Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/6/2020: Question, Questions…

Good morning?

1. Is this is a Catch 22 or what? In order to start using Adobe Acrobat in the Creative Cloud “suite,” you must agree to Adobe’ s new Terms of Use. However, a user can’t  read the Terms of Use until after he or she agrees to the Terms of Use.  Among the provisions in those terms is this…

14.1 Process. If you have any concern or dispute, you agree to first try to resolve the dispute informally by contacting us. If a dispute is not resolved within 30 days of receipt by us, any resulting legal actions must be resolved through final and binding arbitration, including any question of whether arbitration is required, except that you may assert claims in small claims court if your claims qualify. Claims related to the Terms, Services, or Software are permanently barred if not brought within one year of the event resulting in the claim.

That’s right: you have to agree not to sue  them.

Rob  Beschizza posted a video online showing him futilely  clicking the “Terms of Use” link only to be prevented from reading them because he hadn’t agreed to the Terms of Use.  As he points out, almost nobody—yes, not even lawyers—reads these fine print, intentionally verbose and obscure conditions before they agree to  terms of use, but that’s the users’  fault. Being forced to agree to terms before it is possible to read them is another kettle of fish. That’s con-man stuff. That makes it an invalid contract.

Of course, a company that tries this stunt assumes that when it produces a lawyer-signed statement reminding  dissatisfied customers of the terms they signed, that will be sufficient to discourage any further action.

2. In a mass shooting any excuse for this? Watch this video of an arrest by Canadian police in Lethbridge, Alberta:

A  young woman  dressed as an Empire Storm Trooper and carrying a plastic “blaster” on May the Fourth (…”be with you!”) to promote her employer’s cafe was surrounded by four officers, guns drawn, then tackled—bloodying her nose—cuffed and arrested. Lethbridge Police Inspector Jason Walper said  his department received  two 911 calls regarding  someone brandishing a weapon.

Apparently there really are people, at least in Canada, who have never seen “Star Wars.” But what are the odds that none of the four police were aware that this was a costume? Surely the rational approach to the silly situation would be to ask the woman to  take off her helmet and explain what she was doing before they attacked her. If the girl had been black, and this had occurred in the U.S., the NAACP would be demanding an investigation.

Canadians are trying to mitigate the stupidity here by noting that everyone is traumatized by the nation’s  mass shooting last month that left 22 dead. And, I suppose, a Storm Trooper outfit could have been a diabolical hit man’s clever disguise. I suppose.

Only 22? Heck, in the U.S., that’s chicken feed! Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Microsoft

“By agreeing to these Terms, you’re agreeing that, when using the Services, you will follow these rules:

….

iv. Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).

b. Enforcement. If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason. When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue. However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.”

—-From the revised Microsoft Services Agreement.

I do not trust Microsoft to decide what is “offensive language” in my communications, or anyone else’s. Many people, for example, believe that it is offensive that I assert the duty of citizens to allow an elected President to do the job their fellow citizens exercised their rights to select him to do, and that they have an ethical obligation to treat him with the respect the office of the Presidency requires.

We are already seeing indefensible bias on the part of other big tech companies, such as Google, Twitter, Apple and Facebook, as they favor specific ideological and partisan positions and use their platforms to censor and manipulate public discourse. These are private companies and not constrained by the First Amendment or core ethical principles like fairness and respect for autonomy (and, as we all know, definitely not respect for privacy). The problem is that the big tech companies are ideologically monolithic, virtual monopolies, possess the power to constrain free expression and political speech while leaving no equivalent alternative, and are increasingly demonstrating the willingness to use it.

The big tech companies have proven that they are unethical, ruthless, lack integrity, politically-active and willing to abuse their huge and expanding power to advance their own agendas. At the same time, their products and services  have become essential to the daily lives, recreation and occupations of virtually all Americans. This is a dangerous combination.

They must be regulated as the public utilities they are, and the sooner the better.

Pokémon Go Ethics: Beware The Terms Of Service Agreement!

pokemon-go-starters

I had a hard time finding anything unethical about Pokémon Go, the smartphone GPS scavenger hunt game that sends players all over the landscape to find and trap those adorable Japanese monsters that caused a trading card craze and more a decade ago. (I assume that anything that seems really dumb is likely to have ethics problems. You’d be amazed how often I’m right.) It seems benign. The game can be good exercise, it’s engaging for people who have no more productive avocation, and best of all, it gives American something to obsess about not named Bill or Hillary. There are some troubling signs: administrators at the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery felt that they needed to ask visitors not to play the game while contemplating the murder of six million Jews and the fallen heroes of foreign ways—what is these spoilsports’ problem?—and some people are letting the game endanger themselves and others, leading to these morons falling off a cliff, causing this idiot to drive  his car into a tree, and prompting this in Arizona…

Pokemon go traffic sign

Continue reading