retroactively saved. But maybe others can.

On Balance

The thing that gets to me is that Charlie Hebdo isn’t Mad Magazine. Hell, it isn’t even Cracked. It feels a lot more like adolescents drawing crude figures and taunting each other. It does not feel clever enough to be satire. Yet people will go out and buy it now, anyway. It’s chic to do so, as seven million copies of the latest issue are sold, for a magazine that normally has a circulation of some 60,000.

Free speech? Hell yeah. Condemn the killer or killers? Of course. Try to ignore the fact that the reactive cartoons in solidarity were considerably more clever than anything Charlie Hebdo ever published.

The video is my class presentation on the subject.

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 552 – Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical Dilemmas

For this week’s essay, we were asked to write about ethical dilemmas with reference to four questions asked in a Harvard Business Review article called, How Ethical Are You?

The questions were as follows –

1. An executive earning $30,000 a year has been padding his expense account by about $1,500 (or 5%) a year. Is that

  1. Acceptable if other executives in the same company do it
  2. Unacceptable regardless of circumstances
  3. Acceptable if the executive’s superior knows about it and says nothing

I selected #2, under a deontology ethical theory (e. g. ethical behaviors come from duty). #1 is a kind of “everybody else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I get away with it?” type of argument. That’s a tempting argument, but it ends up being a kind of hedonistic one. Personally, I enjoy hanging around and doing nothing on snow days, but it’s far better if I shovel. Part of the reason I shovel is to be kind to my neighbors. Another reason is to keep them from slipping on my property and suing me. But it’s also the case that others might do less than I do. Certainly, as the wind rattles my windows, I would prefer to sip cocoa and stay inside. That’s answer #1.

As for answer #3, that could potentially go to company culture. After all, unless I’m the boss, who am I to question and dictate company culture? But padding an expense account is no way of going about protesting a low salary or attempting to address a financial injustice. It’s a better move for the superior to meet the salary issue head on and, assuming the executive deserves a higher pay rate, then give the executive a raise. If the executive doesn’t, then this backdoor raise isn’t doing anyone any favors – and it might even speak to ethical issues with the superior. It’s been my experience that salaries come from one company financial bucket, whereas expenses come from another. By looking the other way, the superior is providing a raise via allowing the executive to dip into someone else’s till.

2. Imagine you’re president of a company in a highly competitive industry. You learn that a competitor has made an important scientific breakthrough that will substantially reduce, if not eliminate, your company’s profit for about a year. If one of the competitor’s employees who knew the details were available to hire, would you?

  1. Yes
  2. No

I felt this one was a tossup. I think that there has to be the assumption that virtually anyone is “available to hire”. Furthermore, there is nothing in the fact pattern about this possible future employee being bound by a nondisclosure agreement. If this person is bound by an NDA, and they honor it, then my hiring them – or not – makes no difference in the grand scheme of things, unless they are the main architect of the scientific breakthrough. And even if they are, the breakthrough has already been made. I just feel like it wouldn’t matter much either way. As for the ethics of hiring one person away from a competitor, that is how people are hired all the time. Top talent always has experience, and that experience is inevitably with a competitor. I just fail to see the damage here, I suppose. Under a consequentialism ethical theory, there just doesn’t seem, to me, to be much that matters in terms of consequences and results of going either way.

3. The minister of a foreign nation where bribes are common asks for a $200,000 consulting fee in return for special assistance in obtaining a $100 million contract that would generate at least $5 million in profits. Would you

  1. Pay the fee, feeling it was ethical, given the moral climate of the nation
  2. Pay the fee, feeling it was unethical but necessary to ensure the sale
  3. Refuse to pay, even if you lose the sale

This time, I chose #3. Yes, it’s nice to make a profit, etc., but the circumstances are distasteful. I question the requirement of paying this bribe. Perhaps something else could be arranged? This might be less ethical squeamishness on my part, and more like a question of social justice. In some ways (I’m a cynical person), I’m wondering if that same $200,000 could be spent on a ‘consulting fee’ for someone who could use the money a lot more than a presumably wealthy minister. I recognize that this is often a ‘cost of doing business’. I’d just rather not further line the pockets of someone who’s already in beer and skittles. My approach is somewhat utilitarian (per A Framework for Thinking Ethically), as my intention is to attempt to make the sale – after all, my fellow employees may be counting on me – while at least trying to quite literally redistribute the wealth a bit more fairly.

4. On becoming a new member of the board of High Fly Insurance Co. (HFI) you learn that it’s the officially approved insurer of the Private Pilots Benevolent Association, whose 20,000 members are automatically enrolled in a HFI accident policy when they pay dues. HFI pays a fee to PPBA for this privilege and gets access to the PPBA mailing list, which it uses to sell aircraft liability policies (its major source of revenue). PPBA’s president sits on the HFI board, and the two companies are located in the same building. Would you:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Raise the issue in a private meeting with HFI’s chairman
  3. Express opposition to this at a director’s meeting but accept whatever position the board takes in response
  4. Express vigorous opposition and resign if corrective action were not taken
1. An executive earning $30,000 a year has been padding his expense account by about $1,500 (or 5%) a year. Is that Acceptable if other executives in the same company do it Unacceptable regardless of circumstances Acceptable if the executive’s superior knows about it and says nothing I selected #2, under a deontology ethical theory (e. g. ethical behaviors come from duty). #1 is a kind of
Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an incestuous business relationship. I feel that the answer is a two-parter. I would start with #2. Some of this is a matter of finesse, as board members are high up in any company. You don’t get to that kind of a position without being somewhat discreet. There is nothing in the fact pattern about what happens during that private meeting, and I intend to tell the chairman that this is akin to the kind of logrolling that goes on in cartels. I just can’t see the Federal Trade Commission not being interested in such an all-too convenient arrangement.

If #2 failed, I would probably go to the nuclear option, which is #4. And if there’s any price-fixing going on (not in the fact pattern, but a very real possibility in such an arrangement), I don’t want to be on the receiving end of an investigation. I like staying out of Federal prison.

My decisions are more likely to be made with respect to consequences. After all, I don’t relish the idea of going to a Federal penitentiary. But it’s also in the sense of virtue and duty. Dereliction of duty and a failure of virtue also create consequences. Can I sleep at night? That’s often my motivation and my litmus test.

What would you do?

Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac

Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac

For the Spring Semester of 2015, I decided to double my course load and try to graduate a bit more rapidly. This entailed taking two classes. Little was I to know, when I signed up for these courses, that I would also get a job and my book, Untrustworthy, would be published. Hence my workload began to feel a bit out of control. Continue reading “Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac”

Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation

Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation

Internet identity, reputation, and deception in the online dating world. Truth and little white lies on the Internet.

Introduction

Several weeks ago, when participating in class, I used the term creative obfuscation. The idea behind it was (and still is) that people of course bend the truth or cover it up, or they lie by omission. Some of these lies are more egregious than others.

For my final paper, I decided to look at what it all means with reference to Internet dating. And boy, was there a lot of fodder! Here are some excerpts.

Identity

For many people[1] these days, social media is wrapped with identity, as identity is, in turn, intimately wrapped up with social media. It is often a daily[2] presence in our lives. As Julia Knight and Alexis Weedon discovered, online life and self are increasingly just as important as offline life and self.[3] “In 2008, Vincent Miller’s article in Convergence recognized in our ubiquitous and pervasive media the essential role of phatic communication[4] which forms our connection to the here and now. Social media has become a native habitus for many and is a place to perform our various roles in our multimodal lives, as a professional, a parent, an acquaintance, and a colleague. The current generation has grown up with social media and like the 10-year-old Facebook, Twitter too has become part of some people’s everyday here and now.”[5]

[1] About 39% of the world is online, according to Internet World Statistics. This includes just fewer than 85% of North America and over 2/3 of Europe and Oceania.

[2] According to Pew Research, in 2013, 63% of Facebook users visit the site daily. Just under half (46%) of Twitter users visit that site on a daily basis.

[3] Knight, Julia and Weedon, Alexis, Convergence, ISSN 1354-8565, 08/2014, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp. 257 – 258, Identity and social media

[4] Phatic communications are generally language for the purposes of social interaction rather than the conveying of information or the making of inquiries, e. g. ‘small talk’.

[5] Knight and Weedon, Ibid., Page 257.

Reputation

Quinnipiac Assignment 12 – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation
Jeff Bates (hemos from Slashdot) at linux.conf.au 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike offline reputation, online reputation can be categorized and quantified. For sites attempting to preserve and promote civility, but which cannot or will not adopt a real-names policy like Facebook’s, reputation scores can sometimes alert other users to an individual’s tendency to be either helpful or abusive. As AS Crane noted in Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum[6], “Moderation in combination with reputation scores have been used successfully on the large technology site Slashdot, according to Lampe and Resnick (2004). Slashdot moderation duties are shared among a group of users, who can assign positive or negative reputation points to posts and to other members. Users who have earned a sufficient reputation rating are allowed to participate in moderation if they wish. Meta-moderators observe the moderators for abuse and can remove bad moderators, or reward good moderators by assigning a higher point value to their votes.” In Slashdot’s case, it would seem that good behavior not only is rewarding in and of itself, but it also provides a reward in the form of being granted the ability to police others’ behavior.

[6] AS Crane, 2012, Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum, rave.ohiolink.edu, Page 17

Deception

For those who bend the truth on Facebook and other social media websites, some of the consequences are unexpected ones. For example, a ten-year-old child who claims to be thirteen will, in five years, be considered eighteen on the social networking site. This will alter her privacy settings automatically, allowing images to be seen by everyone, including pedophiles.[7]

[7] Olsen, Tyler, 22 April 2013, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: An Explanation of Deception, Professor Combs English 1010-21

Conclusion

Although it is fairly easy to bend the truth when composing an online dating profile, an in-person meeting will expose the lie to all, and the liar will lose social capital and likely never make it to a second date. More problematic is when a person’s sincerely developed identity does not jibe with their appearance or their birth characteristics. Differences between online verbiage and offline appearance might not have an intentionally malicious origin, and it is entirely possible for online daters to, through ambiguity or poor word choice, appear deceptive and untrustworthy when they may be anything but.

But regardless of the reason for an untruth, online daters care about their reputations and their online and offline appearances. What others think matters to them. Much of that is directly related to the fact that the object behind the use of an online dating site is to meet; the mission is the date. Setting up the date for failure or the loss of face is not in online daters’ best interests and most of them act accordingly in order to assure success or at least prevent and minimize failure and the loss of social capital.

Personal identity matters in the online world, and it is a heady brew of inborn traits, learned and attained characteristics, and identification, desire, and preference. For the person presenting their identity and showing this admixture to all and sundry, what it means to be them, what they think of as the ‘self’, is what is cobbled together from potentially thousands of measurable and nonquantifiable data points in order to present a full picture of their personality. For the recipients of these messages, the potential dating partners and perhaps even more permanent mates, the choice is whether to read or listen to these many messages and accept all or some of them, even if they conflict with or downright contradict the evidence that the recipient can observe or otherwise gather independently.

You are who you were at birth, who you have become, and who you claim to be, and who you think you are. But that does not mean that anyone has to believe you, accept you, or love you.

Quinnipiac Assignment #12 ICM524 – Final Project (Journalism)

Quinnipiac Assignment #12 ICM524 – Final Project (Journalism) – Should Journalism Be Data Driven?

For my final project for Quinnipiac University‘s Social Media Analytics class, I created a short presentation about journalism and data. This video is available on YouTube.

My essential question was whether data and story popularity should be drivers for journalistic choices. Those choices are everything from what to put on a ‘front page’ to what to bold or italicize, to where to send scarce (and expensive) reporter resources, to what to cover at all.

For news organizations looking to save some money, it can be mighty appealing to only cover the most popular story lines. News can very quickly turn into all-Kardashian, all the time, if an organization is not careful. For a news corporation searching for an easier path to profitability, hitching their metaphoric wagon to the popularity star might feel right. After all, and to borrow from last semester’s Social Media Platforms class, they have buyer personae to satisfy. If all of their readers or viewers or listeners want is to know the latest about Justin Bieber or Queen Elizabeth II, then why shouldn’t a news organization satisfy that demand?

But there is a corollary to all of this.

Quinnipiac Assignment #12 ICM524 – Final Project (Journalism)
Journalism is going to survive. I just don’t see how the businesses that have provided it will survive – Clay Shirky @cshirky #openjournalism #quotes (Photo credit: planeta)

News organizations often have dissimilar foci. If I am reading, say, the Jewish Daily Forward, I am looking for news, most likely, about either the Jewish people or Israel, or at least for stories which are relevant to either of these two not-identical (albeit somewhat similar) entities. Hence a story about the Kardashians, for example, is not going to fly unless it can be related somehow.

Dovetailing into all of this is journalistic ethics. Shouldn’t journalists be telling the stories of the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the forgotten? I well recall the coverage of Watergate as it was happening (even though I was a tween at the time). I’m not so sure that many people today appreciate the sort of courage that that really took.

What is the future of journalism? I feel it has got to be both. There must be a combination. News organizations need to show profits just as much as all other businesses. But that should not come at the expense of their responsibilities.

This was a great class, and I learned a lot. My next semester starts on August 25th.