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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Internet Ethics

The Internet Ethics program explores topics like online privacy, cybersecurity, social media, data ethics, the digital divide, internet access, and more.

In collaboration with the Technology Ethics program, it also addresses AI ethics, corporate tech ethics development, and software engineering ethics—developing teaching and training materials related to each of those subjects.

What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Internet Ethics?


Overview of Internet Ethics

Irina Raicu, director of Internet Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics discusses online privacy, net neutrality, access, big data, and other topics.

Commentary on Internet Ethics

What is Internet Ethics?

By Irina Raicu, director of Internet Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

What do we talk about when we talk about "Internet ethics"?

We talk about the role that the Internet plays in what philosophers describe as the good life.

We talk about justice, rights, consequences, the balancing of good and harm, virtue, and the common good-as they manifest themselves in the digital part of our world.

We talk about old questions (Does anonymous communication hurt or help society?), new questions (Is Internet access a human right?), and old questions applied to new contexts (Is it wrong to use a neighbor's unprotected wi-fi without permission?).

We talk about privacy, big data, bots, social media, net neutrality, surveillance (both mass and not), search engines, energy use, cyberbullying, the "right to be forgotten," sexuality, online comments, cybersecurity, democracy, community, apps, gender, commerce, hacking, encryption, selfies, databases, law, law enforcement, civics, smart cities, spam, accountability, "slacktivism," the cloud, emoji, gamification, sentiment analysis, crowdfunding, hashtags, APIs, crowdsourcing, research, culture, code, recycling, MOOCs, and cookies.

We talk about decisions made about the building, maintenance, and governance of the Internet.

We ask, "Yes, you can, but should you?"

We ask, "It may not be illegal, but is it the right thing to do?"

We ask how we should figure out what the right thing to do is, and we look for ways to make better decisions.

We ask, "Will this produce the most good and the least harm?" "Does this respect the rights of all of the relevant stakeholders?" "Does this treat people fairly?" "Does this serve the community as a whole, not just some of its members?" "Does this lead me to act as the sort of person I want to be?"-and we apply all of those questions to Internet-related matters.

Follow us on Twitter at @IEthics.

Read the transcript of the video "What is Internet Ethics?"

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IT, Ethics, and Law Lecture Series

Since 2005, the Ethics Center has collaborated with the SCU High Tech Law Institute to sponsor "IT, Ethics, and Law"—a series of presentations on topics in information technology. Speakers have included Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist; and Kara Swisher, journalist.

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Ethics in Tech Practice

Ethics in Technology Practice aims to provide free materials to encourage and support ethics training workshops in technology companies.

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