Here is the text of the full letter… Continue reading
Ethics Quiz: Apple Thinks Of The Children
Last week, Apple announced a plan to introduce new technology that will allow it to scan iPhones for images related to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. These tools, however, which are scheduled to become operational soon, can be used for less admirable objectives, like so many technologies.
Apple’s innovation will allow parents have their children’s iMessage accounts scanned by Apple for sexual images sent or received. The Parents would be notified if this material turns up on the phones of children under 13. All children will be warned if they seek to view or share a sexually explicit image. The company will also scan the photos adults store on their iPhones and check them against records corresponding with known child sexual abuse material provided by organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Cool, right? After all, “Think of the children!!” (Rationalization #58) But while Apple has promises to use this technology only to search only for child sexual abuse material, the same technology can be used being used for other purposes and without the phone owner’s consent. The government could work with Apple to use the same technology to acquire other kinds of images or documents stored on computers or phones. The technology could be used to monitor political views or “hate speech.
Computer scientist Matthew Green, writing with security analysist Alex Stamos, warns,
“The computer science and policymaking communities have spent years considering the kinds of problems raised by this sort of technology, trying to find a proper balance between public safety and individual privacy. The Apple plan upends all of that deliberation. Apple has more than one billion devices in the world, so its decisions affect the security plans of every government and every other technology company. Apple has now sent a clear message that it is safe to build and use systems that directly scan people’s personal phones for prohibited content.”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Does the single beneficial use of the Apple technology make it ethical to place individual privacy at risk?
For The “Scared Yet?” Files: Glenn Greenwald On Parler’s Take-Down
Greenwald, who lost his own organization for insisting on fair reporting on the Hunter Biden scandal deliberately hidden from the public by the partisan media, has delivered an excellent account of what was done to Parler. This is why Ethics Alarms subscribes to his new platform, substack. He is one of that nearly extinct species, a journalist who reports the facts, wherever they may lead.
Of the attack on Parler, the surging alternative to Twitter, Greenwald writes in part,
If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor…In October, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law issued a 425-page report concluding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google all possess monopoly power and are using that power anti-competitively. For Apple, they emphasized the company’s control over iPhones through its control of access to the App Store….Parler learned that Google, without warning, had also “suspended” it from its Play Store, severely limiting the ability of users to download Parler onto Android phones. Google’s actions also meant that those using Parler on their Android phones would no longer receive necessary functionality and security updates….
Unethical Quote Of The Month: Apple, Or “Stop Making Me Defend Alex Jones!”
“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
—-A spokesperson for Apple last week, following confirmation that it had removed five out of six podcasts by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, including “The Alex Jones Show” and some of his InfoWars audio streams.
This is a terrifying statement…almost as terrifying as the fact that so many Americans won’t understand why it’s terrifying. Unless one does not understand the First Amendment and why its principles are the beating heart of American democracy, or unless you are an increasingly typical 21st Century progressive, who feels that the Left should have the power to decide what kind of speech is tolerable, Apple is telling us that it is going to use its immense power and influence over the distribution of ideas to suit its preferences regarding what people should see, hear, and think. Continue reading
Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/17: Harvard Hypocrisy, Homely Actors, Horrible Apologies, And The Head Of Apple’s Diversity Program Lands On A Pike
1 And The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck rolls on…The Harvey Express ran over several more notables in various ways last week (like Lena Dunham…). Although Senator Al Franken got most of the publicity. One was actor Jeffrey Tambor, the long-time character actor turned star of the streaming show “Transparent,” about a transgender woman. Tambor’s former assistant, eager to pick up her #MeToo brownie points even at the risk of throwing the entire “Transparent” cast and staff out of work (this is another reason why these matters are more ethically handled privately), accused the actor of lewd comments and in one case “pressing up against her.” Now Tambor, and almost certainly the hit show, are, as Jeff Flake would say. “toast.”
This weekend I crafted the apology Franken should have offered, but as bad as the one he actually offered was, it was arguably better than what Tambor came up with:
“For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility – of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood.
I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever.
I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”
On the Apology Scale, this combines the worst features of a #9, a “non-apology apology,” with #10, an “insincere and dishonest apology,” with some other obnoxious features thrown in for bad taste. Tambor begins by patting himself on the back–-I’m the star, and it hasn’t been easy, but look at all the good I’ve done!—then moves on to Rationalization # 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
Next, he engages in deceit, stating that he’s never been a predator, which is like saying he’s never been a race car driver or an antelope. He’s accused of sexual harassment and one incident of sexual assault. What his statement amounts to a non-denial denial: “I never did what she’s accused me of doing more than once!”
2. “Because sometimes they say yes…” It is no coincidence that Tambor, Franken and Weinstein all come from the performing arts world and all are very homely men. I have observed in my own theater experience that the most aggressive violators of the boundaries of restraint and decorum in interactions with women in a theatrical settings are frequently the guys who are unattractive and feel that it they don’t take chances, they’ll die a virgin. It is astounding how aggressive some of them are, and how resilient they remain after rejection and even physical abuse. If they fail a hundred times and succeed once, that’s positive reinforcement enough. If, through talent, hard work and luck, such individuals reach a level of power in the performing arts profession, sexual harassment is an established behavior pattern that doesn’t set off their ethics alarms at all.
3. It’s NOT OK to be white? Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion and an African-American, was part of a panel discussion on fighting racial injustice eat the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. At one point she said,
“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT…there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”
Apple fired her, six months into her new role after 20 years successfully running Apple’s international Human Resources department. Smith did not have the integrity to stand by her words, and instead tried a desperate Pazuzu grovel, apologizing and saying that her words “were not representative of how I think about diversity.” It didn’t work. Continue reading
Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/31/17
1. If you want an instant reading on someone’s ethics alarms, or a quick diagnosis of whether he or she is a jerk, ask their opinion on yesterday’s episode in which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got in the face of a Cubs fan who was harassing him during the Brewers-Cubs game. Instead of ignoring the fan, who was shouting insults at him, Christie walked over to him and said, among other things, “You’re a big shot!”
“Appreciate that,” the fan gulped.
It’s rude, uncivil and cowardly to shout insults at anyone who just happens to be attending an event as a private citizen. It doesn’t matter who the target is. The fan, Brad Joseph, assumed that he was insulated by the crowd and the setting from any consequences of being a jackass by setting out to make Christie’s visit to the ball park unpleasant. Bravo to Christie for behaving exactly as any other non-weenie would when subjected to such abuse. Brad was adopting the same false entitlement the “Hamilton” cast assumed when it harassed Mike Pence, though in lower case. Elected officials have an obligation to listen to the public’s complaints and positions. They do not have an obligation to accept outright abuse, and shouldn’t.
Joseph, heretofore to be referred to as “The Jerk,” or TJ, told a radio station, “I called him a hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said.” Then walk up to the Governor like a man, look him in the eyes, and say it, you chicken. Shouting from a crowd is a hit-and-run tactic, and you know it. You depended on it.
“This is America and I think we have the right to say what you believe as long as it’s not crude or profane,” Joseph then said. Wrong, Hot Dog Breath. You do have a right to be crude and profane, but as with those abuses of free speech, harassing someone, anyone, at a ball game is still unfair and unethical.
2. Then there were the ad hominem attacks on the Governor in the comments to the story. Did you know Christie was fat? Did you know that being fat proves his unfitness for public service or removes his human right to be treated decently when he goes to a ball game? These were the conclusions of easily 75% of all commenters, proving informally that 75% of internet commenters have the ethical instincts of 10-year-olds.
The news media was hardly better: check which sources make a big deal about the fact that Christie was holding a plate of nachos when he stared down TJ. This non-essential detail was even in some headlines. Newsweek, which is really just a left-wing supermarket tabloid now, actually headlined the story “Chris Christie confronts fan who wouldn’t let him eat nachos in peace.”
That’s not just fat-shaming, that’s an endorsement of fat-shaming. The problem with Chris Christie isn’t that he’s fat; the problem with him is that he is corrupt and sold out his principles and his country to help make Donald Trump President, none of which justifies abusing him when he’s at a baseball game.
Or watching “Hamilton. Continue reading
Did Apple Kill The Little Girl?
A Christmas Eve tragedy from 2014 has sparked another ethically provocative lawsuit.
James and Bethany Modisette were driving through Denton County, Texas, on the evening of December 24, 2014, when they had to stop their car due to a traffic incident ahead of them on the Interstate. Their children, Isabella, 8, and Moriah, 5, were in the back seat, Everyone in the vehicle had a seat belt fastened.
Meanwhile, Garrett Wilhelm, idiot, was chatting away on his phone using the FaceTime app, and didn’t notice that the traffic ahead of him was stopped. His car rear-ended the Modisettes’ vehicle at 65 mph. Little Moriah was killed.
Now the Modisettes have filed a lawsuit against Apple, the maker of the app and the iPhone it was used with, citing a “failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design … to ‘lock out’ the ability of drivers to utilize the FaceTime application.” In the suit, the parents claim the company didn’t warn FaceTime users like Wilhelm that “the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner.” Continue reading
Observations On The CNN-Telemundo GOP Candidates Debate
1. I heard that National Anthem rendition on my car radio, and thought, “That can’t possibly be as off-key as it sounds, can it?” Then my various singer friends started howling on Facebook. I don’t know why debates are now treated like ball games, but there are thousands upon thousands of singers, male, female, and juvenile, who can sing the anthem well, and a lot better than Dina Carter did last night. There’s no excuse for getting someone who can’t stay on pitch.
2. Ben Carson prompted me to throw a magazine at the TV with his fatuous “we won’t solve America’s problems by trying to destroy each other.” It’s a competition, you fool. Someone should have shown you how ridiculous your wasteful candidacy was months ago, and you wouldn’t be clogging up the process now. If Donald Trump, a viper in the nursery, wasn’t ahead, Reagan’s admonition not to attack fellow Republicans might be a wise and ethical practice. Now, it is the equivalent of pacifism during World War II.
3. That was weak, incompetent moderating by Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, allowing Trump to speak over Rubio and Cruz who were doing a good job pointing up his hypocrisy and corruption. As usual, Trump’s rebuttals weren’t rebuttals at all but distracting attacks, pitched to the gullible.
- Rubio said, correctly, that Trump criticized Mitt Romney for talking about “self-deportation” in 2012, while Trump is talking about self-deportation now. Trump said: “I criticized Mitt Romney for losing the election. . . . He ran one terrible campaign!” No, actually Trump criticized Romney’s self-deportation policy specifically.
- Rubio said Trump is the only person on the stage who’s hired people from other countries for “jobs that Americans could have filled.” Trump replied, “I’m the only one on the stage who’s hired people! . . . You haven’t hired one person in your life!” It’s completely irrelevant to the issue, just another deflection.
- Cruz pointed out that Trump contributed to the three Democratic Senators and two of the Republican Senators he now accuses of pushing “amnesty.” Trump retorted that “I get along with everybody; you get along with nobody,” an ad hominem attack that ducks a legitimate criticism.
4. Trump had one brilliant, perfect, Presidential and appropriately tough response to ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox who swore Mexico would never pay for Trump’s “fucking wall.” (We have heard increasing vulgarity from media figures like Chris Matthews, President Obama and others, and now the breakdown in official civility has crossed our borders. Yes, I blame Donald Trump, and as he grandstanded about the “disgusting” word used, someone should have had the wit to note that he has personally lowered the standards of leadership discourse more than any figure since the Nixon tapes were released.) Trump’s response: “The wall just got 10 feet taller!”
Excellent. Continue reading
Tech And Terrorism Ethics: Apple Is Right. The Government Is Wrong.
If, in some future nightmare scenario come true, the FBI needs to break the encryption on a private i-phone to find the secret code to defuse the Doomsday Machine President Donald Trump set up after his mind finally snapped and he thought he was the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, I assume that Apple won’t stand on principle and will do what needs to be done to save the world. The current dilemma, however, is not that dire.
Although President Obama announced last year that he had decided not to pursue legislation requiring tech companies to give law enforcement access to users’ encrypted data, he proved once again that if you don’t like Obama’s promises, just wait a minute. For last week, the FBI persuaded a judge to order Apple to create software that would help federal investigators crack into the iPhone 5C that terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook was using before he and his wife slaughtered guests at his company Christmas party in San Bernardino last December. Apple has vowed to defy the order.
Good. Continue reading
Watch Out, John Malkovich…You Can’t Trust Siri!
Wired reports that IBM has banned Siri, iPhone’s voice-activated digital assistant, its headquarters network. Employees trying to use John Malkovich’s new friend will be foiled. Why? IBM CIO Jeanette Horan told MIT’s Technology Review that the company worries that conversations with Siri might be stored somewhere. And indeed they are. Siri relays everything she hears to an Apple data center in Maiden, North Carolina. What happens to it then is anybody’s guess. Continue reading