Ethics in a digital world

Eleanor Close Kraft

Changing the world. One mind at a time.

(TLDR) This blog is all about the big impact and ethical issues of our online life, like privacy worries and how tech can divide us. It points out that tech isn’t ethical by itself, so companies need to step up and handle our data right. The article also shows how we, as users, have the power to push companies towards being more ethical and lists some cool resources to learn more about digital ethics.

We’re all in this together
Digital technology extends beyond national boundaries. It connects people of similar and vastly different cultures, circumstances, and points of view. All at once. All over the world. In real time.

This is, quite literally, epic. And very human. For thousands of years, we have been using non-linear narrative to maintain oral and written traditions and to add new stories to the ongoing epic of our various cultures. With digital technologies, we actively participate in the world community.

But leveling the playing field reveals the pitfalls. The openness of the digital world shows us the vast challenges we face, including real and present dangers. Extreme polarization, injustice, aggression – to name a few.

Technology is a tool. It has no ethics.

Personal privacy
As every solo hiker or working parent whose child walks home alone knows, there are advantages of being able to always track someone’s location. Privacy is linked to security, but is it okay to track someone all the time? How much privacy do we really have?

If we look at the bigger picture. In Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations considers data privacy as a fundamental human right.1

A crisis of trust
Growing skepticism of digital platforms has created a crisis of trust. What can we do to solve it?

As holders of vast amounts of data, companies have a social responsibility to respect personal data. To rebuild trust and position privacy as a social value.2 They can start by putting technology to work on solving ethical problems. As the most powerful tool for dealing with challenges of its own creation, it’s time for technology to begin “taking back power and holding institutions – and brands – accountable.”3

Decision-makers, digital transformation managers, and tech companies must prioritize systemic integration of ethics into the design of digital technologies.

Power of the people
Customers have collective power, too. Customers using social media platforms are demanding to know where companies they support stand on current issues. And when they are not satisfied, mobilization against these companies can be swift.

Strong brands are established on a set of moral values – an ethic – that forms the foundation for everything a company stands for: offerings, design, communication, and behavior of all stakeholders.

If you want to learn more about how to embed digital ethics into technologies, here are a few links to courses and events: