Technology and Ethics Can Coexist - The UpStream

Technology and Ethics Can Coexist

posted Saturday Mar 17, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Technology and Ethics Can Coexist

There are a lot of companies in the forefront of technology news that consistently live on or over the line of ethical conduct. Whether it be Google using their search position to marginalize or steal from their competition or Apple using near slave labor to produce their products, we live in a world where ethics and technology seem to not work together.

Then this happens, and everything we know is turned sideways. Pakistan has drafted an RFP (Request for Proposal) on a new piece of software that would help them censor the Internet. This is a government contract, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the world of Google and Apple described above, any major software giant would want to jump in on this contract. It turns out that isn't exactly the world we live in.

A tweet from McAfee, one of the companies I would assume could pull off this tremendous task, states that they are not interested in bidding on this RFP. This is a big deal; hit the break to find out why.

McAfee, as it turns out, is not the first company to make this decision. In fact, they are number 8 on the list. Big companies, who could all use the money in this economic time, are pledging to not help a government prevent its citizens from accessing the full Internet. In Pakistan's case, they are trying to prevent them from accessing information regarding the awkward relationship between Pakistan and India. For this case, the reason for the filter is even more problematic, as it will cause them bigger problems if none of the big companies bid.

In the software world, if you can't get a company to do it, or you can't get them to do it for the price you want, you get India to do it. Well, needless to say, that is not an option on the table here. Is India going to help write software to further strain the situation with Pakistan? My guess is no.

So, an ethical stand-off between the biggest software companies in the world (including Microsoft, Google and now McAfee) and a nation wiling to do anything to control its citizens (including building a filter in the open) has begun. When this is all over, I think the winner will be Pakistan's citizens.

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