The tech industry’s ethics problem is the longest running game of “Not it.” No one wants to take responsibility for teaching men-children millionaires and honestly, that’s fair. We’re not the ones at the forefront of Silicon Valley, however, someone has to do the dirty work.
There’s so much discussion about who’s in charge of ethics, why they of all people should make calls, how we even go about regulating the tech industry, etc. Yes, those are important questions to ask, but while we all sip on Kombucha and point fingers from afar, preventable issues are slipping through the cracks.
The word ethics is derived from the Greek word ethos, which means “character.” Contrary to popular belief, ethics aren’t just rules & regulations, it’s the makeup of an actual human being. Now, it’s impossible to force the founders & people behind Big Tech into being ethical, but we can point them in the right direction.
Let’s take accountability for starters. This statement is taken directly from Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines:
“We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions and the quality of the app experience is great. We will reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”
Recently, a pervert launched DeepNude, an app that undresses women. He created the app for the sole purpose of making a quick buck off of women’s bodies. There was absolutely no thought that went into this sick project because he knew he would get away with it.
The App Store is one place where that “line” needs to start being drawn in the sand. Apple is not doing enough to keep unethical businesses from popping up in every Category. Most mental health apps are not backed by research or science, porn & gambling appsare still an issue after ten years, cosmetic surgery apps are targeting little girls, and the list goes on.
The developer who created DeepNude was anonymous. If he knew his real name was going to be attributed as the creator, I bet he wouldn’t have developed that idea into an app in the first place.
We need to get rid of anonymity and hold people responsible for what they build. Apple can easily do this by requiring the developer’s verified full name and headshot on the App Store listing. “About the Developer” bios subtly shove founders into the public eye, forcing them to think about the good, the bad, & the ugly. And as someone who works in the space, I can say that this would probably be relatively simple fix.
Implementing these bios is just one way we can kickstart real change. Another proposed solution that has been gaining popularity & traction, is the “Chief Ethics Officers.”
Hiring this new type of CEO is a step in the right direction if the founder takes responsibility for their decisions in the first place — after all that is the definition of ethics. Ethics Officers can’t act as fairy godmothers and erase the mistakes of the past, but the hope is, they’ll assist in preventing new ones.
We need to remember that Chief Ethics Officers and anyone else stepping into a supervision role can only give so much guidance — it’s up to the person in the driver’s seat to take action.
What’s the moral of this story? If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. The answers to Silicon Valley’s ethical problems are right in front of our face. The ones that spot faulty decision-making logic, whether a CEO or intern, are the people that need to address these issues. We’re the change we’re looking for.