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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Facial Recognition and Domestic Violence Centers: An Ethics Case Study

Facial Recognition and Domestic Violence Centers: An Ethics Case Study

Adapted from a case by Irina Raicu

You work at a company that develops facial recognition software for various applications. A team member points out that shelters for victims of domestic violence are organizations greatly concerned with the security of their guests and staff, and might have use for this technology. The colleague mentions that facial recognition could help determine whether people entering or approaching the shelter are registered guests or staff there and not unwelcome intruders, and could perhaps aid staff in monitoring and analyzing behavior in the shelter environment.

Should this project be pursued? If not, why not? If so, how could it be done ethically? What unique ethical concerns does it raise?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who are the stakeholders involved? Who should be consulted about such a project’s goals and development?
  2. What additional facts might be required? What practical steps might you need to take in order to access the information/perspectives needed to manage the ethical landscape of this project?
  3. How might this project be evaluated through the ethical 'lenses' of rights, justice, utilitarianism, the common good, virtue ethics, and care ethics?
  4. In this project, what moral values are potentially conflicting with each other? Is there any way to reconcile them? Even if conflict is unavoidable, are there ways to respect all relevant interests/values? How?
  5. At what level, and by what methods, should decisions be made within the company about how to manage the ethical issues raised by this proposed project?