I was invited to speak at an event organised by the British Computer Society (BCS) this week, on the ethical risks of social networks. The event was hosted by the Royal Society in London. Really liked the format. Three short 15 minute talks from an eclectic mix of commentators. Guests debated the issues over dinner (how civilised!). At each table there was a chairperson, a recorder (or rapporteur) collating responses and aggregating them into two key statements from the main questions being debated. Richard Justins & Clare Blunt of the BCS have published their notes and report on the evening's proceedings here.
Each table presented their findings in turn and after summing up from the event chairman we all went home. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience (and the excellent bottle of red wine - thank you!) and professional, friendly approach taken by the BCS. Here's a summary of my talk;
- In bringing together experts from various disciplines this debate aims to find answers to the following questions:
- What are the ethical risks of using SN's?
- We’re in completely new territory
- Business 1.0 to Business 3.0
- Unintended consequences of human behaviour
- Consumers/citizens acts of piracy, file sharing, devaluation of previously viable industries
- Twitter’s role in the Iran
- Unintended consequences of government behaviour
- Routine, wholesale spying on citizens, e.g. Echelon, RIP etc
- Use of Terrorism act by local government
- Reputational risk
- Individual, organisational (e.g. Nokia in Iran)
- We all have skeletons in the cupboard!
- Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.
- When do those risks outweigh the benefits SN's can bring?
- The genie’s out of the bottle. Is it too late?
- What’s the prize?
- Self-organisation (e.g. Open Source)
- Peer-to-peer production as a replacement of 200 year old industrial model of work
- A new era of openness & transparency - Higher trust societies, lower transaction costs (the cost of distrust)
- How do we control SN's ethical risks without stifling the benefits?
- If we regulate SN’s they will become very boring places
- Help not hinder – create a code of ethics, kite mark, quality marks etc
- Ground breaking 2002/3 paper – The Augmented Social Network
The sociological and economic benefits of social networks far outweigh the ethical risks associated with their widespread use. And in any case, just about every government, ISP and intelligence agency in the world will be recording your every word, 'like', comment and Tweet.